Bring back Costello now! Round 2

Wednesday, 25 March 2009 


It is with great pride, and some humility, that this blog announces, in conjunction with The Australian newspaper, the re-launch of the campaign to draft Costello to the Liberal leadership.

As regular readers of this blog will know, The Piping Shrike is dedicated to the mission of providing clarity to the Australian political scene and the best way to do that is for Costello to lead the Liberal party to a thumping defeat.

The Liberal party is being driven with one eye on the road in front and one on the rear view mirror – and it is getting increasingly confused which is which. Costello behind the wheel would put all eyes firmly on the rear view mirror with the expected result.

Turnbull’s current dilemma within his own party is being under-estimated. Bernard Keane from Crikey has some sound advice for Turnbull on how to take on Rudd, but misses an important factor. Keane thinks Turnbull should emulate Rudd when he became opposition leader at the end of 2006. But Turnbull can’t because he is not leading the same party that Rudd was then. Rudd’s strategy of closely following Howard on most issues and only opposing on the ones he wanted, is a luxury Turnbull cannot afford. Rudd could only take Labor through all the twists and turns of dealing with Howard because the ideological battles in the party had effectively died, leaving it the technocratic shell it is today. As Australia’s last political party, the Liberals are not likely to go to sleep as quietly.

A classic example of this was the debate, or more accurately, non-debate, about the government’s Fair Work Bill. Dennis Shanahan had some good observations about the way Gillard managed to make a minor difference between the government and the Liberals over the number of employees in firms coming under unfair dismissal laws, into a major ideological difference. It enabled Gillard to revive the spectre of Workchoices as the threat to job security at a time when people most needed it. Of course anyone familiar with the industrial scene over the last two decades would know job insecurity came not from Workchoices, which had a minor impact on the IR scene, but the death of collective bargaining under the last Labor government. Nevertheless, at a time when Labor has about as much practical solace to give to those worried about their jobs as it did for those at Pacific Brands, the Liberals’ clumsy tactics made the issue all about them instead.

Yet Shanahan forgets to mention why Turnbull was forced to do so. Namely, because that political maestro Costello decided to make it an issue within the party by making a mountain over an equally minor difference between him and Turnbull. Costello knows full well that if he wants to undermine Turnbull’s strategy to change the Liberals it is easy, simply raise the question of core values. With Turnbull unable to convincingly say what they should be in the future, Costello can simply hark back to how it was in the past.

The mythical past. Because in reviving the Howard legacy, Costello has to ignore how Howard began stripping it away like the Dance of the Seven Veils in the dying months of his government. If Workchoices is so necessary for jobs, as Shanahan claimed Howard believed, why did he abandon it near the end? The answer is easy, because it was pointless keeping something that was both unpopular and for which the Liberals’ business backers had little need for. That’s another reason why this blog wants to see Costello take on the leadership. Not just to reveal the state of right-wing politics now, but do another re-run of The Howard Years, this time with the deleted scenes put back in.

Posted by The Piping Shrike on Wednesday, 25 March 2009.

Filed under Media analysis

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19 responses to “Bring back Costello now! Round 2”

  1. Scott on 25th March 2009 10:33 am

    Will be interesting to see how the Liberals go at the next federal poll, whoever their leader is. They held their base remarkably well in 06 but they won’t have the buffer of incumbency next time. We have moved into a new era of electorate politics and so many of the ‘cast iron’ rules of politics no longer apply. But clearly the electorate generally wants greater safety nets from government or, dare I say it, a return to elements of the welfare state. What the Liberals are now proposing doesn’t gel with the current electorate climate. The Libs are in danger of falling into the trap that their Victorian colleagues fell into after Kennett lost – the belief that their loss was an abberation. The reward that they received for being so misguided was their biggest loss in Victorian political history and the federal Libs are tempting the same fate.

  2. tweetiepie on 25th March 2009 12:06 pm

    I love the image of JWH doing the Dance of the Seven Veils which encapsules perfectly his core values. Also, a great photo of the Pretender to establish your focus! May I suggest “Nature adores a vacuum” as a fitting slogan for your campaign?

  3. Mr Denmore on 25th March 2009 2:38 pm

    The Liberals’ (and The Australian newspaper’s) other big problem is they are still are living under the delusion that their fake culture wars meant anything to anyone outside the narrow commentariat.

    The Libs are busy patting themselves on the back because they managed to nobble the editorial independence of a piss-weak ABC by stacking the board and populating the audience of programs like Q&A with undergraduate young fogey Liberals.

    With the determinedly reactionary The Australian also on side, they think they are now tapping into the public mood. This leaves them preoccupied with shuffling the deckchairs at the top of a party which is at war with itself.

  4. clarencegirl on 25th March 2009 3:50 pm

    Oh noes! My heart couldn’t stand a re-run of The Howard Years, even if it is from the Opposition benches.
    Can’t we just drive a stake through Costello’s political heart?

  5. James on 25th March 2009 4:19 pm

    Costello has botched it. If he wants the leadership, he needs to put his head down, be a positive team player, and lay low until at least next term or even the one after that. The guy is all over the place. Problem is the Liberals are a mixture of deluded thoughts that they will be returned soon and terror that Rudd is here for the long haul. Often it looks as if Costello doesn’t even know what he wants, so how can anyone really have any faith in him? He’s deluded if he thinks the right wing warriors who knifed him for so long actually have his leadership ambitions in their hearts. He’s being played like a Baby Grand again, oblivious to the fact that some other Ugly is probably using him as a pawn to push their leadership agenda. Sounds familiar.

  6. Ad astra on 25th March 2009 5:33 pm

    The latest Newspoll shows that Costello has extended his lead over Turnbull as the ‘Best leader to defeat Labor at the next federal election’ from seven to eleven points since the poll earlier this month. Turnbull is slipping on almost every other parameter. Shanahan realizes this and has been reporting Turnbull’s decline objectively, I believe with the intention of undermining him. My strong impression is that he has virtually given Turnbull the flick, and is now pushing for Costello to return to give his beloved Liberal party its best chance of returning to power. So I agree the ‘Bring Costello back’ campaign has once again been resurrected. Only a big turnaround in Turnbull’s performance and polling, or a determined refusal of Costello to take on the leadership, will save him. I note Shanahan leaves that possibility open.

    An analysis of the reasons behind Turnbull’s ‘toppling’ is on The Political Sword in a piece titled ‘Dear Malcolm’

  7. The Piping Shrike on 25th March 2009 6:46 pm

    I thought the Costello Newspoll a strange one, asking everyone to be a political commentator. Why didn’t they just ask the usual question: would you be more/less likely to vote coalition if Turnbull/Costello was in charge? Can anyone think of a possible reason?

    Glad you like the pic tweetiepie. I thought it would help my campaign, I think it is quite endearing.

  8. Greensborough Growler on 25th March 2009 7:55 pm

    Two things,

    1. Turnbull was too anxious to assume the leadership of the Libs after their election debacle. He undermined Nelson from day one and got eactly what he wanted. His only problem , is he has to live with the outcome.

    2. I’m certain that electors want Costello to lead the Liberals to the next election so they can “do” him like they did Howard. To date, Costello has played the rope a dope scenario hoping his opposition gets tired. The key for him is whether he lasts long enough to deliver a knock out blow to Labor.

  9. Bushfire Bill on 25th March 2009 8:44 pm

    Turnbull may be a lot of things, but he isn’t a believer in fairy tales.

    His lawyer’s brain (what’s left of it) will force him to realise that there’s no future in bashing his head against the brick wall of the riven, comedic-tragic Liberal Party. Let someone else do that. Peter? Where are you?

    Malcolm’s pronouncements over the past few days have been cliched. Labor Debt… Yawn. Incompetent… Roll over and go back to sleep. Don’t know how to run an economy… Big Stretch. Oppose everything on principle… Wake Me When It’s All Over.

    He’s resorted to lazy, easy, convenient Lib platitudes. Doing it by the numbers. Conservative 101 “How To Bash Labor” (and appeal only to the base, which is shrinking by the day).

    Pretty soon he’ll flee the scene. He’ll give up the fight and advise his client (himself, in this case) to go for a settlement which will at least keep him out of Long Bay or debtor’s prison. Cut and run: the smart alternative to self-immolation.

    Malcolm, the Rainmaker has a good life ahead of him. He’s rich, he’s famous, he’s cultured, he’s smart. Too smart to continue the self-flagellation of trying to bash the Libs into any sort of shape in the near future.

    He’ll quit and walk. Laughing. It’ll feel so good to be rid of he idiots he thought he could change.

    Tuscany, here he comes! (and half his luck)

  10. DM on 26th March 2009 12:22 am

    Since when does Shanahan count as a Costello supporter? I’m a bit sceptical of this somewhat forced, I must say, attempt by some right wing commentators to recruit Costello to the Liberal leadership. Don’t forget that Peter Costello is socially progressive on many issues, while on others he is simply pragmatic (very unlike Howard). And if you take into account that he is the Liberal left’s best man by far, you will understand why so many right wing culture warriors out there want him to lead the Liberal party to the unwinnable election of 2010. In other words, this is nothing other than the right’s plan to get rid of him, because if he does end up leading the Libs back into government he will have changed the party according to his progressive vision. So this is all the right’s attempt to stave off a potential progressive threat to their hold on the Liberal party. They know well that Turnbull is a furphy with no chance in the world of refashioning the party into something more moderate and progressive, let alone winning government. So they are now anxious to see him vacate the place for the candidate they really don’t want leading them.

  11. Just Me on 26th March 2009 5:02 pm

    “Of course anyone familiar with the industrial scene over the last two decades would know job insecurity came not from Workchoices, which had a minor impact on the IR scene, but the death of collective bargaining under the last Labor government.”

    Broadly agree with that. But curious about this point;

    “job insecurity came not from Workchoices, which had a minor impact on the IR scene,”

    Do you think that is due to the actual content of WorkChoices? Or to the fact that a) it was never popular to start with, and more importantly, b) it simply did not have time to become the entrenched, dominant regime in the culture of the workplace?


  12. Just Me on 26th March 2009 5:04 pm

    Or c), that most of the important work in IR had already been done by the Hawke-Keating Labor government.

  13. john on 26th March 2009 7:48 pm

    Sorry DM, but Peter Costello’s history in industrial relations does not put him on the socially progressive side. I know of few people who would count the H.R. Nicholls Society as socially progressive (reactionary is the term that springs to mind) and Peter Costello was a co-founder.
    Among the other foundation members were such “social progressives” as John Stone, Hugh Morgan, Ray Evans, Charles Copeman, Dr Gerard Henderson and John Hyde.

  14. The Piping Shrike on 26th March 2009 9:14 pm

    Just Me, in the link in the post it refers to a fairly thorough survey done by the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre on the low take-up of AWAs and the way employers preferred to use the shift away from collective bargaining agreements to restrain wages. I think the authors of the report were right when they called the row about IR more one of ‘brand identification’ for the parties than anything of substance.

  15. DM on 27th March 2009 12:44 am

    John, I don’t think you’ve got me right there. Social progressive is someone who is moderate or forward-thinking on social issues, not economic issues. Yes, Costello is very much an economic consevative. The major division in the Liberal party of today is along the social issues line. The party is pretty much in agreement on the economic side.

  16. Graham on 27th March 2009 3:03 pm

    Peter Costello’s actions at the moment are so, well, Peter Costello. Sits on the back bench, writes his opinion pieces, bobs up every now and again with a comment to keep him in view, but does nothing more. My guess is that he will keep doing this until he thinks the Prime Ministership is in the bag for him, otherwise he will continue to pretend that he was never interested in the job.

    I think he is turning into a genuinely strange person.

  17. Larry Buttrose on 28th March 2009 1:09 pm

    Shrike, if the Liberals are Australia’s last political party, what do they stand for? I thought that was what political parties did. It would appear in their case that they are there for little more than the individual vainglory of whoever has backstabbed enough other members to become leader. What did Nelson stand for? 5 cents off petrol…? What does Turnbull stand for, and Costello? Nobody knows. Nothing, really, beyond their own pathetic ambition. Costello does actually have one “big picture thing” though, as does the entire Liberal Party, but they can’t talk about it as such because it is the redistribution of wealth from the less well off to the rich. He did this splendidly during his time as Treasurer, crowing about his huge budget surpluses which were only surplus taxes taken from taxpayers, and then returning it through tax cuts, which of course always favoured the higher tax brackets. That was what he stood for, and during his time the gulf between rich and poor was never wider. Then they overreached themselves with WorkChoices trying to bash the unions and beat wages and conditions down to an American-style pittance, and the mugs finally woke up and got rid of them. God help us all if Costello doesn’t get his way and roll Turnbull though- we’ll be sentenced to an eternity of his selfish pique and hissy fits.

  18. The Piping Shrike on 30th March 2009 6:13 am

    Larry I’m being a bit cheeky calling the Liberals Australia’s last political party. In the past they never had to worry what they stood for as it was simply what business interests wanted, with a few nods to the middle class. Business has less interests in the Liberals because the main reason they wanted them over Labor, to deal with the unions, no longer applies. They can’t go down the Labor state functionaries route so they are left with the pointless search for ideas like some intellectual debating society, without the intellectuals.

  19. Larry Buttrose on 31st March 2009 8:18 am

    I had suspected as much Shrike… cheek, of course, is always commendable when it comes to dealing with politics.

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