Anyone who doubts John Howard's mastery of politics and tenacity to hang on would be well-advised to consider his reaction to next year's handover. By hurling his party off a precipice in the polls he ensures Costello won't even want the job - at least for another 12 months. Now we find that he forced Costello to appoint a tax-dodger to the Reserve Bank (House on the Hill, 1/12/05). What amazing forethought and discipline for Howard to bury this "sleeper" nearly three years ago, timed brilliantly to "go off" just months ahead of any leadership challenge. By souring the prize and crippling his rival, Howard has locked in 2006. He really is the consummate political animal.