Treasury seems to be a very appropriate place for the buck to stop.
Peter Costello thinks so. He was blaming the bureaucrats for his latest
embarrassment when he spoke to Australia’s King of All Media, Stephen Mayne, yesterday.

month the Treasurer denied the existence of a commissioned report
showing that the Government’s industrial reforms could leave low-paid
workers worse off.

But as the Daily Telegraph kindly points out today,
“In fact, he did receive a 16-page ‘minute’ from Treasury showing that
1.6 million of the lowest paid workers could get lower pay rises under
the new system.

that was enough for Costello to sheet the blame home to acting
Secretary of the Treasury, Martin Parkinson. Parkinson said in a press
release on November 5: “Treasury has not prepared a report on the
economic impact of the workplace relations legislation.”

Treasurer told Mayne he relied on this statement in Parliament. “The
then Secretary of the Treasury put out a press release saying there was
no specially commissioned research. And in the Parliament I referred to
his press release. If you’ve got an argument about it… take it up with
the Secretary of the Treasury.”

As we said earlier this week,
Treasury officers are the crème de la crème of the Australian Public
Service. One would expect 100% accuracy from them – particularly on
issue such as the status of document.

Still, the Prime Minister stood by his embattled Treasurer when he spoke to the Today
show yesterday morning. “What he denied was the existence of specially
commissioned research or analysis, and there wasn’t,” Howard said. Go
tell it to the Marines! With hair-splitting like that, no wonder the
PM’s as bald as a billiard ball.

Steve Lewis spells out the damage done in his comments in The Australian today:

The Treasurer’s great strength has been his command of the
parliamentary theatre, along with his claim to have delivered a decade
of strong economic results.

But as this column has noted
before, the Treasurer has not reached out to his backbench colleagues
in the same way that other ambitious frontbenchers have. He has not
developed a tungsten-coated capacity to deflect criticism in the same
way that Howard and Beazley have.

Thin-skinned is a
description used often to describe the putative prime minister. Perhaps
the events of the past month will help toughen Costello, making him a
more formidable political leader over the longer term.

hoping. But was Lewis is too kind to say is that Costello has operated
in Howard’s shadow all this time. He’s never really had ownership on an
issue. We’re still waiting for the big ideas.

“Costello expected
to be ensconced in the Lodge by now,” Lewis says. “After a decade
overseeing the Government’s economic policies, and doing a fine job in
the process, his plea has been for a seamless leadership transition.”

enough – but as a nation we decided a long time ago promotion according
to merit, not time served, was the best way to run the country.