When Kim Beazley resumed the Labor leadership in early 2005 he faced the freshly re-elected John Howard - by then the nation’s second longest serving prime minister.
“Naturally speaking, if I had my druthers, I would rather have your record than mine,” he noted warmly congratulating Howard on the milestone. It was a welcome reprieve from the verbal violence of his predecessor Mark Latham and a perfect example of why Labor had gone back to him.
“On this occasion, as in no other period of time in his prime ministership, the Prime Minister has spoken for the whole nation, and that includes all of us,’’ Beazley continued, referring to Howard’s response to the Indonesian tsunami.
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Mark Latham is notoriously harsh and personal in his choice of language. It was one of the things which made him unelectable as prime minister and which saw him shred every friendship he ever had upon making his furious exit from parliamentary life.
At the same time Latham can also make sense. His analysis may often be brutal and poorly-timed but it is often also right. He was 100 per cent right when he said on Sunday that the people who advocate the onshore processing of asylum seekers, on compassionate and humanitarian grounds, are creating a situation where desperate people will risk their lives at the hands of people smugglers in the dangerous hope of making it to the Australian mainland.
Of course Latham could have easily avoided insinuating that the likes of Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young and the Labor Party’s Left Faction had effectively killed the 200-odd men, women and children whose bodies were still being picked out of the sea off the coast of Java.
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Save us from former Party leaders – particularly if they’ve got a memoir to spruik.
Former Labor leader Mark Latham has been suffering from relevance deprivation syndrome for years now. I was one of those dopes who admired him when he bounced onto the political scene – thirsty for someone with a bit of personality, a break from the beige. He railed against the ‘new political correctness’; he was a boofhead with a penchant for biffo, but he was fun.
Now he’s really jumped the shark and joined the conga line of suckholes who studied Post-Politics PR 101. The main rule of PPPR101 is simple: Court confected outrage at every opportunity.
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Put My Way on the karaoke machine. It’s the end of the night and the sun is coming up on a new government - a Labor minority government, to be precise. If you’re a bit of a political tragic having followed the campaign and its surreal denouement, tomorrow you might wake up feeling as if someone has died.
But conversely if you don’t care - and many normal people don’t seem to have given a hoot, in fact being politically rudderless has been a subject of some mirth - you might feel as if that irritating but really fun friend of yours has just left town. Anyway here’s The Punch’s list of our favourite shark-jumping and oddball moments of the 2010 campaign. Add yours in the comments, and we might build out the list. Let’s start with today’s silliness:
1. Rob Oakeshott’s speech announcing who he would support: Really, could he actually have drawn it out any longer? He started with a list of thank-yous that made it seem like he was accepting an Oscar, then proceeded with a meandering justification of his decision that prompted Laurie Oakes to wonder if we would be here another fortnight. But in the end said he would support Julia Gillard in helping Labor form a minority government.
It took a brave (and bitter) kind of former politician to stand in front of the camera on 60 minutes, and tell the country to turn in a blank vote out of protest come election day. But that’s what happened.
In an amazing example of the pot calling the kettle black, Mark Latham declared neither party major worthy of leading Australia, and encouraged all voters to follow his lead and send them a clear message.
There’s a chance that even Mark Latham was surprised that people actually listened to him.
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There are some things that can’t be measured. Like one vote one value; a government of the people, by the people, for the people. And the audacity, idiocy and hypocrisy of Mark Latham.
The former Labor Leader should face charges for using his platform on 60 Minutes to incite Australians to forgo their democratic right.
In Burma, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest, fighting for her people to have a say in their future. In Iran, Neda Agha-Soltan died protesting against the fraudulent election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The ongoing struggle for democracy across Africa – from Nigeria to Zimbabwe – has claimed millions of lives. Aside from the Eureka Stockade, which some historians consider the birthplace of Australian democracy, we’ve never had to risk our lives for freedom.
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The best question to Julia Gillard on Q and A, and her best answer, went like this: “I’d be interested in your thoughts on a scale of 1 to 10 - one being just bearable and 10 being massively annoying - how big of a tool is Mark Latham?”
Gillard: “(Laughs). There are some things that can’t be measured.” (Read Colgo’s take on Gillard’s Q and A performance here).
At the same time Latham was over on Sky News basically accusing the Prime Minister of being sexually inappropriate with him during their encounter at the Brisbane Ekka on Sunday. That’s pretty high on the Tool Index.
When the Nine Network announced during the week that former Labor leader Mark Latham was working with 60 Minutes on election campaign coverage, a spokesman said he was there to give his insight and insisted it was “not a square-up or an exercise in character assassination”.
Really? He certainly “squared up” to Julia Gillard when he barged at her at the Ekka Show in Brisbane and gave her what one newspaper called “the handshake from hell” before unleashing a spray (complete with finger wagging) over ALP objections to his involvement with the Nine Network.
Now the network’s chief executive, David Gyngell, has called the Prime Minister to apologise for the incident. On ABC TV’s Insiders this morning Julia Gillard made it clear she was annoyed by it, but Latham is still lurking around and his work as a commentator by a major national network is contributing to the continuing spiral of campaign distractions being driven by former Labor leaders.
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Update 4.48pm: The circus is officially in town. Mark Latham has confronted Julia Gillard at the Ekka at Brisbane’s showgrounds claiming that the Labor Party has complained about his working as a journalist on the campaign for Channel Nine, and that she had refused his interview requests. Ms Gillard was civil and rejected both his claims.
The confrontation has capped a day of chaos for the ALP, and also gave a reminder of the same macho approach Latham took as Labor Leader when he almost crushed John Howard’s hand with an aggressive handshake at a radio studio on the eve of the 2004 poll. Latham today leant into Gillard and waved his finger at her demanding she answer his unproven allegations of a complaint.
Update 2.55pm: So - Mark Latham stayed out of the press conference, but his presence cast a heavy shadow as Gillard tried in vain to keep things on track. Today has been a combination of poor management and bad luck for the Gillard campaign, well evidenced by the bizarre arrival of Latham in his capacity as budding star reporter for Channel Nine.
Gillard’s reconciliation with Rudd is likely to be seen as being as deep as a puddle, and now her former friend Latham has added to the atmosphere of calamity. All in all Gillard should be glad this all happened on a Saturday when most of us had our attention elsewhere, but it will be a hard day to recover from.
Update 2.40pm: Asked if she apologised to Rudd for the events of the past six weeks Gillard said: “The discussion I had with Kevin was about the campaign and the reelection of the Government.” I think that’s a no.
Update 2.38: “Reality exists whether [the media is] there or not. Kevin and I had a positive and constructive discussion.”
Update 2.33pm: They will campaign separately to “maximise spread”, and Rudd will attend the Labor campaign launch.
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Note: Today’s Sunday Telegraph quotes Alexander Downer claiming the Howard Government used to feed information to Kevin Rudd which he would leak against his Labor rival, former shadow foreign affairs minister Laurie Brereton. Rudd has denied the allegations as “completely and utterly false.” Here is my Punch column from the Sunday papers on Rudd’s standing now within the ALP.
WARNING: This column contains adult concepts and offensive language as it involves former Labor Leader Mark Latham, who’s flat out making it through a sentence without dropping the f-bomb, or worse.
About 10 years ago when Mark Latham was tiring of writing his weekly column for The Daily Telegraph, he submitted a piece which was five words long.
“Kevin Rudd is a c…” it read simply.
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Almost 10 years before he became one of the nation’s most accomplished welfare bums - living off the very parliamentary super scheme he railed against as Opposition Leader and now gloats about receiving in his newspaper column - Mark Latham was making a lot of sense about the explosion of welfare dependency in Australia.
Latham was especially energised by the surge in the number of Australians on the disability pension. He tackled the issue at length in his dour but valuable1998 tome Civilising Global Capital. The book was ridiculed as an unreadable doorstop by the Libs, run down by envious Labor non-thinkers as the showy work of an intellectual poseur who was using it only to position himself for the leadership.
But it contained a lot of provocative thinking about the (dictionary definition) incredible rate at which Australians were signing on in their 50s, 40s, even their 30s for a life on handouts as they convinced the welfare state that they quite simply could never work again.
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The antics of the Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek, this week are the latest in a long line of Labor tactics that continue to diminish and devalue the vital parliamentary arena of question time.
The point she made so loudly and proudly about the Opposition not allocating many questions to Coalition women is hollow and disingenuous.
Governments use Question Time to crow about themselves, using backbenchers, often in marginal seats, to ask pre-arranged questions. Political reality necessitates that the leadership team in Opposition use question time to hold the government to account.
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So the ability for Union reps to get into state schools depends on them being invited in by the school principal- who, in most cases is going to be a paid up member of one of the most militant unions, the Teachers Federation. That should ensure access. There should be no place in education for propaganda!
Julia Gillard feigns a fight with Trade Unions at their annual conference but gives her blessing to the indoctrination of school students 14 years and up. Funny thing –those who are 17 years now will be voters in the next Federal and State elections and the Labor Party affiliated unions will be in the school with the imprimatur of officialdom drumming up support for themselves and Labor candidates.
To use a Ruddism ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’ –I think the Liberals need equal access to at least balance the message.
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The biggest fib Kevin Rudd told today, after he’d lavished insincere praise upon Joel Fitzgibbon for his work as Defence Minister, was to declare the young Hunter Valley MP could return to the ministry at some stage.
As long as Kevin Rudd’s backside points to the ground, Joel Fitzgibbon has a better chance of becoming the next Pope than making a ministerial comeback.
And most people in the ALP will be pretty happy about that, as Fitzgibbon, for all his affable, knockabout charm, has long been regarded by many colleagues with suspicion and ambivalence on account of what was a long-standing and especially close friendship with disastrous former leader Mark Latham.
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