Costello: a leopard doesn’t change his spots. There are plenty of reasons I can think of why Peter Costello would not want to pack up from Australia to take a position as the spruiker-in-chief for the gold industry and wanting to lead the Liberal Party does not have to be one of them. While I hesitate to describe the former Treasurer as a SNAG, he has shown a concern that his wife have a career independent of his own. He rather stoically took the conflict of interest criticism when Mrs Costello accepted a senior executive position at the ANZ Bank which showed a genuine unselfishness.

And if money was his principal concern he would not have gone into politics in the first place. Nevertheless, the news that Mr Costello has turned down the well-paid post in London has given fresh impetus to the speculation that he will finally seek the party leadership. I have no idea as to his intentions. Perhaps it depends on the reaction to his political memoirs when they are published later this year. What I do know is that for him to actually challenge for the job, rather than accept it if unanimously offered to him, would be completely out of character.

Attacking Obama’s positive could turn negative for Republicans. Attacking Barack Obama as a celebrity is the latest example of the American Republican Party campaigning technique of directly trying to turn an opponent’s chief positive in to a negative. It is a daring strategy but one that is full of risks even if it has worked in the past. My guess is that Americans might well warm to the idea of having a leader who has the respect of the world rather than one who is widely condemned and that the latest Republican commercials will achieve the opposite to what is intended. I notice that the Real Clear Politics site has Obama with a lead of three percentage points on its polling data average.

There are a few difficulties in trying to translate these US national poll figures in to a probability of victory but on the rough guide I use you would have the Democrats about a 77% chance of winning which is much higher than what the prediction markets are actually showing. The Owl’s Election Indicator, based on the markets, puts the Democrat chance at 63.8% with the Republicans at 35.0% and any other candidate at 1.2%. Backing the Democrats certainly looks like a bet to me although I would be giving our local internet bookies a miss. The odds being offered by those smart people at Centrebet and Sportingbet are much skinnier than you can get at the international prediction exchanges like Intrade. I have put 60.5 on Obama today to collect 100 if he becomes President.

Passing the buck on Qantas. The politicians should start worrying about the safety problems Qantas is experiencing because if something really terrible happens the mob will start looking at the changes that Governments have made over the last 20 years in the way that civil aviation is administered. This is a classic case of free market ideology running wild with both Labor and Liberal administrations moving to remove responsibility from government departments into organisations pretending to run on a free enterprise model. It just has not worked and the price being paid is a shortage of air traffic controllers that sees flights not monitored and inadequate inspections of aircraft. I disclose that I had a frightening period advising the chairman of the then corporatised Civil Aviation Authority on how to avoid being the person left carrying the can for a monstrous mistake in deregulation by the politicians.

No shrinking violet. There’s one thing we can be sure of about the country’s new Governor General: Quentin Bryce will generate more headlines than the man she is replacing. You would have to say her opening effort this morning is quite sensational:

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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