Finally, some questions

So who is Peter Costello? For much of our media, his politics appear irrelevant – they’re too involved in the power play between him and Howard. Finally, a journalist has asked the key question: what does Costello stand for?

The Age’s Gay Alcorn actually understands the role of a journalist, unlike many of her colleagues. Ask questions, conduct research, make reasoned predictions:

“The one thing usually given as a key example of where Costello diverges from Howard is in his support for a republic. But while Howard’s monarchism was deeply felt, Costello’s republicanism seemed thin and politically calculated. When then prime minister Paul Keating in 1993 pushed for a debate on becoming a republic, Costello argued in the party that the Liberals should oppose it – purely on political grounds. When Howard convened a constitutional convention for 1998, Costello was mute. Here’s how Carney’s biography describes his eventual decision: “As the convention approached . . . Peter concluded that it was futile not to hook into the growing republican sympathies in the community and try to find a way for republicanism to mesh into his own brand of political and constitutional conservatism.” The impression left is of a man of no conviction.”

Alcorn pulls no punches in her analysis of Australia’s potential future Prime Minister (God help us!):

“Has it always been just about power, Peter? To be a brutal parliamentary performer specialising in the thudding puns that pass for political humour in Australia might rev up the troops, but those of us watching the spectacle are sceptical. Perhaps your unpopularity among voters is not only because of your job as treasurer, but also because, after all these years, few people know what you stand for. When Kroger handed you Higgins, what did you want to do with it beyond using it as a vehicle for self-advancement? The numbers must be counted and, in your world, all else may be irrelevant. But Peter Costello, who the hell are you?”

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