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Latham, Abbott join forces to launch book -

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Latham, Abbott join forces to launch book

Reporter: Suzanne Smith

TONY JONES: Two of Australia's greatest political rivals, Tony Abbott and Mark Latham, today put
aside their differences to launch a book about their political careers written by ABC radio
presenter Michael Duffy.

The book's called Latham and Abbott - the lives and rivalry of the two finest politicians of their
generation, which of course begs the question - which generation does Peter Costello belong to?

Having been crowned the "finest Liberal", Tony Abbott wasn't about to spoil the party with an
official complaint about the book's title.

He was too busy revealing his hitherto unrequited admiration for the Labor leader.

Today, the two behaved like rival footy stars after a tough match. The only thing missing - a spa
bath and a case of beer.

Suzanne Smith reports.

SUZANNE SMITH: The Mad Monk and Iron Mark, as they are affectionately known, have a fiery
relationship that knows no boundaries.

TONY ABBOTT, FEDERAL HEALTH MINISTER: There is the scorned former political mentor, there's the
abandoned first wife, there's the bashed taxi driver, there's this trail of human wreckage that the
Leader of the Opposition has left behind him.

ANDREW DENTON (ENOUGH ROPE, JULY 2003): You referred to the fact that he abandoned a child when he
was a young father.

MARK LATHAM, OPPOSITION LEADER: And I just took exception to the fact that here was someone who, in
his own arrangements, hadn't done much to care for his own son.

SUZANNE SMITH: The two combatants have a lot more in common than most people think.

They both studied economics at Sydney University.

Mark Latham told the launch he first encountered the Abbott name many years before entering
Parliament, in somewhat less than salubrious circumstances.

MARK LATHAM: And, of course, I go back a long way with my mate, Tony.

I first got to know about Tony Abbott on one of my first days at Sydney University in one of the
toilet cubicles.

And I arrived at the uni in 1979, fresh eyed and keen, coming in from the Green Valley public
housing estate - a bus, a train, a walk to the university.

And as you know in university toilets there is a lot of graffiti, there's a lot of graffiti at
Sydney University toilets, and in 1979 all the graffiti was about Tony Abbott, all of it, and I'm
sitting there thinking, "Who is this guy, Tony Abbott?"

They reckon he's a Right wing, fascist pig, they reckon he's worse than Mussolini.

SUZANNE SMITH: Some time later, Latham was offered a lift in a car to the Sydney University law
school and it was at this time that he first met the notorious Tony Abbott.

MARK LATHAM: Just sort of crammed in the back of this car with everyone else and I heard this voice
in the front, the driver, getting into a conversation about how John Kerr was so correct in sacking
Gough Whitlam.

And then I worked out this must be Tony Abbott, it must be Tony Abbott driving the car, and strike
me down it was!

And all that graffiti was spot on.

SUZANNE SMITH: When they met again as parliamentarians, Tony Abbott never missed an opportunity to
provoke an argument with his rival.

TONY ABBOTT: I think our first meaningful engagement as members of Parliament was at the annual
dinner of the banking, finance and public administration committee in 1994, where having already, I
suppose, set myself up as a bit of an ogre in your eyes, all those years earlier by talking in a
complimentary way about John Kerr, I think, I proceeded to lecture you on the abiding merits of BA

SUZANNE SMITH: At the end of the launch, both men had these predictions for each other.

MARK LATHAM: I suppose I would be surprised, at some time in the future.

I think we'll win the election and Costello will probably only last about 18 months as Opposition
Leader and we'll clean him up quickly and then Tony will have to take over so, you know, and then
we'll clean him up at the following election and they'll hand on to Christopher Pine, that'll be
the...and then we'll be in for a couple of generations.

SUZANNE SMITH: Tony Abbott went as far as saying he admired Mark Latham, but wouldn't be drawn on
his future.

TONY ABBOTT: I think there was that 96 - 2001 hen Mark was the 'enfant terrible' of the Labor Party
- there was a man of vision with the courage to say it.

Then he went off the rails and I guess history will see whether he comes back onto the rails again.

SUZANNE SMITH: The odd couple of politics revealing that even ideologically opposed opponents can
find some common ground.

Suzanne Smith, Lateline.

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