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Kennett apologises for Latham comment -

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Kennett apologises for Latham comment

AM - Friday, 1 July , 2005 08:17:00

Reporter: Rachel Carbonell

TONY EASTLEY: Former Federal Labor leader Mark Latham's biography has sparked plenty of personal
and political comment.

Former Victorian Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett told the ABC he thought Mr Latham was suffering from
a depressive illness.

Now Jeff Kennett, who heads the national depression initiative, beyondblue, has publicly apologised
for his comments, at the request of Mark Latham.

He explained why to AM's Rachel Carbonell.

RACHEL CARBONELL: You have issued an apology to Mark Latham. Why did you do that?

JEFF KENNETT: Because Mark rang me up and demanded that I do so, and I never intended in my
comments that I should in any way hurt him or his family. What I was trying to do, as I would with
anyone else, even though I am but a layman, one of the things I try and encourage people is to
learn about depressive illnesses, understand the symptoms, and then hopefully not only to help
themselves, but help members of their family, and of course help some of their work colleagues who
may be acting in a way that would otherwise be considered to be abnormal.

RACHEL CARBONELL: What do you think of the fact that Mark Latham has been offended by your
suggestion that he might be suffering from depression?

JEFF KENNETT: Well he's entitled to feel offended, that's his right, and he made that view to me
quite clear. I did not seek to offend him, and that's why I did as he requested, apologised, and as
best I could, withdrew the statement. Obviously they stand, in the sense that I can't physically
withdraw them, but my intention was not to hurt but to actually offer assistance in terms of trying
to understand issues of the day.

RACHEL CARBONELL: You were trying to be compassionate?

JEFF KENNETT: Well I don't think there's any doubt about that. I mean, I have been approached by,
over the last eight years when I have been leading the advocacy for better understanding of
depressive illnesses, not only by senior businesspeople who suffer from depressive illnesses, but
many politicians do, many sportsmen and women do. And certainly many journalists do. Many in the
arts community - 800,000 people a year.

And yet there are some who feel there is still a stigma associated with this illness, and I simply
say: why? This is an illness. It's a genuine illness. And it can be resolved quicker if people seek
treatment as they would for the common flu, or for a broken arm, for breast cancer, or for any
other form of illness.

RACHEL CARBONELL: Some commentators, even former political colleagues of yours, have expressed
surprise at this compassion that you've shown towards Mark Latham, saying that during the days of
when you were leader of the Victorian Liberal Party and in fact Premier it was a compassion that
perhaps wasn't existent back then. What do you say to that?

JEFF KENNETT: I don't know if I was ever a hard man, but I can understand people having that view.
But I do say this: I do think you... life is a continuing learning process, and there are at times
different emphases in your life. If I had my time over again, based on what I have learnt over the
last eight years, both as Premier and as Chairman of Beyond Blue, when I've been concerned about
depressive illnesses, I would certainly have put more emphasis on dealing with issues such as
mental illness, in caring for the aged, which is the other area that I think is so misunderstood,
under-resourced, and given such a low priority in society today.

TONY EASTLEY: Former Victorian Liberal Party Premier, and Chairman of the beyondblue initiative,
Jeff Kennett, speaking there to Rachel Carbonell.