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ALP caucus members openly support Simon Crean and Kim Beazley.

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Tuesday 10 June 2003

ALP caucus members openly support Simon Crean and Kim Beazley


MARK COLVIN: Well, Mr Ferguson of course is on Simon Crean's frontbench and tomorrow mor ning, other elements of Mr Crean's frontbench will start deserting him in public. 


But Mr Crean maintains that this public disloyalty from some of his closest colleagues will mean nothing, and while he wishes that Bob Hawke hadn't endorsed Kim Beazley, he says "old silver" won't sway any votes in the Labor Caucus.  


What could sway votes is the prospect of an electoral wipe-out, and the President of the Party in New South Wales, Senator Ursula Stephens, a Beazley backer, claims that Labor's national polling confirms the dire predictions of the anti-Crean polling done in her home State. 


Matt Brown reports from Canberra.  


MATT BROWN: Starting tomorrow key members of Simon Crean's frontbench will start making plain in public what everyone in the Party already knows, that they believe that keeping Simon Crean as leader is not the way for Labor to win an election. 


But Mr Crean just isn't fussed. 


SIMON CREAN: I don't think them saying what they're saying will come as any surprise but what they have to do in the end is to accept the result.  


MATT BROWN: Frontbenchers, Wayne Swan and Stephen Smith, have announced media conferences for tomorrow, where they'll outline their positions on the Labor leadership.  


Elsewhere, there's is a concern that the whole campaign to oust Mr Crean is starting to look a bit too machiavellian by half, that the stage managed procession of Labor members, and shortly, frontbenchers, isn't working.  


Crean supporter, Martin Ferguson, says the Caucus has had a gutful and it will soon be time for the agitators to move on. 


MARTIN FERGUSON: To stop fighting one another and to take the fight up to John Howard on key issues such as health, education and the environment, rather than the short-term ambitions of some people who don't have a capacity to lead this Party in the future.  


MATT BROWN: And while Simon Crean might be disappointed that Bob Hawke so openly backed Kim Beazley in yesterday's stroll to a day at the races, he isn't giving the endorsement much weight. 


SIMON CREAN: He's entitled to his views, we move on. 


MATT BROWN: And Mr Crean says the Labor icon's status won't sway those people who really matter, those in the Labor Caucus. 


SIMON CREAN: It's always nice to be endorsed, but in the end, the people that make the judgement are the Caucus members. Endorsements won't switch one vote either way.  


MATT BROWN: But there is a continuing campaign of briefing MPs on the Party's private polling, which New South Wales Party President and Beazley supporter, Senator Ursula Stephens, says does look as bad as the leaked reports have suggested.  


URSULA STEPHENS: They're significant swings and they're enough to concern us that it means that the good people that we've invested in to get into the Parliament are going to be the ones that lose their seats.  


People are very supportive of the Prime Minister, people are very supportive of Kim Beazley, and Simon, unfortunately has very few people who are undecided about him, people either love him or hate him and at the moment he hasn't got a very high acceptance rate.  


MATT BROWN: And most importantly, Ursula Stephens claims that the New South Wales results are reflected in the Party's national research. 


URSULA STEPHENS: Geoff Walsh, the National Secretary, was at our meeting on Friday and he seemed to be able to confirm that what we were hearing in our polling in New South Wales is consistent with the kinds of messages that he's getting Federally.  


MATT BROWN: Senator Stephens says the polls will change the minds of MPs who are not yet convinced of the need to change leaders. 


URSULA STEPHENS: Seventeen seats to date have been polled and we're going to continue polling all of the ones that we're holding in New South Wales.  


MATT BROWN: And she says the polling is not old, as the pro-Crean camp has claimed.  


URSULA STEPHENS: Oh no, it's very current polling and it continues as we speak.  


MATT BROWN: In the face of all of this, Simon Crean is playing it cool, warning about going back to the Beazley blancmange. 


SIMON CREAN: For the first time, Labor has had clear lines of difference up, I laid them down three weeks ago and every one of the polls that have been taken since shows that we got bounce from it.  


MATT BROWN: But even this line is not without its dangers.  


SIMON CREAN: I'm resolved that we will never again become the small target.  


MATT BROWN: Kim Beazley has already rejected Mr Crean's version of events about the lead up to the last election, for example, his claim of wanting a different strategy on the Tampa affair. But that will be publicly denounced again soon, as more of the Beazley camp makes its way out into the open. 


MARK COLVIN: Matt Brown in Canberra.