A cheesy soap opera with no plot

Friday, 20 July 2007 

It was striking yesterday how much trouble interviewers had on landing blows on senior Liberals over Costello’s comments about Howard.

Probably because there was little substance in them. Costello’s criticisms of Howard’s past record as Treasurer on interest rates and inflation are about as meaningful as the ones Howard make on Labor’s.

The truth is that, as Keating said in that notorious, and much more informative, interview last month on Lateline, there were only two real economic reforms; opening up to international markets and “pulling the teeth” of the unions. That was done by the time Howard took government and the rest of monetary policy was mostly handed over to the Reserve Bank. Howard can point to a strong economy, but his government has had little to do to make it so. When Costello called it the “greatest reforming government since Menzies” on AM yesterday, we know that we are in the hands of a true master of irony.

This was why Kerry O’Brien got a little closer with Howard when he quoted a more interesting source in the book, Howard’s former chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, who noted that Howard was all about “getting into government and staying in government”. Howard in reply turned it into every politician’s job, but the question in Howard’s case is, for what purpose? It was essentially the same problem pointed out by the Stone ‘tricky and out of touch’ memo back in 2001, something Howard was able to address a few months later with the War on Terror, but only for a while.

Externally this affair will probably not make that much impact. The public will care little over whom Howard invites to dinner. It will help Labor in parliament cut dead any government attack on its economic record, but that will only reinforce the stalemate that already exists. The impact is likely to be more important internally. It will add to the sense of drift within the Liberal party and make it more likely its internal weaknesses will be exposed before, rather than after, the election. For Costello, the chances of him becoming leader (if he ever wanted it) are probably over.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Friday, 20 July 2007.

Filed under Political figures

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