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Peter Costello

For Labor ‘true believers’, the night of 24 November 2007 was one to cherish. In the north, Brough the Rough was despatched and a host of lesser figures swept away, pork barrels and all; in the very heartland of the Howard battlers, the Wicked Witch of Penrith and her minions perished in a jihad of their own devising; above all, in his fortress of Bennelong, the Vampire King was slain by the Good Witch of the ABC. What a night! At the beginning of Peter Costello’s memoir is the challenge: ‘How did it come to this? How did a government that had created such an Age of Prosperity, such a proud and prosperous country, now find itself in the wilderness?’

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Selling books is a difficult business. Publishing, too. Booksellers and publishers need courage and imagination. A book about a contemporary Federal politician with the adjective ‘new’ in the title displays both these qualities. Tony Blair may have got away with ‘New Labour’ in Britain. In Australia, a large part of the disenchantment with politics and politicians stems from the feeling that, apart from the fresh face of Natasha Stott-Despoja, there’s nothing new around; no new ideas, no articulated vision of where the country might be in ten or twenty years’ time, nothing inspirational. Perhaps something might emerge before the next election. But no one’s holding their breath. All the signs, surveys, focus groups, radio talk-backs, flirtations with maverick independents show that Australians are looking for something better from Canberra. And they have vestigial hope. So the word ‘new’ in the title is not so stupid after all. It’s based on the theory that hope usually triumphs over experience. People might buy the book hoping for the revelation of a ‘new Liberal’.

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