Diary of a Liberal Frontbencher: My memoir
Costello dropped in to Melbourne office today. Has copy of Howard memoirs. Says he is checking it for errors, misrepresentation, and slander. Book is dog eared and crammed with post-it notes.
Costello asked if I kept any records during Costello/Howard era.
Tell Costello I kept a diary.
Costello asks if I could check it. He is doing a ring around to get source material. Is thinking of writing a scathing review of Howard’s book for The Monthly.
Recover my old diaries from lockbox buried under the shed. Spend the night reading through a few of my favourite memories.
11 March, 1996
Settling in to new government backbencher office – think it might be smaller.
Costello in – comments on tiny office. Says when he’s Prime Minister I’ll have a much larger office.
Tell Costello I had no idea John Winston Howard (JWH) was terminally ill?
Costello laughs. Explains that JWH promised to hand over by 2002 at the latest but Costello reckons it’ll be more like 2000 or 2001. Is already building succession plan - most important element of a successful transfer of leadership is a good succession plan.
10 September, 1996
Quiet day in Parliament. Weird red-head giving maiden speech. Didn’t catch much - good crossword in The Age today. Really struggling with six across. 10 letters, starts with X. Clue is “fear of outsiders”. Feel like answer is staring me in the face.
1 October, 1996
Costello in. Asks me to re-draft his anti-Hanson speech. Wants to deliver it as soon as he is PM.
Ask Costello when he thinks that will be?
Costello has feeling it’ll be any day now. Has new numbers man: Christopher Pyne. Pyne is master of detail – knows how every member of party takes coffee. Note to self – avoid Pyne.
12 May, 1997
Six across was “Xenophobia”! Finally, got it while watching documentary on History Channel.
8 March, 1998
JWH asks me to call Kennett to convince him to help break waterfront unions. Says he’s tried talking to him but doesn’t speak fluent Victorian.
Kennett says he’s fighting the Maritime Union of Australia as hard as he can. Is fighting so hard his life is in danger. Has already survived four assassination attempts, this week! But for his military training he’d have died weeks ago. Is pretty sure his security detail is on it. Has noticed that wharfies and police officers have similar builds.
27 May, 2000
Go to Corroboree speech with JWH. Very awkward. By the end I was the only person in audience facing JWH, and neither of us were making eye contact with each other.
28 May, 2000
Costello in. Has apology speech written, wants to test it on me. Ask Costello if JWH had changed position on reconciliation? Thought after Corroboree that JWH would be more likely to demand apology from aborigines.
Costello decides to try speech out in party room this evening.
2 hours later
Speech goes poorly. Majority of party stand and turn backs on Costello. Only people facing forward are Christopher Pyne, me (wanted Costello to have someone other than Pyne to speak to), and Wilson Tuckey (asleep).
10 September, 2001
Pyne in. Has been nagging me to support Costello for months now. Says that the Costello train is leaving the station. Makes sound of train and chugs around office. Asks me if I want to be left alone on the platform? Ask Pyne if I could be left alone on platform with a good book to read?
Pyne chugs out.
12 September, 2001
Pyne pokes head in. Finds me under my desk. Says that train has been delayed for foreseeable future. Ask Pyne what caused delay? Pyne says plan to swap conductors has run into problems. Jokingly suggest that Pyne could surely chug through any obstacle. Pyne says that’s a pre-9/11 joke and I should feel ashamed of myself.
10 October, 2001
Peter Reith in. Needs to discuss children overboard with me in detail. Ask why he wants to discuss with backbencher? Says he can only discuss with someone he can trust, someone who will never be asked questions by media.
Reith explains that he may have gone overboard when he claimed children were being thrown overboard. Tells me whole story.
Tell Reith even though I remember him being voted at 1994 Christmas Party as “Most Likely To Go Down Like Nixon”, I’m freaking amazed at the extent of his Nixon-ness. Suggest Reith is more Nixon than Nixon. Would be even more amazed if he gets away with it.
Reith laughs maniacally. Says it doesn’t matter if he gets caught, he’s on his way out anyway. Says he’s a kamikaze pilot with a clear line of sight for HMAS Beazley.
Really glad that as Defence Minister Reith does not control nuclear weapons.
10 November 2001
Election night. Big win. Everyone very happy.
Tell wife about key role I played in counselling Reith on children overboard. Wife not impressed.
11 November 2001
Slept on couch for first time. Wife says “as mother, she cannot condone the things Party said about other mothers”.
18 November 2001
Have purchased sofa bed. Think I could be here for sometime.
25 December 2001
Wife has removed all pillows and cushions and put bed pan next to sofa bed. Note says she wants to give me experience of living in detention.
22 June 2002
Still on couch. Drinking too much. Wife refusing to accept my apology. Insists JWH has to apologise to mothers from SIEV IV before I can return to bed.
23 June 2002
Speak to JWH about sofa bed situation. JWH has a huge amount of sympathy for my situation and deeply regrets that as an indirect result of government policy I am in the doghouse. However, JWH cannot apologise for actions of previous government. Howard Government of today cannot be held responsible for actions of 1998 – 2001 Howard Government. Things were so different back then.
Call Pyne. Ask when the Costello train is stopping at my station.
15 July 2002
Attend first Costello coup meeting. Me, Pyne, Costello, Georgio, and Troeth.
Georgia asks me what drove me to support Costello. Tell Georgio about my aftermath of children overboard. Georgia puts hand on my shoulder, says he is pleased to meet a brother in arms and by the courage of our convictions we will win through.
Tell him I just want to go back to bed.
1 July 2004
Still on sofa bed. Drinking way too much.
Attend party room meeting JWH says we’re in trouble – Latham has cut through. We need a new strategy. Get up, tell everyone I am confident we can win. Question for Australian people is simple: Do you trust Latham enough to be in same room as him for more than five minutes?
Get standing ovation.
2 December 2004
JWH offers me speakership. Will accept position on one condition - JWH must call wife and apologise for children overboard.
JWH is concerned about economic compensation for children overboard if he were to apologise.
4 January 2005
Back in bed! Plight of Asian Tsunami victims has totally distracted wife from plight of refugees.
9 July 2006
Costello and Pyne call meeting. Ask Pyne how numbers are looking. Pyne not worried about numbers, time to focus on transition.
Costello says McLachlan is about to release details of deal JWH made with Costello in 1994 to hand over leadership. Costello knew gentleman’s agreement would work out in the end.
Tell Costello that John Howard is not the kind of man to take responsibility for something John Howard did in 1994.
Costello tells me to trust him. Asks Pyne to run numbers.
3 hours later
Costello and I at bar. Pyne has already gone home – one drink was too much. Suggest Costello think about running for Premier of Victoria. Costello asks if his numbers are that bad. Nod.
Costello calls. Has discovered during call around for ring around that he does not have the numbers to submit review of Howard’s memoir to serious publication like The Monthly. However, numbers in Victoria are strong. Will send to The Age instead.
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