Aug 152007

I have the “who do you trust” Red Symons created, John Howard inspired ringtone on my phone, although it’s been surplanted for another at the moment, but after hearing of this latest I-didn’t-do-it from Costello, I’m sorely tempted to reactivate it.

I can understand where Matt Price is coming from in his column today but don’t agree with him that once ‘off-the-record’, always ‘off-the-record’. I get the distinct feeling he’s taking something of an ethical high-ground approach in claiming that what Messrs Brissenden, Daley and Wright have done in revealing that Peter Costello has indeed lied barefacedly about threatening to take down Howard if he didn’t depart in 2006, goes against the journalists code.
He rightly states that the three journos felt somewhat impugned by Costello’s disclaimer and so decided to make an ‘on-the-record/off-the-record’ conversation public. I’m afraid I’d have done the exact same thing, especially if I’d sat at a table, heard the man say what he’d supposedly said, made notes to that effect, and then heard him deny he’d never said such things no matter how much time had passed. Perhaps Matt Price is a little miffed that it wasn’t him at the dinner table that night? One wonder’s if his high ethical standards would hold up under the same circumstances?
I tend to agree with Michelle Grattan’s stand, as stated on Radio National this morning, and in her piece in today’s Age. She opined that in the electorate’s mind, politicians and journalists were probably considered birds of a feather, but that in this case, where it’s clear that an elected representative has lied, it’s valid for those who know he did so, to say so. Off-the-record or not. The upshot being that pollies will likely be wary of saying anything to journos now, off or on the record. If that’s the case, which I seriously doubt, given the nature of most politicians, then so be it. A lie is a lie and in an election year the voters are even more entitled to know of it.
As for Peter Costello, this latest denial merely serves to cement an impression of gutless also-ran into the minds of those who are still in the process of forming opinions. Peter Costello has whinged and whined for two years now, and doubtless long before 2005. He’s not once shown the tenacity or fortitude required to take Howard on, win or lose, yet he makes plenty of noises about plotting to do so. Whether Costello get’s the big chair now, or has to wait until after the next election, he will get it eventually. The Liberal Party has no-one with sufficient depth of experience or political presence, apart from Costello, to assume the mantle. Whether the Liberal Party stands to benefit from that inevitable assumption remains to be seen, but having a proven also-ran at the helm, be it in government or opposition, doesn’t bode well for either the man, or the party.

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