In what can only be described as a major body blow to Peter Costello, Malcolm Turnball and the Liberal Party, former Liberal Party Leader John Hewson has lashed out against Costello in an “open letter” published in the mainstream media attacking Costello’s style, conduct and questioning his competency as Treasurer during the halcyon years of the Howard Government.
The severity of this attack and the effect it will have on the Liberal is potentially catastrophic. Following Julie Bishop’s effective sacking from the Shadow Treasury position, Costello’s refusal to accept it and the leadership tensions that are clearly palpable between Turnbull and Costello, it would appear that Costello’s steadfast position to remain on the backbench is now becoming rapidly untenable.
This is Hewson’s letter here.
“Enough is enough. If your few remaining mates won’t tell you, I will. You’ve had a fair go. If you now won’t give others a chance and pull your weight as a member of the team, you should move on. It is most unlikely that you will ever be drafted as leader of the Liberal Party and even less likely that you will ever be prime minister.”
“You can’t go on ignoring the facts. You have only ever had a minimal support base and that base has been further and terminally eroded by your disloyalty, antics and shenanigans of the last year or so.”
“Perhaps, ironically – although I doubt that you will admit it – your best chance to be leader was when you let Alexander Downer lead the “Dream Team” that took over the leadership from me back in 1994. If not then, certainly when Downer fell over a few months later.”
“You didn’t have the balls to seize the moment then, leaving the leadership by default to John Howard. And you haven’t had the balls, or the numbers, since. It’s no use trying to argue that you had some sort of “secret” deal with Howard that he would move over for you after some “reasonable period”. You know Howard was never in any position to deliver, even if he ever recognised that he had made such a “core” promise.”
“And all that nonsense that you went on with before the last election, claiming that Ian McLachlan had carried evidence of such a “deal” in his wallet for several years, is simply that: nonsense. It was just another example of your disloyalty to the party and of your willingness to destabilise in pursuit of your personal, unattainable ambition.”
“You also know the party room is always the final arbiter in leadership matters and when a position is declared vacant there is never any shortage of those prepared to pull their batons from their knapsacks.”
“It’s also clear you have never really worked the back bench to build the numbers – some say simply because of your arrogance. Others put it down to you not wanting to be seen as having first-hand involvement, hoping to create the impression that your supporters were building the momentum. Either way, it was generally counterproductive – too smart by half.”
“Moreover, all the polling that I have ever seen or heard of – Liberal or Labor – has had you as unelectable. This should be enough to convince you but, if not, then you should have an honest look at yourself. You are bone lazy. Just count your output – press releases/conferences, speeches, electoral visits and other examples of your work ethic or “availability” – compared with, say, Paul Keating when he was treasurer.”
“I also doubt you have the skills, experience or self-confidence to have accepted the obvious job after losing the last election, namely shadow treasurer. You’d be lost without Treasury. You may have delivered 11 budgets but ask yourself honestly how many of them were actually yours, rather than Treasury’s. I am told Treasury is now drawing a sharp contrast between your little interest and involvement and that of Wayne Swan.”
“You should also recognise that your indulgent “memoirs”, released recently, did not provide the platform from which you had obviously hoped to be drafted. They were received with a yawn. They were being sold at a discount in my local bookstore in just a few days.”
“But, most importantly, they fuelled yet another round of leadership speculation, again making the Opposition the focus of exhaustive and sustained media attention, leaving the Government to skate by without scrutiny.”
“I have absolutely no doubt that you would be going ballistic if the shoe was on the other foot and you were being undermined. Both sides of politics know from painful experience that disunity is death- although, like you I’m sure, I found it a bit galling to hear Howard now saying so, having been disloyal to every leader he ever worked for.”
“Despite what the Government says, the risk and opportunity of an election this year are very real, especially if my worst fears of our economy tanking are confirmed.”
“After the damage that you have done, the best you can now do to help our chances is to leave.”