SHAUN CARNEY May 11, 2012
In the world of politics, lunch is no small thing, a setting that allows deals to be made, information to be shared and even a bit of human bonding to take place.
Michael Kroger and Peter Costello's long history as friends and political allies includes a lot of lunches. Sorry, that should have read ''included a lot of lunches''. The lunches between the two are no more.
Kroger today characterised Costello as someone who had become bad luncheon company. He, along with a lot of Costello's ''former friends'' within the Liberal Party, had found lunch with Costello ''an agony, a nightmare'' because of the ex-treasurer's griping and general frustration with his post-political life. That's what Kroger says, anyway.
Fittingly, the end of a relationship that began at a Monash University lecture theatre in 1975 when the two were just 18 crashed at a lunch last October.
Kroger says he rebuffed Costello's suggestions of a return to parliament. Costello denies it. Whatever happened, we have Kroger's word that there hasn't been any contact between them since that unhappy encounter at a Melbourne club seven months ago. Nor will there be.
On Wednesday night, Costello said Kroger couldn't be believed and today Kroger returned the favour.
Thus ends an era in politics that changed the direction of policy debate in this country and enabled the Liberal-National coalition to hold office for more than 11 years under John Howard.
Together, Costello and Kroger succeeded in opening the door to many neoliberal policy ideas, especially in relation to workplace relations. And they did manage to get Costello into parliament in 1990, putting him the box seat to become a key player when the Liberals returned to office in 1996.
Costello was part of a troika (that included John Howard and Alexander Downer) that provided a consistent core throughout the life of the Howard cabinet.
Friends fall out — of course they do — but rarely in such spectacular and public fashion.
Will the demise of the partnership have bigger effects on the condition of the federal coalition? Probably not.
But as a demonstration of the personal dimensions of political relationships, it is spectacular.
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