Peter Costello invited plenty of media folk to his big function
celebrating ten years in office at Melbourne’s Federation Square last
week as he continues to plot and plan his assault on The Lodge.
However, if it’s ever going to happen, you would expect he would be
backed by his local conservative paper, Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun.

The paper’s conservative epicentre revolves
around their two powerful foundation commentators, Andrew Bolt and
Terry McCrann, who’ve been plying their trade for Australia’s biggest
selling paper since it was formed out of the merger of The Sun and The Herald in September 1990.

The two of them are close friends, consult about their columns and
follow what the other is doing, which makes today’s dual attack
on the great Victorian hope, Peter Costello, very interesting. Bolt has
regularly been mentioned as aspiring to replace Petro Georgiou
in Kooyong, but today he has let fly at Costello for failing to back a
tilt at the seat by former Alexander Downer staffer, Josh Frydenberg.
Try these lines from his column for size:

Peter Costello is the one making all the look-at-me noises.
But it’s the supremely confident Alexander Downer who is ready to be
our next Prime Minister. At least, Downer feels ready. Readier, perhaps, than many voters may
feel to accept him. And, I suspect, he now has what Costello fears he doesn’t – the support, even
admiration, of Prime Minister John Howard. It’s on.

Where would Costello actually want to take his government? To the Left? The Right?
Who knows, when this fierce new critic of multiculturalism is even now trying to
save the Liberals’ most rabid multiculturalist, Petro Georgiou, from losing
pre-selection in his totemic seat of Kooyong?
The reason he’s helping Georgiou has nothing to do with ideology, actually.
Georgiou’s rival in Kooyong is Josh Frydenberg, a former adviser of, yes,
Downer. Costello is fighting for power, not an idea.

Bolt went on to point out Costello has indeed been talking up the AWB scandal which is certainly damaging to Alexander Downer.

Even more interesting was McCrann’s thumping of Costello today over
yesterday’s attack
on the Labor states for not yet signing over the
corporations power before the deadline in July. Costello was making
apocalyptic predictions if this happened but McCrann turned the attack
around completely as follows:

It’s the Federal government that’s the real culprit. It’s
casually, arrogantly, ineptly and most of all unacceptably, abused what
might be termed the ‘corporations law relationship’ between Canberra
and the states. By sneakily trying to use the Federal Government’s
‘corporations power’ under the Constitution to snatch control of
industrial relations.

The states are challenging the constitutionality of the Fed’s IR rort.
Sorry, rules. But whatever the outcome of that, Costello can hardly
complain when the states aim to beat him, or rather the government, at
its own game. Canberra wants to use the corporations power for an end
intended neither by the constitution not the states, so the states have
every right to withdraw their referral of elements of that power.

Whack, that’s got to hurt. It also confirms Christian Kerr’s comments
about the Howard years being marked by a centralised grab for power.
And given the woeful job that ASIC has done over the years, Canberra
can hardly claim to have made a great fist of corporate regulation

If Cossie is ever going to make it to the top job, he’s clearly got
some work to do in his own patch first. The contrast with all the
backing that the Packer camp give John Howard in Sydney is stark indeed.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey