Tuesday, May 11, 2004

There’s something about Peter Costello . . .

It’s Budget night, and for those of us not about to be sent into rapture by news of tax cuts, there’s a new reality TV show about six blokes lusting after a “she” who is really a “he” – well, a pre-op male transsexual, to be precise.

“There’s something about Miriam” is basically Springer-esque, exploitative trash, but for the poof audience, it promises much delicious Schadenfreude. The guys all picked the tranny, from a line-up that otherwise consisted of “real” women (i.e. without dangly bits). No doubt Miriam was the most curvaceous, and hyper-feminine acting one. While I can’t blame a bloke for being “looks-ist” and superficial – such is the very foundation of gay society, of what passes for it – surely your average hetero man in 2004 would be just a little bit suspicious about a super-eligible, yet hyper-feminine woman?

Anyway, that’s just a segue into the topic of Treasurer Peter Costello, who apparently has a hitherto-closeted past as a self-employed businessman:

PETER COSTELLO: Well, I think you've got to look at people's record. And we had people who had experience in Government, and people like me who'd had experience at being self-employed, managing their own businesses, for want of a better word.

Talk about keeping that one tucked up in his undies for so long!

Presumably, Treasurer Costello is referring to his nine or so years spent as a barrister at the Victorian Bar. While it is accurate, in one sense, to use the label “self-employed” for such workers (Victorian Bar rules prohibit employee barristers, or even joint practices), Treasurer Costello should indeed have found a “better word” to describe his barristerial role.

In no sense do barristers (in Victoria and most other places) “manage” their own businesses; almost all administrative and financial elements of the role are delegated – compulsorily, as it turns out – to one of a dozen or so “clerk” companies. Whether the barrister works for the clerking company, or vice versa, can be a moot point.

In any case, both the Bar and the clerking companies operate as cartels (note 4), that would be in flagrant breach of restrictive trade practices legislation were it almost any other industry.

That said, Treasurer Costello’s having worked for a lucrative cartel for almost the entire “greed-is-good” 1980s, could simply be regarded as his good luck – doubly so, in fact, from an Xer perspective – a “neither here nor there” detail which doesn’t and shouldn't affect his current role. Except however, when he exaggerates its nature, to make himself out to be some kind of shirtsleeves-rolled-up businessman, once upon a time.

Oh, and except for the fact also that Treasurer Costello is a union-buster from way back.

Costello first rose to serious prominence as the barrister in the successful prosecution of the Dollar Sweets case, a breakthrough in diminishing union power. He has a sweeping plan to dismantle many remaining regulations and rigidities in the labour market, especially in the universities and schools.

You read it right – Costello, who found fortune and fame through being a member of possibly Australia’s most cosseted trade union (a status which the Victorian Bar enjoys to this day) has completely avoided turning his union-busting blowtorch on himself and his ilk, then and now. Now that's a tuck I reckon that even the average hetero bloke should be able to pick up on.

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