Short-lived speculation that former Liberal Party Treasurer Peter Costello was about to be appointed by the Labor government to a leading position in running the Future Fund shows the fund is still poorly understood, three years after its launch.
Rumours about Costello's possible appointment began to circulate during the weekend when unnamed sources, allegedly senior Labor Party advisers, told the ABC that "We [the government] are looking very seriously at Costello for the job."
Then stories began appearing in television bulletins announcing the former Treasurer, the founder of the fund, was inline to become "the guardian" of the $58 billion fund.
Rumours became so widespread that current Treasurer Wayne Swan was forced to explicitly deny the claims. "I have certainly no plans, or the government has no plans to appoint Mr Costello to the Future Fund,'' Swan was reported by The Australian to have told Channel Nine.
The way the story was reported however highlights a deeper concern in that even senior political commentators have a poor understanding about how the Future Fund, or more precisely its Management Agency, operates - despite it already being, according to Rainmaker, Australia's largest institutional investor and one of the nation's fastest growing fund.
For example, the board already has a chairman in former CommBank chief executive David Murray and six guardians. Any role for Costello would have only been to join the board as an additional guardian or to replace one of the incumbents, noting that guardian John Paterson whose term expires this year is yet to be formally renewed.