Monday, 23 April 2012


Having launched his unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor, Naval Marshal General Isoroku Yamamoto uttered the fateful lines: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

Watching former Treasurer Peter Costello’s equally resolved response to the “shemozzle” over the Future Fund chairmanship appointment, it is clear that Wayne Swan, Penny Wong, Stephen Conroy and the other economic pygmies of the Labor Party are similarly prodding the slumbering beast, daring him to wake up.

Aroused from his post-2007 kip, Peter Costello would be Labor’s worst nightmare. Compared to the amateur featherweights who now control the nation’s finances, Costello is a heavyweight prize-fighter, with the track record, the political nous, and the parliamentary skills to wipe the floor with what is one of the least competent collection of economic managers in our nation’s history.

From Senator Stephen Conroy, whose legacy will be the laughable “set-top boxes” scheme and an unnecessary network that the private sector would have built anyway (saving the taxpayer over $50 billion), came this extraordinary and illogical comment: “I'd rather put my money under the control of David Gonski any day of the week.” Er, Stephen, have you forgotten that your government’s sole economic boast – bringing us through the GFC unscathed – is entirely due to the fact that yours, my, and the entire nation’s finances were under Peter Costello’s control for over a decade? Personally, that’ll do for me when it comes to a reference for taking care of our sovereign wealth, unless of course you regard flogging sugar-water to overweight, attention-deprived kiddies as of higher merit.

From Wayne Swan, who at the slightest hint of criticism is quick to boast of being “endorsed by the IMF, the OECD, the World Bank, and Euromoney magazine” came the bizarre comment that Peter Costello "always had tickets on himself." Er, Wayne, what tickets would they be? That he actually knew how to deliver a surplus, year in, year out? That he (not you) took our economy to the point where it became the envy of the world? That the nation’s employment prospects grew under his stewardship, as opposed to shrinking under yours?

From Penny Wong, who is shaping up to be the Prime Minister’s equal when it comes to hair-splitting technicalities and obfuscating semantics, came this gem (regarding Gonski being both “confidante” of the guardians as well as the successful candidate): “He informed the Government of the views of the board. That is not the same thing as making a recommendation.” But, er, Penny, the view of the board was that they recommended Costello. Besides, ever heard of “conflict of interest”?

From Anthony Albanese we learn that Peter Costello “has never been offered a corporate position.” Good point Albo, and well done for reminding us that Peter’s formidable skills are better suited to a political career rather than a corporate one. Hopefully he will now heed your advice.

It’s time for Costello to return to the fray. Neither political party contains an economic manager of his proven skills. Wayne Swan’s belittling of our entrepreneurs and our banks, and his inability to see beyond the old-fashioned ideology of Labor’s class war are costing every Australian dearly. Particularly those trying to make a quid. We may have dodged a bullet during the first GFC, but we are utterly unprepared for any future shocks to our financial system.

The carbon tax, the mining tax, Fair Work Australia and increased union and Greens power don’t come without a hefty price-tag. The economic debate has gone tragically adrift. In Labor’s “looking glass” world, what are touted as “reforms” are nothing of the sort; merely anchors dragging behind the vessels of growth that keep the nation buoyant.

Labor and Swan are deforming, rather than reforming, our economy. An agenda that sees entrepreneurs as a threat, taxes as the panacea for everything, and chooses to put a moral label on the size of your business (small business is “good”, big business is “bad” – huh?) has been tried and found wanting in Europe and will almost certainly end in tears here. As Warren McKibbin warns, Euro-socialism is where Labor are taking us.

Costello belongs in Canberra. He may not miss it, but it misses him. Once, his self-appointed retirement would have been deemed an end to his political career, but the electorate has now been conditioned by Labor to expect the unexpected, with politics as flexible and as changeable as the most dog-eared, red-inked script of the silliest soap opera. In this day and age of celebrity fallibility and the confessional studio couch, Peter would be an instant hit with an “I made a terrible mistake – I never thought Labor could stuff it all up so badly” approach.

More importantly, Abbott needs Costello. Despite the Opposition’s consistent approval as economic managers in the opinion polls, it is clear that they are making heavy weather of their current predicament, having been successfully wedged by Labor on corporate tax cuts. The carbon tax wedge will be even worse, with Labor going all out to portray Abbott as the rich man’s buddy reaching into the working class pocket and stealing their “hard-earned” compensation packages.

The fact that Labor have so brazenly, yet successfully, spun the idea of a Liberal “$70 billion black hole” makes it all the more obvious why Costello must return. Costello found a genuine $96 billion hole left by Keating’s Labor government. Real money that had vanished into thin air. The similar-sounding ‘$70 billion black hole’ loudly proclaimed by the Labor front bench is smoke and mirrors. It is purely hypothetical. For Robb and Hockey to have fluffed this, and allowed the spin to remain, is unforgiveable. They are not up to the task.

Abbott as leader with Costello as shadow Treasurer would be a truly formidable combination.

Each ideologically-driven utterance that Labor makes on the economy is not only an affront to Costello, it’s an insult to every hard-working, productive Australian. It’s time we all woke up.

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