There are some people that have health problems which are entirely treatable and which, if they are treated, they can return to the workforce and lead a meaningful working life. Let's use our economic strength to treat some of these people so they can enjoy inclusion in mainstream economic life.
Similarly, he wants more old people and women to participate in the labour force:
"a lot more people seek to work today. The participation rate is much higher - it's 65 per cent -" ... But there are still groups under-represented in the work-force, to some degree women - although there has been a huge leap in their participation - and mature workers, though thinking towards them has changed.
Costello is no doubt right that there are people whose lives might improve through better access to employment. Even so, the assumption seems to be that it is our representation in the market which is the measure of our progress. Costello is veering toward a view of the individual as Economic Man - as man seen primarily in terms of his economic function.
Which isn't so surprising for a member of the Liberal Party. Most politicians, whether left-wing or right-wing, are liberal modernists in the sense of assuming individuals to be autonomous, abstracted individuals, each pursuing his own desires.
A key question for liberals is how a society made up of such individuals can hold together. Left-liberals generally believe that society can be managed by the neutral expertise of state bureaucrats. Right-liberals believe, ingeniously, that individuals can pursue their own selfish ends in a market and that the hidden hand of the market will ensure that such activity works out for the overall progress and profit of society.
However, the right-liberal idea can only work conceptually when it is activity within the market which is under consideration. So there's a reason for right-liberals to focus on individuals in terms of their market activity.
If Costello does become the next leader of the Liberal Party, the signs are that he will follow a right-liberal politics. Perhaps the best that conservatives can hope for is that he will be more of a pragmatist than an ideologue, and so not drive the liberal agenda as hard as some other politicians.