Tanya Costello, the wife of Treasurer Peter Costello, has been recruited by the federally-licenced ANZ Bank on a six-figure salary in its trustee business.

An anonymous tipper to Crikey claimed that the connection was Tim L’Estrange, the brother of DFAT boss Michael L’Estrange, a lawyer who does work for ANZ, and that ANZ CEO John McFarlane was involved in the process.

However, ANZ spindoctor Paul Edwards explained the circumstances as follows:

We have been recruiting for a business development role in our charitable trusts business for several months. As part of that process, Tanya Costello has been introduced to us by a recruitment adviser who we have used over the last 10 years for select appointments. It’s natural given Tanya’s legal background and her professional experience in the charitable sector that we have progressed those discussions and we are looking forward to her joining ANZ during August.

Peter Costello’s political adviser David Gazard, himself a former government lobbyist for Westpac, defended the move on similar grounds this morning: “Tanya Costello is lawyer of 20 years’ experience and was uniquely qualified for the job. She was approached by an independent head hunter and satisfied the selection criteria of the organisation.”

This is good and well, except for one thing – Peter Costello has sat back and done nothing whilst Australia’s banking cartel has gouged consumers mercilessly to the point where listed banks are now worth more than $230 billion and comprise almost 40% of the Australian index.

ANZ’s shares and profits have quadrupled whilst Peter Costello has repeatedly declined to use the vast powers under the Banking Act to protect consumers from higher fees. The system has created several hundred millionaires in the rank of Australia’s big retail banks and now the Treasurer’s wife has been hired by a cartel member.

The Treasurer’s light-handed regime contrasts starkly with the approach taken by the previous Labor government, and with the pro-consumer perspective in New Zealand which saw NAB fined last week for increasing consumer fees without proper warnings.

You can’t deny political spouses a chance to pursue a career. But it’s not a good look for Tanya Costello to go from being a suburban solicitior to a better-paying job at the ANZ, especially given her husband’s role in deciding that Australia shouldn’t introduce a New Zealand-style Charities Commission to better regulate the sector.

Then again, the higher salary at ANZ Trustees, which suffered a management exodus over the failed merger with Equity Trustees, might help to pay some of those expensive school fees if the Treasurer takes the back bench option as part of his mission to topple the PM.

Peter Fray

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