SAUL ESLAKE

Economist

SAUL ESLAKE

‘Welcome to my website …
I’m an independent economist, speaker, company director
and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Tasmania’

Peter Costello at close quarters


News | 26th November 2007

Peter Martin | Peter Costello at close quarters | 26th November 2007

Costello “liked to weild the power that had been bestowed upon him.”

There was “an implicit threat of unspecified retaliation”

Question time has lost its spark. No-one in parliament could hold a candle to Peter Costello as an entertainer.

All the talk about him “throwing the switch to vaudeville” if ever he became leader ignored the fact that vaudeville was what he did.

His daily routines whenever the parliament was sitting made watching a thrill.

Without Peter Costello making people laugh and taking them along with him for the kill the new Opposition will lack oomph. Whoever else is elected leader may well be good, but in terms of parliamentary pizzazz will be no Peter Costello.

However, as a winner of hearts and minds in his role as Treasurer Peter Costello has cost the Coalition dearly…

Saul Eslake is the chief economist of the ANZ bank. He hasn’t felt free to tell this story until today.

He made it known to me and a number of other people some time ago on the condition that that nothing was printed until either he or Peter Costello was no longer in his job.

As Eslake put it to me in an email: “much as I would love to see this brought to the attention of a wider audience, I obviously can’t allow that to happen in circumstances where Costello could inflict damage on the ANZ”.

Outwardly relations between the ANZ and Peter Costello have been good. His wife Tanya Costello is a senior manager with ANZ Philanthropy Partners.

But beneath the surface things have been tense.

In February 2002 Eslake was asked at a chartered accountants conference whether the Howard government had ever engaged in creative accounting.

He replied that it had: in its accounting treatment of the GST; in its timing of Reserve Bank dividend payments; and in using its sell-off of Canberra buildings to appear to improve its underlying cash surplus when it has really improved little.

But he stressed that what it had done had been “no worse than any previous government”.

Saul Eslake says Peter Costello phoned the ANZ head John McFarlane and threatened to take what McFarlane subsequently described as “regulatory action which ANZ would not like” if Eslake said that sort of thing again.

Eslake says a member of the Treasurer’s staff also sent a copy of a news report about Eslake to the chairman of the ANZ Charles Goode with an offending quote circled.

McFarlane asked Eslake to ring Costello “to square things off” but Costello wouldn’t take the call.

Eslake has told me that “since then there have been other examples where Costello’s office has complained to McFarlane’s office, or to our media relations people, about things which I have said in terms which have conveyed an implicit threat of unspecified retaliation”.

I know of another chief economist who has described similar behaviour on the Treasurer’s part.

He has told me that he was asked to leave his job as a result.

I put Eslake’s claims to the Treasurer’s office last night but received no response.

In his negotiations with political stakeholders the man who was able to captivate parliament proved similarly unsubtle.

Richard Denniss is these days the chief of staff for the Greens’ leader Bob Brown. In 2002 he was the chief of staff to the then Democrats’ leader Natasha Stott Despoja. In Mr Costello’s budget speech that year he had announced that pensioners and other concession card holders would have to pay more for their medicines. Their co-payment would climb from $3.60 to $4.60 per prescription.

The Democrats said they would oppose the measure in the Senate. Some weeks later Senator Stott Despoja and Dr Denniss were summoned to the Peter Costello’s office.

Denniss says Costello took them through page after page of laminated graphs, talking at them for the best part of an hour. The Treasurer seemed surprised to discover that they hadn’t been won over.

“At one point Costello said: Natasha, you don’t appear to understand the numbers. To which she replied: I do understand the numbers Peter, you don’t have them in the Senate and you won’t be passing this bill”.

A few days later the two were summoned to the Prime Minister’s office. Denniss says he had expected Mr Howard to be even worse.

Instead they found Howard “effusive in apologising for being late, come in sit down, can I get you a cup of tea – lots of chit chat, lots of actual conversation”.

The Prime Minister said “I know you spoke to the Treasurer last week and I’m sure he showed you all his graphs” and I understand your position: “we are trying to drive up the price of medicine for sick people, of course the Democrats are going to oppose it”.

And then he said: “How about ten cents? That wouldn’t hurt anyone.” “It absolutely floored us.”

Howard said: “Natasha, you’re the leader, I’m the leader, can’t we just settle this right now?”

Denniss says he found the Prime Minister almost impossible to resist. “His genius was to make us feel powerful.”

Costello by contrast “wanted to wield the power that had been bestowed upon him.”

As a student Peter Costello studied law rather than economics. He mastered his portfolio in the impressive way that lawyers master briefs. Observing him during several budgets I have never seen him excited about economics. But I have seen his eyes light up at the mention of commercial law.

As Australia’s longest-serving Treasurer and the Howard government’s best parliamentary performer Peter Costello had many of the qualities needed to be a great Treasurer. But perhaps not all.

Posted: Monday, November 26, 2007
Labels: commonwealth budgets, election, Liberal Party, Treasury

WEEKLY CHART PACK


Each weekend since mid-April I’ve been preparing, updating and distributing a weekly Coronavirus Impact Chart Pack to people in Australia and overseas. Running to over 100 pages it includes:

  • charts tracking the spread of Covid-19, globally and in Australia, and government responses to it;
  • the impact on the global economy and major individual economies such as China, Japan, other Asian economies, the US and Europe;
  • financial and commodities markets;
  • multiple aspects of the Australian economy, including state-level comparisons, and the policy responses of the Australian and state or territory governments, and the Reserve Bank of Australia; and
  • similar, though smaller coverage of the New Zealand economy.

The Coronavirus Impact Chart Pack will be updated every Saturday afternoon, Australian time, for as long as it remains topical. It will be accessible to subscribers of the Premium Access package.

If and when Covid-19 ceases to be front and centre of attention (as it is now) – whenever that might be – I will continue to prepare a Weekly Chart Pack, but with a focus on whatever replaces the virus as the issue du jour.

ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC
28th November 2020


CORONAVIRUS IMPACT CHART PACK 2020-11-28

"I see a lot of chart packs in my line of work, but yours is about the best I have seen. It is amazingly comprehensive, covering far more of the world than any individual is entitled to cover, the charts are clear and easy to understand and they drill down into each topic in a very satisfying way. So well done, Saul."

Alan Kohler, ABC finance presenter, founder of Eureka Report


"A timely and comprehensive summary from one of Australia's best economists."

Adam Creighton, Economics Editor for The Australian


“I continue to find you thinking invaluable - this year to my ritual weekend reading of the economist I have happily added ‘Saul’s latest’.”

Rufus Black, former Managing Partner of McKinsey’s, and currently Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania


“Your chart pack is amazing - and thanks for offering to add me to the mailing list, that would be great to be included. Everything you could want to know is there - and the way the data are organised and presented to tell the stories makes it so easy to follow.”

Prof Jeff Borland, Truby Williams Professor of Economics, The University of Melbourne, Website


“An excellent summary. Although I take a great interest in what’s happening with COVID-19 day by day In Australia and Internationally, I always find your weekly summary a very interesting review of the past week.”

retired former Chief Executive Officer of a District Hospital Service in New South Wales


WEEKLY CHART PACK

EVENTS

Saul Eslake online presentation


“You are the best economic thinker in the country hands down”

Sheryle Bagwell, recently retired Senior Business Correspondent (and sometime Executive Producer),
ABC Radio National Breakfast


"I see a lot of chart packs in my line of work, but yours is about the best I have seen. It is amazingly comprehensive, covering far more of the world than any individual is entitled to cover, the charts are clear and easy to understand and they drill down into each topic in a very satisfying way.
So well done, Saul."

Alan Kohler, ABC finance presenter, founder of Eureka Report


“I continue to find you thinking invaluable - this year to my ritual weekend reading of the economist I have happily added ‘Saul’s latest’.”

Rufus Black, former Managing Partner of McKinsey’s, and currently Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania


“Your chart pack is amazing - and thanks for offering to add me to the mailing list, that would be great to be included. Everything you could want to know is there - and the way the data are organised and presented to tell the stories makes it so easy to follow.”

Prof Jeff Borland, Truby Williams Professor of Economics, The University of Melbourne, Website


“An excellent summary. Although I take a great interest in what’s happening with COVID-19 day by day In Australia and Internationally, I always find your weekly summary a very interesting review of the past week.”

retired former Chief Executive Officer of a District Hospital Service in New South Wales


“Just want to congratulate you Saul on the unbelievably good set of slides you just presented, possibly the best I have ever seen. You have set the bar very high.”

Dr Joe Flood, Adjunct Fellow, RMIT University, Pandemicia


“Thank you very much for your excellent presentation for the Economic Society today. It is always a great pleasure to hear your eloquent, up-to-date and comprehensive talks.”

Andrew Trembath, economist, Victorian and Australian Government agencies


online events @ saul-eslake.com


DEC

16th

2020 – End of the Year Presentation

6:00 pm AEDT
3:00 pm Hong Kong | 2:00 pm WIB | 8:00 am CET | 7:00 am London
Include access to Saul's presentation slides and video

FREE Registration


Request Speaking Engagement

WHAT'S NEW

Most Recent Articles, Talks and Presentations


Coronavirus Impact Chart Pack 2020-11-28

Chart Pack | 28th November 2020

The Economic Consequences of Misguided Localism
Australian Society and Politics, Economic Policies, Tasmania | 22nd November 2020

Why I changed my mind about compulsory super
Economic Policies | 11th September 2020

Media coverage of my report on replacements for the Spirits of Tasmania ferries
Australian Society and Politics, Economic Policies, News, Publications, Tasmania | 27th November 2020

Saul Eslake stands by Spirits of Tasmania replacement report
News, Publications, Tasmania | 27th November 2020

Saul talks about factors driving the Tasmanian property market
Tasmania | 26th November 2020

Interview with Triple M-Hobart on ‘Choices and Consequences’
News, Publications, Tasmania | 24th November 2020

Interview with ABC The Drum about compulsory super contribution
Economic Policies, News, Publications | 23rd November 2020

Interview with Tasmania Talks on ‘Choices and Consequences’
News, Publications, Tasmania | 23rd November 2020

Interview with ABC Hobart on ‘Choices and Consequences’
News, Publications, Tasmania | 23rd November 2020

The Australian’s take on ‘Choices and Consequences’
News, Publications, Tasmania | 22nd November 2020

Article in the Launceston Examiner on ‘Choices and Consequences’
News, Publications, Tasmania | 22nd November 2020

The Hobart Mercury’s take on ‘Choices and Consequences’
News, Publications, Tasmania | 22nd November 2020

I changed my mind on increasing the compulsory superannuation contribution rate
Economic Policies, Publications | 22nd November 2020

COMING UP

Up Coming Speaking Engagements


DEC

7th

State of the Nation

Presentation to the Governance Institute of Australia Virtual National Conference 2020

8:55 am

VIDEO

Recent Presentations


The Impact of Covid-19 series

These videos are available to audience of Saul’s presentations as soon as they are uploaded and will be available to public one month after the presentation date.

See more


TESTIMONIALS

What Others Say


“You are one of the best at what you do in the world”
Gail Fosler, Chief Economist, The Conference Board, New York, December 2002

“I have never known an economist to have such a knowledge of world economic facts and to be able to bring to bear so much information in answering a question without notice”
Charles Goode, Chairman, ANZ Bank, July 2009

“Saul Eslake is … a highly regarded independent economist with the highest degree of integrity"
John Durie, Columnist, The Australian, July 2009

“… one of the few people in this world who can have so many oranges up in the air at the same time but still manage to catch them"
Andrew Clark, journalist, Australian Financial Review, November 2008

Read more

LINKS

Useful Links