Modia Minotaur

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Costello and Boswell Under Fire

The Federal Opposition have again turned up the heat on Treasurer Peter Costello after revealing that Treasury did in fact perform economic modelling for the industrial relations changes, something he denied in parliament. Costello's denial that such economic modelling existed was initially a cause celebe for the Opposition, who had hoped to expose - as they ultimately have - that the modelling proved the economic impact of the changes would not be the bonanza Costello waas promising - but instead appeared to expose an even bigger scandal; that a massive change was being planned without Treasury having even examined the economic impact.

Costello, on ABC's AM this morning, argued that he was correct on a technicality as the modelling was detailed in a cabinet minute rather than a full report, but it's splitting hairs. Economic modelling existed and he said it didn't, it's as simple as that. And while it's silly for the Opposition to be calling for his sacking over the matter, the affair does add another black mark to the reputation of the man on which the Howard government has built its reputation of sound economic management. Howard's twin mantras for the economy over the past year have been `Costello is Australia's greatest ever Treasurer', and `The only way to preserve the momentum of Australia's economic prosperity is to reform the industrial relations system'. If there is an economic downturn - regardless of whether either of those two factors are the cause - Average Joe will have good reason to assume they are, which is where the government could stumble into big trouble.

The cabinet minute is, thanks to FOI, now available on the Treasury website, (complete with helpful pointers on how to interpret it).

Meanwhile, the career of Nationals Senator Ron Boswell is in doubt, with younger rivals such as former TV journalist and Tim Fischer staffer James Baker lining up to oust the notoriously conservative elder statesmen of the party. Ominously for the Coalition, Baker - considered a frontrunner in the pre-selection to replace Boswell - is a close pal of fellow Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce and says he would, like Joyce, be willing to cross the floor to serve Queensland's interests rather than simply kowtowing to the Liberal Party. It will be interesting to see whether this movement from the old guard to a more rebellious and independent new generation will extend to other states - it could certainly go some way towards arresting the stagnation of the National Party in many of its traditional areas, where it is rapidly being superceded by successful independents such as Tony Windsor.

A National Party that's not just the Liberal Party with an Akubra and Drizabone? Two Barnabys??? Ah, I can see Howard choking on his festive egg nog now ... what a small but warm glow it gives me ...

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