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When Old Friends Collide and Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Peter Costello and Michael Kroger, probably the two biggest names in the Liberal Party in Victoria are now two former friends who have managed to cause a temporary rift in the Liberal Party the day after Tony Abbott’s budget reply. The largely behind-the-scenes falling out, in a somewhat dramatic and at least fairly unexpected manner emerged this morning in a radio interview with one of the protagonists, Mr Kroger.

We know that Peter Costello never got along with John Howard in a personal sense, famously never sharing a meal together at the Prime Minister’s residence in the entire time that Mr Howard was Prime Minister. So stories between and involving them were never a surprise, with the occasional breakout in basically muffled hostilities that were rarely, until the later Howard years, aired in public.

But this story is different. This is about a man, whom Michael Kroger (and probably many in the general public) sees as full of ego, a man that holds a grudge and just bloody well needs to get over it for the good of the parliamentary party and to simply heal old wounds.

But above all else, this is about, as Kroger alleges, the constant sniping at the leadership of Tony Abbott by the former Treasurer and could’ve/would’ve been Prime Minister. The claims of seeking a return to parliament should really be taking a backseat.

Why should the claims of Mr Costello wanting to make a return to the parliament not be seen as the main game in this whole debate? Well, simply because they have not, regardless of the level of truth to the allegations, come to fruition. Costello has not announced his intention to return to the parliament and indeed denied it in a statement released today on his website. When something doesn’t come to fruition why treat allegations that it was going to as the focus of attention?

What is relevant are the potshots being taken at the current leader by the former Treasurer Peter Costello. In the long run that probably won’t change much and evidently hasn’t given the consistently strong poll standings for the Coalition led by Tony Abbott.

But like it or not, the events of today are at least a minor ruction which must not continue to develop.

Michael Kroger has to accept some of the blame for the temporary public ugliness that has escalated today. At the very least, until recent days the idea of Peter Costello being around in the public discourse, whether in parliament or allegedly talking about a return to Canberra was so slim as to be completely non-existent.

If the reported outcome of a return to parliament didn’t transpire and as it turns out, it hasn’t, then why the need to air the dirty laundry in such a loud and public way? It could be that it was thought that bringing the matter to the public would terminate the matter in a prompt way and cause Mr Costello untold embarrassment. Maybe the matter threatened to explode? We’ll never know.

Peter Costello must though indeed cease for the good of the party from any future attempt at undermining the position of a leader who has for a long time maintained an election-winning lead. Of less importance is a reconciliation between Costello and Howard and even Downer who has also attracted barbs from Mr Costello.

What we do know now is that two friends are no longer and Peter Costello has not signalled a return to the parliament and that’s where it should be left, but it probably won’t be and may play out for a few more days yet in the media, even though the issue appears to have been exhausted.

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