The AFR‘s Pamela Williams
produced one of her typically excellent 3,000-word investigative
features on 5 May last year. But the opening two paragraphs have taken
on a whole new significance in light of Tanya Costello’s $150,000 a
year job at the ANZ Bank:

On a recent Saturday night, Peter Costello and a group of friends took in Nicole Kidman’s latest film, The Interpreter, a tangled thriller about plots against a leader who was once a liberator and is now the scourge of his people. The NewYorker
described Kidman as an icicle who wasn’t going to melt for anyone and
her opposite number, Sean Penn, as wearing the look of a man who had
had enough. Costello apparently enjoyed it. The Treasurer’s regular
movie group includes ANZ boss John McFarlane, Melbourne businessman Ron
Walker and Village Roadshow managing director Graham Burke, as well as
their wives. Like John Howard’s inner circle, Costello’s close friends
outside parliament are protective and wary of indiscretion. Press them
to talk about him publicly and you get a polite nothing.

Gee,
so Tanya and Peter Costello are part of a “regular movie group” with
ANZ CEO John McFarlane who we understand was involved in the six-month
process that saw the Treasurer’s wife land her first ever corporate gig
after a career as a suburban solicitor and working for parliamentary
committees.

The presence of Ron Walker in the movie club is also
interesting given that he is chairman of Fairfax, the company which
substantially ratcheted up the pressure with last Friday’s page five lead in The Age that
revealed the headhunter involved, John Allen, is a family friend and
devoted Liberal Party supporter who has enjoyed largesse coming back
from the Government in the form of work and appointments.

The Age
newsroom is abuzz with talk that Cossie was furious with the story and
called editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan to threaten all out war. Jaspan
played dumb when Crikey emailed details of the rumour to him – but he
did note he’s had some “interesting” calls about the story.

It
is no great leap in logic to assume that Cossie also called Walker, who
is known to be very tight with Jaspan. All of which might explain why
such a great story was buried on page five. The Age deserves
credit for hiring the likes of Nick McKenzie and Michael Bachelard to
establish an investigative unit, but surely when a decent dig produces
a great story it should be put on page one.

Former Victorian
Liberal MP James Guest mounts a strong defence of Tanya Costello’s
ability in today’s feedback section, but he misses the point which is
best demonstrated by asking the following question: would it be okay
for Optus to hire the husband of Communications Minister Helen Coonan
on $150,000 a year?

Of course not. If you are the responsible
minister for a government-licensed business then your family should not
receive any benefit from that licensee, be it free mobile phones or
highly paid jobs. If Costello can’t understand that point then he
shouldn’t be Treasurer, let alone Prime Minister.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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