Authors Peter van Onselen and Wayne Errington found an eager interview subject when they approached Treasurer Peter Costello during their research for John Winston Howard: The Biography. They have produced a timely work, not only in terms of maximising returns and interest for its authors and publisher, but also in terms of the book’s potential to have an impact on the Australian political dynamic in the closing months of an election year.
Costello, sitting down for the first of his frank encounters with the authors last year, can have been under no illusions as to the potential for a book of this type, published in late 2007, to leave a muddy footprint across the campaign trail.
For the benefit of van Onselen, Errington and presumably a grateful posterity, he rolled out his now-routine litany of dissatisfaction, spurned ego and frustrated ambition; an only vaguely veiled little bucket of bile hurled squarely at the form of the man who in so many ways is not his colleague and brother in arms but his political nemesis.
If Costello intended through this manifest indiscretion to bolster his own chances in the big game of Prime Ministerial succession then he was wrong. In ridiculing the performance of his leader, in feathering his own nest of ambitions with timing that could only be to the detriment of the Liberals’ electoral cause, Costello reflects on only one man’s unsuitability for the country’s highest office: his own.