Sulkpot Petey Poo Nag-Nag is on firmer ground when he whinges about Howard’s record as treasurer.

Crikey reminded the world about the great achievement of the Howard Trifecta – unemployment, interest rates and inflation all over 10% – just a few weeks ago. We all know he was useless. Gutless, too. And we won’t need to wait all that long before we can see the cabinet papers that prove it.

A senior member of the Fraser Cabinet told Crikey today: “No submission of any significance in any way relating to the Campbell inquiry was ever brought to the cabinet by the then treasurer.”

Indeed, Crikey understands that this was despite a number of letters to Howard asking him to do so. Crikey understands that there’s plenty more to come out in the Van Errington book on the views of the PM’s colleagues towards him, from now and his days as treasurer.

Back then, Crikey understands, he was telling the dries one thing and cabinet another. It’s been pointed out to Crikey that Howard was a pretty junior treasurer surrounded by some pretty heavyweight other cabinet members. Crikey has been told he didn’t have the guts to push the Campbell Report in cabinet.

That was then and this is now.

John Howard has been on a very risky spending spree since 2001. His tax and bribe strategy has been risky because the money he’s been throwing around has always been virtually impossible politically to claw back. It’s always been risky because of what it might do to the budget bottom line in a downturn.

And it’s now proving to be additionally risky because it has simply raised expectations so high and created such an entitlement mentality that it no longer works – hence the lack of any budget bounce.

Poor pouty Pete has been in damage control mode this morning, but the astounding fact remains: the current Treasurer has been critical of current government spending. That is remarkable.

Crikey understands that when the Treasurer sat down with Van Errington, he was there to talk. Talk he did, obviously. But Treasurer Costello is nothing but talk – pretty selective talk. Just as treasurer Howard was.

Costello has advocated some gesture politics – bridge walks and Hanson bashing – but never articulated major policy reform, on or off the record, in the way Keating did. Yet Costello, like Keating, obviously thinks he should be prime minister, that he deserves to be prime minister. It takes more to get that job than a sense of entitlement. Having the courage of your convictions is a start.