Friday, December 5, 2008

Peter Costello Time

I have a little confession to make.

I find myself a bit attracted to Peter Costello. I don't know why.

Well, I got that embarrassment out of the way.

Maybe learning more about him will make me lose the attraction. Or maybe I'll end up with a wild insatiable crush. Who knows?

Costello is a member of the Liberal party. I know he wanted John Howard's job and didn't get it. He blames Janette Howard and mentions this in his book. This is about all I far.

Lord Wiki says Costello was the longest serving treasurer in Australia's history. He had that job from 1996-2007. He was also the Deputy Leader. I'm guessing that's like Vice-President. Maybe?

His birthday is the 14th of August, and he was born in 1957.

Birthday website time!

He's a Leo! My favorite person in the world is a Leo. I think Leo's are awesome.

His numerology number is 8. That makes sense because 8 is about money. It's probably a perfect number for a treasurer.

8's are not compatible with my 7, so I guess we're just not meant to be together. Boo hoo.

In Chinese Astrology, he's a rooster. I wonder if that means he likes to wake up early.

His Native American sign is the salmon. Maybe that can mean he swims up stream--you know, in the symbolic sense.

Lord Wiki says Costello was born in Melbourne. He's a middle child. I'm a middle child too! But my older sibling is NOT a prominent Baptist minister.

Lord Wiki says that Costello started out as a solicitor in a law firm and later became a barrister. I have always assumed a barrister is the same thing as a lawyer. But now I'm thinking maybe it's not. I should go look that up.

Okay. I looked at Lord Wiki's entry and a dictionary website. It seems a barrister is a TYPE of lawyer. I think maybe one that works in a higher court?

Anyway, Costello was doing the lawyer stuff in the 1980's.

In 1985, he represented a candy company called Dollar Sweets. I'm reading about it now from Lord Wiki. It kind of connects to my post, from the other day, about strikes and all that. The end result of the case was that for the first time a trade union was forced to pay damages to an employer. This website gives Costello's version of the story. The details go a bit over my head, so if you're can read it for yourself. Basically (if I'm reading it right) there was a disagreement between the employer and the employees that belonged to a union. The employees picketed and were a bit overzealous in their picketing. There were assaults, bomb threats, vandalism, etc. In the end, the union was forced to pay $175,000.

Winning the case boosted Costello's career a bit.

Lord Wiki seems to be saying that Costello wasn't always politically conservative. He says as a student, Costello was a socially radical Christian. He was a member of the Social Democratic student group which had some sort of connection to the Labor party. By the time he graduated, Costello was more conservative but still leaned a bit to the left.

Costello was one of the founding members of the HR Nicholls Society. According to Lord Wiki, this group isn't popular with Australia's left. I'm looking their official website now.

They list their aims as being:

  • To promote discussion about the operation of industrial relations in Australia including the system of determining wages and other conditions of employment.
  • To promote the rule of law with respect to employers and employee organizations alike.
  • To promote reform of the current wage-fixing system.
  • To support the necessity for labour relations to be conducted in such a way as to promote economic development in Australia.

More stuff that goes slightly over my head. Maybe I should stop researching political stuff. I usually end up feeling stupid.

It doesn't sound like a horrible group, but I'm probably talking out of my butt here.

Lord Wiki says Costello entered the House of Representatives in 1990. He was 32.

Oh good. Lord Wiki mentions the GST. They keep talking about it in The Howard Years and I had no idea what it was. I guess I could have paused the video and looked it up. Anyway, it's the good and services tax. I'm sure most of you Australians already knew that. Apparently, it's very controversial.

Well, I think my attraction to Costello is over. He DOES support Australia becoming a Republic. I'm cool with that. But he's not very supportive of gay marriage, and in a speech he used the term mushy misguided multiculturalism. I'm not very cool with that.

I wouldn't mind reading his memoirs. I'm not sure he's my type of person, but I definitely think he's an interesting person. Besides promoting his book, Costello is also now currently working on the advisory board of the World Bank. Lord Wiki says he does anti-corruption stuff.

The World Bank works against poverty, but Lord Wiki says there's some controversy surrounding the organization. This website explains some of the criticism. Will Costello make things better--less controversial for the World Bank. Or will he make things worse?

Maybe he'll have no real impact.

The Parliament of Australia website has Costello's first speech Parliament. That's kind of cute. I'm going to read it and see if he says anything I like....or anything I dislike.

He mentions his wife and parents; thanks them. That's sweet.

Here's an excerpt from his speech: We should take note of the fact that in many countries around the world at this moment people are struggling to set up representative Houses as a check on executive power and we should draw inspiration from them not to let our own traditions decay. Australia has been blessed with fine parliamentary institutions and we are their guardians. If we, the guardians of this great parliamentary institution do not properly discharge our duties we betray our past, we compromise our future and we let down those who have placed their trust in us. In the contest between the Executive and the Parliament, I am for the Parliament.

I sort of like that. It does smell a little bit like the American patriotism I dislike--the idea that America is the best country in the world and ALL other countries look up to us. But Costello doesn't sound as ethnocentric as some Americans. His statement is more tolerable to me--almost inspiring.

Here's another excerpt:

When we talk of creating a fairer and more compassionate society, what do we mean? Over decades arguments have raged over which system of government best creates such a society. Some have argued that a society where government controls industry and controls and directs the production and distribution of goods is a society that is inherently more compassionate and fair. Others have argued the converse. In this century the argument has raged between those who believe that by enhancing government power it, the government, can deliver fairness and compassion to its citizens and others who have maintained that in the interests of fairness the power of government itself must be curtailed and the compassionate resources of our citizens released.

I think that is a good summary of an important difference between the left and right.

has a transcript of an interview with Costello from 2005. He basically has a love-it-or-leave it philosophy. I do agree with him in some ways. Why immigrate to a country if you don't respect their laws or ways of life? On the other hand, sometimes people are forced to immigrate because they have no where else to go. Although maybe they can try harder to find a country that fits their ideals. I don't know.

And then you have the problem of people taking the love-it-or-leave-it thing too far. How much do you have to love your country before you're told it's okay for you to stay? Am I a bad American if I don't have an American Flag in my front yard? Am I a bad American because I say I love Australia? Am I a bad American because I'm on the left and dislike George W. Bush?

Really. Where do you draw the line?

I'm really not sure I support the idea of Sharia law, but is someone not Australian enough if they where a Hijab?

I love America, but I don't love America in the same way as many other Americans love it. I also don't love America as much as some other Americans love it. Does that mean I should leave it? Sadly, some people would say yes.

When some people say love-it-or-leave-it, what they really mean is be exactly like me, or get out.

Okay. But I do agree that if you're completely against a country, it's best to go live elsewhere. If you're just slightly against your country, you can try to make some changes.

I guess the problem with telling someone that they need to accept a country's values if they want to live there is who decides exactly what the values are?

For some, Australia's values might be stuff like a fair go and mateship. I'm totally good with that. But for some other Australians, values might be about having the "right" skin color, the "right" religion and the "right" clothes.

No country is ever going to come up with total consensuses about what their values are, so how do you decide who is accepting the values and who is not accepting them? It's all very complicated.


  1. For me, there is nothing acceptable about the "love it or leave it" mentality. For starters it puts Australian born citizens at an inherent advantage, because they are, by implication, excluded.

    But most importantly, there is absolutely no difference between Muslims calling for change in line with their religion and Steve Fielding calling for change in line with Christianity. I don't like either option, but then they don't like my beliefs.

    Also, Australia is what it is because of immigration. If we really believe this is the best country on Earth (and I think many of us do - we're hopelessly biased) then we should have faith in its ability to win over each new generation of immigrants, whilst pinching the best bits of the culture they brought with them and calling them our own. After all, it's already happened repeatedly.

  2. I think in America, even people who were born here, are told to leave it...if we don't love it enough.

    I like what you said pinching the best bits of different cultures.

    I like the idea of assimilation, but not the type where one group dominates and the other groups disappear. I like where everyone just kind of borrows from each other. They keep their own cultures to a point, but also borrow from other cultures.

    I'm going to cut and paste an annoying forward email that goes around. It's said to be written by Jay Leno or David Lettermen, but it's really written by a CEO.

    It doesn't exactly say "Love it or leave it" but gives the general expression that any American who doesn't wave their flag and announce "the USA is best" is a spoiled brat.

    It's pretty disgusting--in my opinion.

    The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right?

    The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3s of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change.

    So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ''What we are so unhappy about?''

    Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?

    Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough.

    Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.

    Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar o r prowler intrudes , an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers.

    How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.

    Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S., yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have , and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.

    I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks?

    The commander in chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me? Did you hear how bad the President is on the news or talk show? Did this news affect you so much, make you so unhappy you couldn't take a look around for yourself and see all the good things and be glad?

    Think about it......are you upset at the President because he actually caused you personal pain OR is it because the "Media" told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful ass every day.

    Make no mistake about it. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn't have to go. They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a ''general'' discharge, an ''other than honorable'' discharge or, worst case scenario, a ''dishonorable''discharge after a few days in the brig.

    So why then the flat-out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans? Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts. How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner? The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells , and when criticized, try to defend their actions by "justifying" them in one way or another. Just ask why they tried to allow a murderer like O.J. Simpson to write a book about how he didn't kill his wife, but if he did he would have done it this way......Insane!

    Stop buying the negativism you are fed everyday by the media. Shut off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your bird cage. Then start being grateful for all we have as a country. There is exponentially more good than bad.

    We are among the most blessed peoples on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative."

    "With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, "Are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"

  3. Oooh.. there's just TOO much to write about here!

    Firstly, a Barrister is a lawyer who has studied "at the Bar" and has therefore become a Barrister. She/he primarily represents their clients in court... whereas the solicitors do the grunt work to get their clients to court. My solicitor is charging me $375 an hour, but I am going to have to pay $3500 - $4500 a day for a Barrister when I get to court.

    In a nutshell they are super-powered debaters who focus on using words to convey an impression to a judge or jury... sometimes regardless of facts. A good Barrister can win an "unwinnable" case. Which is why they charge so much.

    A CRUSH ON PETER COSTELLO????? Dina!! I'd better read on....

    The GST is like a Sales Tax that you have in some states. It's a percentage (10%) added on to Goods and Services only. That SHOULD mean that something that required NO production (or services) like fruit is GST free. The famous example that your secret crush boyfriend's previous boss made was about using a birthday cake as an example. If you bought all of the ingredients separately and made it at home, you would pay no GST. If you bought it ready-made, you would pay GST. That all changed and now GST is charged on flour, sugar etc too.

    I charge GST when I work. So does my lawyer!!

    Oh thank GOD you've gotten "over" Costello. Thank GOD. I'm in love with you again now. *phew*

    (You can tell I'm reading through your blog and responding to bits that are leaping out at me, can't you?)

    Yes Yes Costello's maiden speech was pretty. You do know that every Member of Parliament has a full-time speech writer on staff, don't you? And a Chief of Staff who usually organises and vetoes everything.

    Now, when he talks about "love it or leave it" he isn't referring to Americans or Europeans who have moved to Australia. Or Australians who are unhappy with aspects of our government etc. He is referring predominantly to communities with "different values" to ours. Values such as religion. Values such as the role of women in society. And the vast majority of people who have migrated to Australia from countries with vastly differing values have chosen to come here to escape poverty or political persecution or just to make a new life for themselves because a "new life" wasn't possible in their country of origin. And as much as I may not "understand" or "agree with" many of those values, I think that once we accept them into our country, we have to accept their values. Not as our own, but witih respect.

    It's unTENABLE to me to say "Sure... come and live in our country!" (and if it wasn't because they were refugees then it was because they either had skills that we needed or lots of money to contribute to our economy ... it's not easy to get Australian citizenship) and then say "Now that you're here you must take on our culture and leave your old culture behind".

    We KNEW what we were getting when we agreed to their coming! Ooooh my head is spinning on this topic. And I may get some flak for my strong opinions.

    My kids school is extremely mulitcultural, nationality and religion wise, and you can see how these kids are going to grow up accepting differences in their friends and co-workers. Australia had a "White Australia" policy until 1977 so most of my generation grew up without exposure to other cultures (the only asian kids I knew had been adopted by white parents). I think it's a matter of time. A generational thing.

    Australia has a "Citizen Test" which is all about learning what Aussie values are. It asks about cricketing heroes and many other sporting things (amongst other things) and I swear I would fail it.

    This whole issue is like the gay rights issue. It's a no-brainer. We're all people. Skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, culture .... nothing changes the fact that we are all human. And we can learn and grow from each other. If we stop the fear-mongering.

    Rant over.

  4. Dina, I like the fact Obama has chosen Republicans to be in his Cabinet.

    It's not common in Australia for governments to include opposition members as ministers.

    It happened in South Australia (state), but it's very rare.

  5. Michael,

    As far as I know (and I don't know much) it's rare here too.

    I don't know if Obama can fix our country or not. But I definitely feel he's a good person and has the best intentions.

  6. Fe,

    I think the solicitor and the barrister sound horribly expensive. Yikes.

    I hope you have a good barrister. Or what I should really say is I hope the other side has the bad barrister. Because you definitely deserve to win!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As for GST, I know no one made the fruit, but how about harvesting the fruit. That would take work. I think?

    I think it would make sense if GST was dependent on need vs things we just desire....rather than how it's produced.

    I would think fruit should be free because it's healthy and our bodies need it. But a cake is not healthy and not needed so it should have a higher GST.

    And stuff like alcohol, tobacco, etc. should be even higher.

    Talking out of my ass here.....

    Yes. Big relief that I got over Costello. TOTALLY over him. Thanks for still loving me.

    I don't like thinking about full-time speech writers. I like to be delusional and imagine that all these people write their own pretty speeches.

    Did Obama write his speech? I don't know. And I'm not even going to think about that.

    I totally agree with everything in your rant. Very well said.

  7. Well, you're actually NOT "talking out of your arse" about that! That WAS the principle behind it originally. That's why there's no GST on fruit and veg. The labour required doesn't charge GST because the farmer is using employee's that don't charge GST. If you're "employed" you pay a different kind of tax. I only charge it when I sell my services to someone else. I'm self-employed.

    Alcohol and tobacco don't have higher GST's as that would make the accounting impossible for the point-of-sale providors, but they have a "luxury tax" attached which is HUGE. Cigarettes in Australia are amongst the most expensive in the world.

    And don't get me started on our petrol!! It's about double yours because of the tax that our govt places on it.

    I did want to add that anyone who uses their culture as an excuse to break laws in their country of residence should still be held accountable. For example, it may be okay to beat your wife in your country of origin, but it's not okay here.

    But most of those types of crimes (violence towards women - discrimination etc) are also being carried out by "true blue Aussies" anyway.

  8. Fe,

    Maybe my ass (or arse, as you say) is smart! Maybe I should give my ass control of the blog!

    I agree with you about people using their culture as an excuse to break laws that hurt people. I also agree that it's not always the "foreign-looking" newbies who do it.

  9. LOLOL!! "The Arse Who Wished It Was Australian"!!

    I'd love to see the google-searches that would lead people to THAT one!!

  10. Fe,

    Maybe I can make a spin off blog!!

  11. Peter Costello is one of the most universally disliked politicians we have produced. A bottom feeding power merchant completely devoid of any moral sense whatsoever. The entire Howard cabinet were a horror show of scumbag thieves who had no interest in anything but power. I am completely confident that it will go down in history as the worst (most corrupt most lying most cynical) government we ever had, literally.

  12. gingatao,

    They sound a lot like our Bush administration. It's all very sinister.

  13. Peter Costello could have been Prime Minister of Australia. Arguably, John Howard, the second longest serving PM next to Menzies, stayed in the job too long. They had a formal or informal agreement that Howard would eventually stand down in favour of Costello, but it didn't work out that way.

    Costello wanted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and make a formal Parliamentary apology to the stolen generations. In the end, Kevin Rudd did both of those things when he became PM.

  14. Ross,

    Why didn't it work out? Do you know?

    Maybe Howard was too in love with the job?

  15. Some people thought that Howard stayed in the job too long. Menzies had a succession plan. Howard didn't. Australian politics has become a lot more volatile in the 6 1/2 years since he left office.

  16. PS: I see you mention Jeanette Howard. In 2007, just before the APEC summit in Sydney, Some of Howard's cabinet pressured him to retire so that Costello could take over, and have enough time to put his stamp on the government before the election, which was due to be held later that year.

    Jeanette said to her husband, "If you retire, you won't get to host the APEC leaders' barbeque at Kirribilli House."

    Kirribilli is the Prime Minister's official residence in Sydney.

  17. Ross,

    Well....I guess she really wanted that barbecue. Or she knew her husband liked the barbecue, and knew that would be a way to convince him to stay.

    I wonder what's going to happen in the near future with Australian politics. Who do you think the next Prime Minister might be? Who do you want it to be?

    Is there any talk of a leadership change in the Liberal party? I haven't been paying much attention. I know Turnbull hasn't been getting the best press. But I'm not sure if that's mostly coming from the left. Are people in the Liberal party okay with him for the most part?