Leslie Cannold: Writer, Commentator, Ethicist, Researcher
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Whose Time is it Anyway, Peter?

Peter Bloody Costello. Thank heavens the man is about to exit the national political stage because, quite frankly, I’m not sure I could take another minute of him.

It’s not the smirk. My problem is the sense of entitlement. The standard analysis of Costello’s failure to challenge Howard for the leadership is that he lacked the courage. Peter Costello, said Paul Keating back in 2005, has the heart the size of a caraway seed. This is probably true, but certainly too superficial. Listening to Costello blather on to those who care about the whys and wherefores of the challenge-that-never-was, what I hear is man who didn’t think he should have to take risks or work up a sweat in order to be appointed – forget about elected to – one of the highest offices in the land. He seemed to feel others should simply recognise his obvious qualifications for the post and hand it over, tied with a bow.

Costello’s post ministerial career reeks of the same sense of nobless self-oblige. While writers around the nation wait tables or sell socks or try and squeeze in few hours at the computer late at night after their day job is done and the kids are asleep, he rakes in a back-bencher’s salary while unapologetically writing his memoirs. No need for Peter to scrape about for a rare and piddling literature grant that other writers would make Faustian deals to secure despite the fact they barely cover the rent. He’ll just let the people of Higgins cover it. And if they don’t like it? Well, off with their heads.

Apparently, this sort of tacit tax-payer literary retreat is the Member for Higgins’ due, given all he had “contributed” during this time of office. Apparently he is entitled to stay in the seat of Higgins for as long as he wants until plans for his future career moves have solidified. Or so say key members of the Canberra Press gallery, who continue to report – with no sign of concern or alarm – on the “Salary Accepted but No One Home” sign that has been on the former Treasurer’s office door for close to a year.

Well I’m alarmed. Alarmed and aghast. I mean this is the man who, with his now-nemesis John Howard, spoke in glowing terms about programs like work for the dole because they reflected the “benefits of mutual obligation.” This from a key point man in a government that routinely disparaged those on welfare as “dole bludgers,” and criticised Australians who didn’t move interstate to find work as “job snobs.” This from a man who insisted the unemployed become more “self-sufficient,” and that welfare benefits be understood as a “social support in a time of need, not a permanent handout.”

Costello isn’t unemployed but if there was any justice in the world, he would be. Out on his ass in a pile of snow streaked yellow with dog pee. I’ve worked in a number of places in my time, but none where I had the option to throw aside the job description so I could use the office space to focus on things I found more lucrative and interesting.

That a Federal MP gets away with cheating his electorate of a representative more interested in improving their life stories than telling his, while they foot the bill-a sort of job-bludging that if we were in his shoes and he were still Treasurer he would surely have condemned – shames us all.

Publication History

Whose Time is it Anyway, Peter? , The Sun-Herald (Sydney)
21 Sep 2008

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