Why is the Prime Minister heading off overseas just a couple of days after the budget? Well, one school of thought says it’s to show his Treasurer up as a complete and utter prat.

Cossie will be smiling today – but he doesn’t seem a very happy camper.

The Treasurer is developing a reputation for being thin skinned. Crikey understands he barked down the phone at Fairfax execs last week when the Sydney Morning Herald published the “jump for joy” photo last week at the same time as interest rates rose. Indeed, we hear this sort of behaviour is becoming pretty commonplace for Cossie.

There have been questions about the quality of the media advice he is getting. There have been whinges from journalists about the way in which the standard pre-budget string of interviews were handled. Hacks speaking to the Treasurer in the lead-up to last night got face time – but not necessarily anything they could turn into useful stories. Some say Cossie and the lads understand what the Sunday program is there for – but aren’t that sure about the rest of the media.

Then there’s the constant muttering that we have a lazy Treasurer. Costello was at pains to stress how hard he works in the pre-budget profiles. It was a pity, then, that the Naked Eye column sprung him “having a fine wining and dining experience for hours” down at Kingston last week.

So there’s corridor talk this week that the Prime Minister is going away to test Costello; that he doesn’t think Costello will be up to doing the budget sell and that this may well be plain for all to see. Particularly for government backbenchers.

Peter Fray

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