Whether he likes it or not, almost every action taken or word uttered by Peter Costello is viewed through the prism of: what kind of leader would he make? Which is a growing problem for the Treasurer, because the view you see by peering through that prism is increasingly one of bullying, arrogance and insensitivity. And that must be deeply worrying to many of Costello’s closest advisors and supporters.

The past week has seen The Costello Problem raised to new heights. The putative PM weighed in to the upcoming Victorian election battle by conspicuously refusing to endorse the new Victorian Liberal leader Ted Baillieu with any enthusiasm — in effect, signalling to Baillieu that it’s the federal Treasurer who calls the shots in the Victorian Liberal solar system. Costello’s appalling political (and human) judgement was compounded when he publicly attacked one of Baillieu’s biggest supporters, former premier Jeff Kennett, and then unleashed his rottweiler Michael Kroger onto Kennett with charming lines like “Jeff is becoming a very sad figure”.  

Peter Costello wears his leadership ambitions on his sleeve. By acting like a prat and demonstrating his lack of generosity whenever the opportunity to kick a head arises, the World’s Best Treasurer must be sending shudders through the ranks of his parliamentary colleagues with a trajectory that is threatening to outstrip the rise in petrol prices or official interest rates.