Peter Costello’s testimonial dinner address:

Good evening everyone. I’m pleased that so many of my friends could make it along this evening. Thanks Brendan for those lovely words earlier. I didn’t quite expect you to start crying during your speech, but we all know you’re an emotional bloke, so thank you. The hair-pulling and clothes-tearing was probably unnecessary though.

And thanks, too, to Tony Abbott for his words of praise. Tony wasn’t actually scheduled to speak – in fact, he wasn’t even invited – but we figured if he wasn’t here talking about me he’d be outside talking to the media about me, so it was a pretty easy decision to invite him in. Those people at Tony’s table, though, just watch out – he gets a bit punchy after a few beers. Make sure you don’t mention David Oldfield.

Alexander Downer, too, it’s lovely to see you here, although if you could actually just stop handing out your new business cards for a few minutes, that’d be grouse. Cheers.

John Howard, of course, can’t be with us tonight, due to a prior engagement. Apparently he’s “washing his hair”. Good luck to John on that.

I have to say the last nine months has had its enjoyable moments. From my position on the backbench, I have a fine view of David Hawker’s head, and Kevin Andrews and I swap Bible interpretations during Question Time. Kevin’s very big on the Old Testament, of course, while I’m more a New Testament man myself, mainly because it hurt less when Tim used to hit me with it when we were kids.

And I frequently take my laptop into the Chamber with me, although I still don’t know what that blue cable does and I never seem to be able to get onto Google when I’m there. Anyway.

But the best part of all has been watching a bunch of people who wouldn’t give me the time of day when we were in government crawl over broken glass for me now.

Yep, it’s going to be that sort of speech, folks. Are you sitting uncomfortably?

Like Tony here. Tony was one of the stoutest defenders of our former Prime Minister, possibly because the old bloke thought Tony was leadership material himself. That was before Mr Howard realised, along with the rest of us, that Tony’s mad. Stark raving mad. You’re mad, aren’t you Tony? Yep. But now Tony loves me. Wants me to be leader.

Wouldn’t have anything to do with the deputy leadership would it Tony? Can’t have both the leader and the deputy from North Sydney, eh?

Same thing in the media. Take Dennis Shanahan. For years he was John Howard’s personal press officer at The Australian. I had to make do with the dwarf. I used to complain to John Hartigan about that. “Why do I get the bloody dwarf?” I’d say to him. “Why can’t I have Shanahan? Or Kelly? Or one of the others?” You’ve no idea what it was like. Milne would come in every morning , saying “I’m going to make you Prime Minister.” He never did jack, and then just when Howard was actually thinking about pulling the pin in 2006, Milne f-cked everything up. I swear to god. So anyway, watch out for him, Malcolm. He’s the kiss of death.

Where was I? Oh, yep. Shanahan. Now Dennis won’t shut up about how great I am.

All you bastards think that just because you tell me how fantastic I am now I’m going to forget a decade of humiliation? That I’d actually want to lead a bunch of ingrates like you?

No way, José. Youse can get stuffed.

But I’ve used my time on the backbench to develop some thoughts on the future of the Liberal Party. After considering… look, will someone take Wilson outside and give him his pills please before he makes more of a scene? After considering the history of our great party, its leaders, its triumphs and tragedies, its good times and its bad ones, I think the key challenge for the party is this: get a f-cking clue.

Seriously. I said I was leaving, and sat on the backbench and said nothing more, and you lot went to pieces faster than a suicide bomber in a grater factory. You’re like those adults that have a fetish for being dressed in nappies and put in a cot. It’s scary. It’s like the entire party has daddy issues. So the best thing you can probably do to make yourselves electable is go and have therapy. Really.

And so to my future. Tonight I’m delighted to announce that yes, I am leaving politics. I will be pursuing a career in the private sector – in fact, I will establishing a consultancy with my old sparring partner from my Labor days, Michael Costa, who at this very moment is announcing his own resignation from NSW politics. We will be establishing Grumpy Old Treasurers, which will draw on our unique experience of having to work under dud leaders who couldn’t take a hint if their lives depended on it.

By way of conclusion, many of you might know that I’m a wrestling fan, and the other week I bumped into Mario Milano, the World Championship Wrestling legend, and we had a bit of a catch-up. And he said to me “Peter, it’s funny, but politics is a lot like wrestling. And I think you should have put the Atomic Drop on that John Howard.” And I said to him “Mario, you’re right and you’re wrong. Politics is a little different. In the Liberal Party, the two blokes in the ring aren’t faking it, but all the people standing round watching them are, and that’s the problem.”

Have a good life, folks. I know I will.

Peter Fray

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