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Kim Beazley and Mark Latham lobby for ALP leadership.

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Monday 1 December 2003

Kim Beazley and Mark Latham lobby for ALP leadership


DAVID HARDAKER: After a weekend of furious lobbying, it's now down to Kim Beazley and Mark Lath am for the Labor leadership ballot due to take place tomorrow. 


At this stage the number crunchers have the two-time election loser, Kim Beazley, ahead of Labor's Shadow Treasurer, Mark Latham, though it's said to be very close. 


As opposed to the last leadership ballot in June, this time the mayhem has been kept largely in the background with the various parties relatively restrained about their public attacks on each other. 


From Canberra Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath reports. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: This is a different sort of leadership contest from the last challenge, with Simon Crean standing down and a Federal election due next year, the decision Caucus members are making will set the course for Labor into the next poll. 


Crean loyalist, Laurie Ferguson, is backing Mark Latham. 


LAURIE FERGUSON: I think that some of the people around Kim, I'm not saying himself personally, but some of his close associates have played a very disruptive role in the Party over the last year or so. We've lost a lot of traction when we're were really going somewhere in health and education and I'm not sure that these type of people should be running the Party in the next year or so and I think Latham represents a possibility for us amongst Western Sydney and Queensland voters. The blue collar, semi-self employed (inaudible) members in those regions possibly associate themselves with him than with Kim. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: So is it a positive choice you're making though, or you're making an anti Kim Beazley choice? 


LAURIE FERGUSON: Look, there's only two people running, and I think Latham is the best alternative. He and I are not best friends but I have to look at the Party's interests and I think that he's the future. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Last time around WA MP Graham Edwards publicly backed Kim Beazley, and he'll vote for him again on Tuesday.  


GRAHAM EDWARDS: I think that Kim Beazley will win. I think he will win and I think that will be the ultimate judgement of Caucus, and I say that because I think people are taking the view that if we go for a generational change we're conceding that we can't win the next election. If we go for Kim Beazley we are firming up to the view that we can beat what has become a very self-serving and arrogant government. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: While Kim Beazley appears in front, in counting from both sides between 10 and 20 members are considered undecided. 


Those Caucus members are weighing up the concepts of voter recognition, with polls showing Kim Beazley way out in front, with the idea of generational change. Both candidates have flaws, all agree on that, so they're choosing not only the best candidate but also the least worst. 


Frank Mossfield represents the Sydney marginal seat of Greenway. He voted for Simon Crean last time but he says he hasn't decided yet who to vote for. 


FRANK MOSSFIELD: I think they've both each got the individual qualities that would serve the Party well, but no I haven't actually finally made my mind up, no. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Now, you very openly supported Simon Crean in the last poll. Will your vote automatically transfer to Mark Latham? 


FRANK MOSSFIELD: Not automatically, no. I'll have a look at the qualities of both candidates. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Over the weekend, Kevin Rudd pulled out when he realised he couldn't win. 


KEVIN RUDD: Well, plainly the amount of support that I was receiving in the Australian community, as demonstrated through the opinion polls, wasn't being reflected within the parliamentary Party because I couldn't lift my vote beyond the 20s within the Caucus and for that reason I decided that it was in the best interests of the Party for there to be a clear-cut result when the ballot is held on Tuesday. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And you've put your support behind Kim Beazley, why? 


KEVIN RUDD: I've indicated that I will vote for Kim. The reason for that is that I believe, at this late stage in the parliamentary cycle, he's got the experience necessary to take on John Howard with only perhaps three or six months to go before an election. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: While Kim Beazley is ahead his camp isn't admitting to being overly optimistic, mindful no doubt that some Caucus members plan to vote for Mark Latham not because they think he'd be a great leader but because they want to protest against what they see as long-term destabilisation from the Beazley camp towards Simon Crean. 


DAVID HARDAKER: Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath.