Costello should challenge for Liberal leadership: Gottliebsen

What a weekend it was for Peter Costello. First he learns that the ALP’s secret research back in 2006 showed that he had a very good chance of beating Rudd in the 2007 election if Howard had been rolled. If only the Liberal party had done the same detaile

What a weekend it was for Peter Costello. First he learns that the ALP’s secret research back in 2006 showed that he had a very good chance of beating Rudd in the 2007 election if Howard had been rolled. If only the Liberal party had done the same detailed work.

Second he is watching the Australian economy slide into a serious downturn which, given that it is part of a worldwide slide, will last at least a couple of years – leaving Rudd to come up for election either in a downturn or having just experienced one. And in this downturn house prices and other property values are going to suffer a noticeable fall – particularly in marginal electorates.

Third, Costello’s treasury mates would have told him (or will tell him) that the Government has made a complete hash of the climate change debate. The badly thought out Wong green paper has Australians losing a couple of enormous LNG projects, slashing its oil refinery capacity, probably losing an aluminium smelter, and crippling the airline industry just for starters. There is a lot more to come.

If you are going to do that to your economy and people’s jobs then you need to undertake some serious soul searching and make sure it is worthwhile. Rudd should have made no announcement until he had the treasury paper before him and could see exactly what the impact would be. Then he could properly think out his moves and warn people of the impact and/or moderate it.

Part of the Rudd problem is due to the fact that we are virtually going it alone in our region. While we ravage our local economy we are merely transferring the emissions to other countries, so the effect on global climate change of our suffering is next to nil. It’s true that we are showing a lead, but even that’s debatable. We may be showing what not to do.

In some ways the Chinese are in fact leading us. They are saying that to reduce emissions you need to invest in new technology rather than crippling your industries with carbon taxes so they can’t invest in new technology. And they could add: “Don’t cripple them when they are already suffering blows in a downturn.”

Kevin Rudd has a fantastic intellect and when he sees the treasury work he will realise that a new approach is required. But he is now in a quagmire and any change will come at a political cost.

If Peter Costello challenged for the Liberal leadership in the next month or so (claiming the Rudd economic “mess” made him change his mind) he would surely win and he would be odds-on to be the next prime minister. He has always aimed to be prime minister and given that the only way to get poor old John out of the job was via a ballot box, this is the best chance he has ever had. Costello delivered years of prosperity and while the current downturn is not Rudd’s fault the greenhouse bungle means he can be blamed because the two events will become one in Parliament.

But Costello has a problem. In a few months a book will come out and all the signs are that he planned to leave Parliament when the book was published. So almost certainly everyone is in with a chance for a spray in the book, as Costello’s parting present.

Howard completely bungled the succession, so he can’t complain. But the book you write to exit on is totally different to the vision you need to express as the likely next prime minister. Without any knowledge whatsoever of what’s in the book, my guess is that Costello would have to rewrite segments and replace vision for many of the parting jibes that he planned. And because he will need the support of Howard people, even some of the well-deserved Howard jibes may need to be moderated. However if the book was delayed and came out when he was opposition leader and the likely next prime minister it would sell much better than the bitter ramblings of a “has been”.

This article first appeared on Business Spectator

 

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