The Liberal Party is in a mess. The media are busy lapping up Liberal backbencher and former Treasurer Peter Costello’s ongoing running commentary of the economic crisis while the ostensible leader of the Liberal Party, Malcolm Turnbull is nowhere to be seen.
This has added fuel to the fire that Malcolm’s days as leader may well be numbered.
In a report in The Australian, Kevin Rudd says it is inevitable that Peter Costello will become leader of the Liberal party.
“It’s inevitable that in this rolling sort of fight over the Liberal Party leadership that the Liberals are going to go back to Mr Costello and to Work Choices and everything which was associated with Work Choices in the past,” said Mr Rudd.
“As part of the rolling civil war within the Liberal Party, you’ve got one group saying, ‘Let’s invest in infrastructure’, and another group saying, ‘Let’s not’. It’s very hard to get a handle on whether this is a real alternative or simply a tool in the internal Liberal Party struggle.”
In more worrying news for Mr Turnbull and Mr Hockey, outspoken Liberal backbencher Mal Washer says that Costello is wasted on the backbench.
He’s wasted, and he would know that, on our backbench,” Dr Washer said of Mr Costello on ABC radio today.
“That’s silly, I mean. And it is destabilising, even if he doesn’t intend that, to the current leadership.
“That just goes without saying. He knows that. Everyone else knows that. That’s the truth.
“If I was Malcolm Turnbull or Joe Hockey, I’d say it would be making life difficult for me. I haven’t asked them, but if I put myself in their shoes I’d think I’d find it difficult.”
Dr Washer hopes to Mr Costello will return to the front bench, but the former treasurer is giving nothing away – even to his colleagues.
“I’ve already asked him one night,” he said, “get out there, give us a hand. Get on that front bench. He gave me a nice smile. He didn’t say anything.”
Costello’s mere presence continues to Haunt Turnbull and Hockey and purely serves to be a destabalising presence in Liberal party ranks.
Over at Echo, Alex Mitchell makes this observation:
Meanwhile Costello continues to keep saying with a straight face that he is staying in parliament to represent the voters in his Melbourne electorate of Higgins. What a joke: he’s taken little interest in them in the past, so why start now?
He has now knocked back three offers to join the front-bench team: once from Brendan Nelson when he was elected leader and twice from Turnbull. If he doesn’t want to join the frontbench team as shadow treasurer because he did the main job for 11 years, what job is he holding out for? The leadership, of course, and then, with hope in his heart, the prime ministership.
But the longer he waits to make a challenge, the lower his standing in the Liberal Party. Liberals expect him to make a contribution and not to be a spoiler. They don’t much like his arrogant attitude to the leadership which is ‘my way or no way’ and think he should step up to the plate, sooner rather than later.
For Kevin Rudd, the re-emergence of Costello is little short of a nightmare. The Coalition would run a torrid election campaign which basically said: ‘Remember how good it was when Costello was Treasurer – look at what Labor has done to the economy. Vote Costello.’
The Liberal Party are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Malcolm Turnbull is faltering as Leader and Joe Hockey is out of his depth in the Shadow Treasury portfolio. Both are dogged by the mere presence of Costello, and his ability to capture more media coverage.
Costello as Leader of the Liberal Party represents their only hope in facing up to Rudd. The clock is ticking but I doubt Hockey or Turnbull will step down without a fight.
Filed under: Australian Politics |