The Budget leaks have been placed and the preview profiles of the Treasurer been run. And aren’t they telling?

Tim Colebatch was subtle but devastating in The Age on Saturday:

Three months ago Peter Costello overtook Artie Fadden to become Australia’s longest serving treasurer. Yet it is not easy to pin down his personal contribution in that role. Real power in this Government rests in the PM’s office…

His colleague Michelle Grattan has the PM firmly in charge, too:

Although Howard’s leadership is safe as long as he wants it, his future must soon start to weigh on his mind…

There is a widespread assumption, including in the Government, that Howard will stay on, but I still think the question remains open. If he is staying, Howard will need to reinvigorate the Government’s agenda…

George Megalogenis’ new book The Longest Decade deals with the offices of prime minister and treasurer. It tells the tales of the relationships between prime ministers and treasurers – John Howard, frustrated under Malcolm Fraser; Paul Keating remaking Australia with Bob Hawke before falling out; and of Howard as Prime Minister, firmly in command. But what of Howard’s Treasurer?

Saul Eslake let loose in The Sunday Age on his priorities.“The resources boom has dropped $100 billion into the Government’s lap that they hadn’t expected in 2002 and they’ve spent all of it and a bit more,” he said. “And I honestly and genuinely struggle to find anything that has been done with it bar win elections… I’ve got nothing against the Government as such but the resource boom has handed them a great opportunity on a plate. They’ve spent the money and as far as I can see they’ve not created anything of lasting value.”

Eslake suggests at least some of the money could have gone on infrastructure projects that boost the capacity of the economy – maybe a national all-fibre broadband network – or funding fundamental reform.

The Prime Minister was at the Centre for Independent Studies 30th anniversary dinner last Thursday. So were many of his Cabinet. So was Malcolm Turnbull – who’s been out talking tax this morning. Peter Costello wasn’t.

Pity. He may have picked up some ideas.