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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Finally, some questions

So who is Peter Costello? For much of our media, his politics appear irrelevant - they're too involved in the power play between him and Howard. Finally, a journalist has asked the key question: what does Costello stand for?

The Age's Gay Alcorn actually understands the role of a journalist, unlike many of her colleagues. Ask questions, conduct research, make reasoned predictions:

"The one thing usually given as a key example of where Costello diverges from Howard is in his support for a republic. But while Howard's monarchism was deeply felt, Costello's republicanism seemed thin and politically calculated. When then prime minister Paul Keating in 1993 pushed for a debate on becoming a republic, Costello argued in the party that the Liberals should oppose it - purely on political grounds. When Howard convened a constitutional convention for 1998, Costello was mute. Here's how Carney's biography describes his eventual decision: "As the convention approached . . . Peter concluded that it was futile not to hook into the growing republican sympathies in the community and try to find a way for republicanism to mesh into his own brand of political and constitutional conservatism." The impression left is of a man of no conviction."

Alcorn pulls no punches in her analysis of Australia's potential future Prime Minister (God help us!):

"Has it always been just about power, Peter? To be a brutal parliamentary performer specialising in the thudding puns that pass for political humour in Australia might rev up the troops, but those of us watching the spectacle are sceptical. Perhaps your unpopularity among voters is not only because of your job as treasurer, but also because, after all these years, few people know what you stand for. When Kroger handed you Higgins, what did you want to do with it beyond using it as a vehicle for self-advancement? The numbers must be counted and, in your world, all else may be irrelevant. But Peter Costello, who the hell are you?"

9 Comments:

Blogger Binnsy said...

The front page of the Sydney Murdoch rag stabbed Costello for not supporting his rugby league team... wtf? Can't they find anything better to pick at him about, like, oh gee, I dunno, what he does for a LIVING??

Thursday, May 12, 2005 3:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Guy said...

I don't think it is all about power for Costello - if it was he would have challenged (or at least more visibly schemed) long before now.

That said, I think there is surprisingly little that we do know about exactly where Costello would lead the Liberal Party.

Surely not towards an Australian republic, despite any public sympathies he has had with ARM in the past. There must be almost more monarchists than lawyers even in the federal Liberal camp!

I will say this: I don't think Costello "fits in" as a leader of the Liberals. Someone like Downer or even Nick Minchin seems to represent (to me) exactly what the current party is all about.

Thursday, May 12, 2005 3:28:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Costello would hardly be very different to Howard. To suggest otherwise, in my view, is wishful thinking. Besides, the issue is with the two-party structure, not who leads the parties themselves. Structural reform is needed, not least in the area of campaign finance and 'donations'. Ah, the smell of corruption...

Thursday, May 12, 2005 4:08:00 pm  
Blogger syed-m said...

All these red herrings have effectively sidelined matters that ought to be scrutinised. Like the institutional deficiencies in the Department of Immigration that lead to the removal of Australian citizens from the country. Or the greater context behind the hostage situation in Iraq (eg why would people do such things? Perhaps they think it is the only way people will notice what's going on in Iraq?). See this interesting Media Watch report: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s1357627.htm.

Of course, you could also say something similar about the latest Budget. Most of the analysis has been on things like tax cuts for the rich and whether Costello used the budget to advertise his leadership credentials. But what about tax breaks and subsidies for big business and key industries? Ridiculous Defence budgets? And so many other things?

Thursday, May 12, 2005 4:19:00 pm  
Blogger Binnsy said...

Discussion Questions (not trying to sound like a textbook at all)

1. What do we all think of the Opposition's outspoken..well... opposition of the tax cuts of the new budget?

2. Would a Labor government's budget be any better or worse perhaps?

Oh god I even numbered them... [shakes head to self]

Thursday, May 12, 2005 7:57:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

The ALP's opposition is playing politics, HOWEVER, the govt's 'tax cuts' speaks for itself. essentially, if you're rich, you deserve more money, and if you're not, well, try and find a better paying job. so similiar to tax policy implemented by bush, it's scary.
As for an ALP budget, well, MAY be a little fairer to low income earners, but let's forget where their bread is buttered (the ALP, that is.) big end of town....

Thursday, May 12, 2005 8:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Fabian said...

I seem to recall that Costello wanted to march during National Sorry Day and was told not to by Howard - am I right? Was that just a position of convenience as well, as far as Costello was concerned?

Thursday, May 12, 2005 8:58:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

He did indeed want to march. Good on Pete. Since then, bugger all. What a surprise. A position of convenience? God knows. Maybe yes, maybe no. Even if he does believe in reconciliation, saying 'sorry' etc, he's been mighty silent about it. Daming, frankly...

Thursday, May 12, 2005 9:31:00 pm  
Blogger syed-m said...

Ok, didn't know that. Talk about an abject lack of moral courage!

Re ALP Budgets: I hate to sound like an habitual complainer, but I doubt it'd be very different. Almost all the coverage has been on tax cuts. But even the Government's proposed tax cuts for the rich are only a small portion of the Budget. Yes, not insubstantial. But what about...

Defence spending: would ALP spending habits be any different? Not with Beazley at the helm.

Subsidies for big business and politically important sectors of industry: doubt there'd be much difference here either. Look what Kimbo and his mates did during their 1980s incumbancy!

Of course it's good for business if the media reports on the Budget in a manner that focuses on personality politics (eg does Beazley's response to the Budget show he has ticker? Is Costello's grin more bearable than Howard's smerk?). That way the business community can get on with business.

Friday, May 13, 2005 7:02:00 pm  

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