Thursday, July 13, 2006

Media Campaign to Undermine Lib Future

Peter Costello
Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
While the current leadership of the Liberal Party is rightfully admired, with high performing ministers and demonstrable achievements undreamed ten years ago, the future of the party is not assured.

Both Mr Howard and Mr Costello are aware of this.

Mr Costello is the fron runner for any Liberal leadership position in the future. However, the public won't accept a Kiribilli style hand off, Mr Costello has to seize the leadership. But if Mr Costello attempts to seize it, he will damage Liberal election prospects.

Mr Howard and Mr Costello are aware of this. Mr Costello needs to force Mr Howard to hand over the leadership using the party room as the mechanism. The recent display of statesmanship by Costello over the '94 agreement is the first move in this forced mate. Howard has lost the leadership, although he will be PM for awhile.

Meanwhile, the press are baying for entertainment. They would love the transition to become pear shaped, and already they campaign for ALP interests.


Anonymous said...

This is no time to lose a leader
THERE'S an old story in the Labor Party about a leadership aspirant who was arguing to a factional kingmaker that it was his turn for the top job.

The kingmaker said rather bluntly he should take a walk around the block and see how many people he met endorsed his views. The fact is, he was told, you'll find hardly anyone.

The story is one that Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello might think well about as he continues to try to pressure Prime Minister John Howard to leave politics quickly.

Yesterday Mr Costello had the opportunity to do his party and Government a favour by making it clear it was business as usual after the turmoil of the past few days.

It was an opportunity his party room colleagues would have welcomed and the public would have been happy to hear.

But his refusal to do so has further damaged him among Coalition MPs and will do little to enhance his low standing among voters – the two groups of people who will really decide whether Mr Costello deserves the top job.

The basic message of Mr Costello's utterings is that John Howard must go and it's his turn.

But there's one rather significant flaw in his case: what is the compelling argument for Mr Howard to go?

The Liberal party room and the Australian voters cannot see any compelling reasons for Mr Howard to vacate the prime ministership at this stage because there aren't any.

Mr Costello is right to claim the Government would benefit from an orderly transition, but why should such change happen only based on the Treasurer's preferred timetable to satisfy his personal ambitions?

Majority support

THE Prime Minister is still doing a good job and remains the Government's most effective politician. The public re-endorsed this view just two years ago with an increased majority and opinion polls confirm this remains their view.

Mr Howard is still determined and committed to the task ahead and, while turning 67 later this month, appears in excellent health and is younger than many leaders on the world stage.

And he has the clear majority of Government MPs strongly behind him staying as leader.

Because of this, Mr Costello's efforts to chip away at Mr Howard and spook a party room into urging him to go earlier than what might have been the case is more likely to harm the Victorian's future leadership prospects.

There's little doubt that the current tensions in the Government mean it would be wiser for Mr Howard to decide on his future sooner than later. Mr Howard has deserved the right to decide his departure date while he retains the support of his parliamentary party and the voting public.

But that decision should not be based on Mr Costello's "it's my turn, so give it to me now" demands – demands that have an immature ring about him for someone aspiring to the job that requires the greatest maturity in the nation.

As Mr Howard so correctly put it yesterday on this matter: "I think we should get on with the business of serving the Australian people."

daily telegraph editorial

Anonymous said...

Costello's view badly distorted by ambition
July 13, 2006

WITH "friends" like those claiming to support Treasurer Peter Costello, who needs enemies?
The contents of the nearly 12-year-old aide-memoire former Liberal minister Ian McLachlan kept in his wallet were known to a number of commentators and politicians, and have long been regarded as irrelevant to the fortunes of the Coalition Government because they were so frequently repudiated by the two principals, John Howard and Peter Costello.

But "friends" of Costello clearly thought otherwise.

Deciding last week that the time was ripe for their exhumation, they selected Glenn Milne, perennially the Canberra Press Gallery's foremost Costello supporter, to revive the long-extinct claim of an "undertaking" and provide fuel for the Treasurer's latest claim of entitlement to the prime ministership, which he again put to Mr Howard at their private meeting following Tuesday's Sydney Cabinet meeting.

However, in portraying himself as the jilted party in this matter and driven by frustration to a George Washington moment to invoke his parents' injunction to always tell the truth, he has fallen into a trap entirely of his own making.

He told Age journalist Shaun Carney for his 2001 biography that Howard had wanted to move against then-Opposition leader Alexander Downer before Christmas 1994, and is quoted as telling Howard: "If you try to move before Christmas I will create the biggest bloodbath imaginable. Do not move in that party-room meeting or you will have me to contend with. And I'll run and if I run then you'll be in real trouble. So they called that off."

No one seems in any doubt that Howard was then pursuing Costello for a deal that would guarantee him the leadership unopposed.

Howard sought Costello's close friend Michael Kroger to act as an intermediary and followed up with several phone calls to Costello, who was overseas, but he said he would let Howard know his decision when he returned to Australia.

On his return on January 22, Costello told Downer the uncertainty over the leadership could not continue and he would have to make up his mind by Australia Day.

On January 25, Downer told Howard and Costello he was stepping down and five days later Howard was elected as leader unopposed – Costello continued as deputy Liberal leader.

He may now claim, as he did during yesterday's curious press conference in Melbourne, that he would have answered honestly if anyone had ever specifically asked him whether he was party to a deal struck at a meeting on December 5, 1994. But on the numerous occasions he has been asked whether he was party to an agreement over the succession his untruthfulness on this exact issue has been meticulously documented.

Those denials are now apparently meaningless under his newly-embraced code of honesty.

Further, McLachlan, the source of the pathetic smoking gun in this saga, also stands accused of breaching an almost identical agreement made prior to the 1990 election to members of the South Australian Liberal Party's pre-selection panel.

Prominent Liberals well recall that at the time of his pre-selection for the seat of Barker in 1989, McLachlan said it was his intention to serve for just two terms. He was duly elected in 1990 and re-elected in 1993, and for a third term in 1996. Only then did he decide to up stumps.

What happened to the two-term pledge? Well, his apparent explanation to puzzled party members who questioned him is that his undertaking was to serve two terms "in government", not just any two terms of parliament, a difference that the pre-selectors failed to observe in 1989.

Nor is it clear whether McLachlan really would have left after those three terms if it had not been for polling in his electorate which showed that his popularity had slipped disastrously because he absented himself for long periods.

Voters indicated they would prefer someone who would be a truly local representative, and there was disquiet about the manner in which he used his office as defence minister, including the allegation that he sent an army helicopter to ferry his wife to a function.

He had been one of the great hopes of the Liberal side, showing great leadership in such landmark industrial conflicts as Dollar Sweets, Mudginberri, live-sheep exports and the wide-comb dispute.

But so little faith was placed in his commitment to serve just two terms, whether in government or not, that he caught everyone off guard when in August 1998 he declared at a party celebration and fundraiser at which Costello was guest-of-honour that he would not run.

A number of South Australian Liberals are now so angry about recent events that there is every expectation that new questions may emerge about Costello's knowledge of Liberal Party heavyweight Rob Gerard's controversial appointment and resignation from the Federal Reserve Bank Board last year.

Blundering Clayton's challenge of the past few days has undoubtedly damaged Costello's standing within the parliamentary Liberal Party and with the broader Australian public.

It is painfully obvious now that he needs to look beyond those he believes are his "friends" for advice.

He should also reflect on the sage words of former British prime minister Harold McMillan who, when asked what had been the greatest influence on his prime ministership famously replied: "Events, dear boy, events."

Voters would do well to ask themselves how they might have reacted if Costello and not Howard had been prime minister in 2000 – when the Coalition was selling the GST and facing waves of boat people – and consider whether they would have had the confidence to re-elect the Coalition under his leadership.