Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Peter Costello's to blame for the leadership crisis tearing the party apart

By Scott Prasser - posted Thursday, 3 December 2009


The federal Liberal Party is in an unprecedented crisis.

At no time in the 65-year history of the Liberals or any of their predecessors has a leader been confronted with such a walkout of his own front bench as occurred last week with Malcolm Turnbull.

Never before has a Liberal leader gone so public to attack members of his own party rather than his Labor opponents. And never has a Liberal leader sounded so much like a Labor ideologue staking his claim by appealing to a principle of policy, in this case the emissions trading scheme, rather than the need to secure a compromised policy outcome based on political and, most importantly, practical considerations of implementation.

Advertisement

First, the wrong people have been appointed to the Liberal leadership too early in their careers. When that happens in any political party the results are disastrous. When it happens in a leader-centric party such as the Liberals it is catastrophic. We saw this when John Hewson became leader after the 1990 election. His ideologically based Fightback program resulted in the Liberals losing the "unlosable" 1993 federal election.

Second, the Liberal Party is on the verge of selecting its third federal parliamentary leader in less than two years because the person who should have taken the baton from John Howard after the 2007 election defeat, Peter Costello, declined to do so.

Howard had groomed a range of younger members into cabinet who had future leadership potential. Brendan Nelson had defence; Tony Abbott, health; and Joe Hockey, industrial relations. Howard appreciated these individuals might be ready for leadership in a couple of elections hence. They needed political maturing.

The immediate successor was to be Costello. He was firmly anointed as such by Howard on election night 2007.

Costello, as deputy leader and treasurer, was not just the heir apparent by default but one who was young, experienced and a proven performer. Moreover, in private comment and public outburst, Costello had indicated he had wanted the leadership. Or was it only the prime ministership?

Importantly, Howard observed on election night that "the future of our party is very tied up with Peter Costello". How prophetic this comment was because it has been Costello's behaviour since then that has been the source of the Liberals' problems.

Advertisement

Costello's unwillingness to take up the leadership caused problems as it resulted in the initial move to Nelson as leader.

Costello's ambivalent attitude to whether he would stay in parliament caused further leadership instability for Nelson.

It also possibly tempted Malcolm Turnbull to destabilise Nelson and take on the leadership earlier than expected.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in The Australian on December 1, 2009.



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

18 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Scott Prasser is Professor of Public Policy and was Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University. Scott has worked previously in senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments and in several universities in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. Recently, Scott co-edited with Associate Professor Nicholas Aroney and J.R. Nethercote the book Restraining Elective Dictatorship: The Upper House Solution? He has just written with Helen Tracey a report entitled Beyond Gonski: Reviewing the Evidence on Quality Schooling.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Scott Prasser

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Scott Prasser
Article Tools
Comment 18 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy