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July 08th 2016 print

Peter Smith

Paging Peter Costello

Regardless of the election's final tallies, resentment and mistrust of the Coalition's present leader will remain palpable within the party room, meaning ongoing dissension and a government in name only. There is one man, though, who could put an end to that

costello IIWhy write about the election and its aftermath? It’s been done and is being done to death. I only decided to write when I thought I had something new to say. As with most things new, it’s really a rehash of sorts, but I think it’s worth a go for all that. I assume that this time next week Malcolm Turnbull will have been confirmed as leading a Coalition government with a narrow majority or at the very, very, least with minority support.

With a nod to the late great Jimmy Durante should he go or should he stay?  Stay go? Go stay? Numbers of conservatives think he should go: Andrew Bolt, Maurice Newman, and Peter O’Brien among numbers of others. Some like Newman plump for Abbott as his replacement. O’Brien writing on QOL suggests Matthias Cormann. Really! Wasn’t he with Joe Hockey spruiking the inept and disastrous 2014 budget which largely cost Abbott his job? Mind you his accent and trendy demeanour is bound to wow the populace. That’s irony folks in case you didn’t spot it.

Leaving aside the Muslim problem, which will only get bigger and bigger in the face of the political and commentariat elite occupying their own delusional and cut-off world, the only problem worth talking about is the budget and national debt. Debt has nasty habit of growing. The reason is simple.

If you can’t pay your way without borrowing, then borrowing will make it worse because now you have interest to pay. Federal government net interest payments in 2015-’16 are running at $1 billion a month. In the last full year of the Howard government (2006-’07), interest receipts exceeded interest payments. Indebtedness is the slipperiest of slopes.

Supposing Turnbull were to stand down, unlikely as that is without application of a cattle prod, who would replace him? Quite simply there is no-one in the Liberal parliamentary ranks who would make an ounce of difference to budget repair. Deputy leader Julie Bishop perchance – politically-incorrect laughter breaks out. Scott Morrison is sometimes touted as a future leader. With what credentials, I wonder?

Sure he gained a reputation for resolution for stopping the boats. But Scaredy Smurf could have stopped the boats with Captain Abbott at his back. As Treasurer his main game appears to be to target Liberal voters who intend looking after themselves in their retirement and to spend, rather than to save, whatever he can extract from them. It is all hopeless.

To be fair, even if the Liberals had someone of rare strength and personality in their ranks, he or she would find it politically impossible to make the required substantial inroads into future expenditure on health, education and welfare. A white knight is needed; an outsider. Or maybe an outsider-insider called Super Costello.

Peter Costello is still not yet 60 years of age. Turnbull retires wounded and hurt to his mansion and Costello parachutes into a safe seat, to much fanfare and national acclaim, with a brief to cut spending and to reduce taxation and regulation to stimulate growth. That’s a great idea of mine.

Peter Smith, a frequent Quadrant Online contributor, is the author of Bad Economics

Comments [15]

  1. Eeyore says:

    Putting us decidedly back to why Howard lost his election and his seat. No, I think Costello’s time has passed, it was lost along with the election based on workchoices.

    Paddling along for 3 years is not ideal but it is better than a Shorten-Greens alternative. The disaster that is this election should keep him on a knife’s edge leading to (one hopes) very little real action on those points that would further alienate the tenuous grasp he currently holds on the job.

    The conservatives need to let him and that idiot Textor know that it is easier for the base to find new elites than it is for elites to find a new base (paraphrased from somewhere), sit back see what the future brings as far as potential leaders go and act from there.

    • Warty says:

      Mark Steyn “The blunder down under”: ‘as Andrew Bolt observed correctly, Turnbull treated the entire conservative commentariat and the party base exactly the same way (i.e. ‘ in which the repugnant Liberal leader eschewed the pleasure of my company’). And, as I remarked re the Republican Party on Rush the other week, it’s a lot easier for the base to get itself a new elite than for the elite to find itself a new base’.

  2. Bill Martin says:

    I am usually in complete agreement with what you write Peter. Even in this case, I don’t so much disagree but think you are indulging in fantasising. Joining you in the indulgence, I think bringing Tony Abbott back is somewhat more realistic even if just as improbable. At least he is in parliament, has a pretty good track record as PM and would have learned a thing or two from his mistakes. Alas, fantasising is the only option for the likes of us at the moment.

    • Peter says:

      You got me bang to rights Bill. I am fantasising. I suppose my point is that budget repair is beyond the character and credentials of anyone in Coalition ranks. At least Peter Costello has experience of balancing the budget and running surpluses; and I would like him back. But, of course, unlike Arnie, he won’t be back. And, in any event, even a Reaganesque or Thatcherite figure would come up against the bizarre and recalcitrant beast which is now the Senate. All looks lost without a gleam of light on the budget horizon.

      • Bill Martin says:

        Commiserations, Peter. The only question is, which will cause our demise: National bankruptcy or the monster called Islam? Possibly both combined.

  3. Rob Ellison says:

    I commend your passion for recycling – but does he have the ticker for it?

    “We must make the building of a free society once more an intellectual adventure, a deed of courage…. Unless we can make the philosophic foundations of a free society once more a living intellectual issue, and its implementation a task which challenges the ingenuity and imagination of our liveliest minds, the prospects of freedom are indeed dark. But if we can regain that belief in the power of ideas which was the mark of liberalism at its best, the battle is not lost.” Hayek

    With a 60/38 Liberal voter support for Turnbull – I think the base might be on the other foot. We shall see if the opportunity for articulating a plan for a free and compassionate society can create a much broader base. As usual I am content that it is consistent with our heritage and on the side of the Angels for a bright future.

    • Jody says:

      Peter Costello just didn’t have what it took; he spat the dummy and left the scene when it was obvious he wasn’t going to be PM. Been there/done that. No more recycling please – there is plenty of talent in the Coalition ranks to avoid having to return to the past. Not like Labor, this morning “celebrating”, well, god knows what.

      What Labor needs to ask itself is “what’s wrong with our brand that we are elected to government on a majority only twice since 1995″?

      • Rob Ellison says:

        Labor’s primary vote has been dropping steadily in the post war years. Their only recourse is to lies and scares – and you know of the boy who cried wolf. A swing to them of 1.9% this election is not going to save them. The Liberal primary vote has help up better – but the Party needs to strike out in a slightly different direction to broaden the base.

        Does Labor figure it is closer to power? The reality is that the decks have been cleared and the senate shaken up. Let’s see what comes out of that.

    • ianl says:

      > ” … articulating a plan for a free and compassionate society ”

      Hard, detailed, costed, accountable policy on major issues. You do much better in the details of science than the entrails of politics.

      Try this, Rob: SSM, the “Republic”, AGW, ETS, intolerance of opposite opinion (ie. the use of 18C as a sledgehammer), PC, avoiding the issue of Islamic violence, are all 10th order issues. So what policies, exactly, do you suggest ?

      • Rob Ellison says:

        Lower taxes and spending – productivity – free trade. Playing nice on heath, education and welfare. Which is easier with an internationally competitive economy.

  4. Bran Dee says:

    The senate could in fact be a lot more amenable to a reasoned approach with One Nation holding considerable power. Remember also that ALA wants a balanced budget but will they be represented?
    Do we have any hard woman in the coalition to whom we could turn [ a turnwoman] who could replace the amazingly ineffectual present leader, M Turnbull?
    Whatever happens let us hope Tony Abbott is not brought to head Aboriginal Affairs. On that issue he seems as Left as Labor, and with similar misplaced zeal as he had in adhering to his unwanted PPL.

  5. iain says:

    The political pendulum is gradually swing back to the ‘right’, worldwide. The leftis warm period is just about spent – the goons are plateauing, the left are represented by increasingly unwinnable candidates – let mal and his cabal stew for awhile, maybe even boil if conservatives hold sway in the house of review – my frustation would love to see mal booted, but i suspect i may have to endure him for awhile longer – the pendulum will see him out.

  6. Steve Spencer says:

    I remarked to my wife only a few days ago that I wish Costello would rejoin politics. This happened when we were talking about how much we distrust Turnbull, but also the inevitable conundrum that follows: who would replace him. All the elder statesman have gone. I honestly can’t pick a single individual in Liberal ranks who has the principles, fortitude, credibility, trustworthiness and experience to do the job. This is when we began discussing Peter.

    His contributions in the media lately show that he has the nous, but also the ability to dismantle complex issues and reveal the core. Sure, he left under a cloud and all of that could have been handled better, but I reckon he is rehabilitated and the whole sorry experience has added another layer of capability to his CV. For sure, he is one of a very small – and dwindling – number of pollies who still espouses sound, conservative economic policies.