Jackie Kelly has ensured that the Liberal
leadership will remain an issue when Parliament resumes tomorrow. Voters in marginals like her western Sydney seat see
Peter Costello as one of the “twin set and pearls lot off the North Shore”, she
told ABC Radio yesterday.
Kelly says, “He’s hampered in Treasury in terms of building an empathy.”

Poor old Peter. Always the bridesmaid. Can
he catch a bouquet?

Unlike Paul Keating – a policy driver –
Costello has looked liked a pillion passenger in the Government. His bid for the prime ministership
reinforced this perception. It wasn’t based on what he had done as Treasurer.
It was based on conversations from more than a decade ago.

Costello is the Government’s most effective
parliamentary performer. He’ll have fun turning any leadership gibes
from the Opposition back on them. Yet Kelly’s line about Treasury is
interesting. Peter Costello’s persona and portfolio are inextricably
linked. Despite the promises, he has failed to tell
us more about himself or talk convincingly on wider issues.

Is he boxed in by his portfolio? Is his
political development being constrained?

Other critics of Costello – John Stone
leaps to mind – have suggested he should be moved from Treasury. Is that what
Kelly is saying? Does anyone else agree? It could be a recipe for continued
instability for the rest of this term – and beyond.

Peter Fray

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