What strange games treasurer Costello seems to be playing with the Qantas ball he demanded be placed in his court, making dire warnings, vague threats and general noise without actually saying or doing anything.

He’s at it again in The Age, “Qantas a special case“, which follows his effort in The Oz when he mischievously sang words about Qantas while joining the chorus warning about private equity-driven debt levels with a strange reprise on Charles Wooley’s bush radio show.

It’s happening too much to lack political meaning – either Costello setting up a knockback of the takeover to keep the odd backbencher and voter on side, or perhaps just wanting to be seen to doing a bit of hand-wringing before fulfilling his duty of approving the thing. At first I thought it was the latter, but at the third strike, it could be starting to look more like the former.

In any event, the most risible line is that provoked by Steve Lewis in The Oz and carried on by Charles Wooley, who’s long had an anti-corporate edge. That is, taxpayers are being disadvantaged by the private equiteers because they reduce company profits by paying interest on debt instead.

The only point in doing that is to make a fat capital gain at the end of the exercise when capital gains tax should pick up most of the difference.

But of course, Peter Costello has scrapped capital gains tax for correctly-structured foreign investors.

Nice work, Pete.

Peter Fray

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