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ALP Premiers urge Mark Latham to indicate if his health might affect his position as Leader.

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Monday 17 January 2005

ALP Premiers urge Mark Latham to indicate if his health might affect his position as Leader


TANYA NOLAN: Senior Labor figures are increasing the pre ssure on their Federal leader to resign. 


Queensland Premier Peter Beattie says either Mark Latham resigns due to ill health or the Caucus resolves the leadership issue. 


And in an attempt to guard the party from possible electoral damage, West Australian Attorney General Jim McGinty was using stronger language, saying Mr Latham should go. 


His Premier Geoff Gallop was a little less direct, urging the Federal Party to get on with the job, while New South Wales Premier Bob Carr was putting a time limit on it, saying the leadership question has to be resolved by the end of the week. 


From Canberra Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath reports. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: The Premiers today have moved to increase the pressure on Mark Latham. But the most stinging rebuke has come from WA Attorney General Jim McGinty who was the first to call today for Mark Latham to resign. 


JIM MCGINTY: To say that Mark Latham is an ailing leader is certainly true. 


REPORTER: So time for a change? 


JIM MCGINTY: I think so. 




JIM MCGINTY: I think that it would be very helpful to the Labor Party generally if he were to reconsider his position. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Geoff Gallop was more circumspect, but it's clear the leadership problems are hurting his re-election chances. 


GEOFF GALLOP: I'm not a member of the Federal Caucus so I don't have a vote on who should be the Federal Leader, but like everyone I hope they resolve those matters and get on with the job. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: In New South Wales Bob Carr wants a change within days. 


BOB CARR: I'd like to see it resolved before the end of the week. It can't be drawn out any longer than that. The brand name of the Labor Party is hurting and a decision has got to be taken by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. And that should be done in cooperation with the Federal Leader, who we all understand is sick. But the cost of this is greater than it appeared at the start of last week. 


REPORTER: You suggest that there should be some changes. Implied in that is that there should be some changes. 


BOB CARR: I think there's an emerging consensus that the Labor Party's got to get on with it and front with a leader, and I'm sure that would be Mark Latham's view as well. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And he says the timing is crucial. 


BOB CARR: As the days have gone by it's become more urgent that this matter be resolved and not only for Labor Party supporters, but for people who want to see a functioning contest in Australian politics. 


Every system requires a strong opposition, and to have a vigorous democracy you need an opposition that's fronting up. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Bob Carr has said privately for months that Mark Latham's leadership would fail. Now his prediction is coming true. 


And the final nail in the coffin today came from Peter Beattie. 


PETER BEATTIE: All I know is if we continue the way we're going now, we're going to bleed to death. There's only two ways this can be fixed, either by Mark indicating that his state of health is such that he's not continuing as leader - and I don't know whether that's right or what it is, that's a matter for him, and I think he should be given that courtesy - or fixed up by Caucus.  


But one thing I know is that John Howard's on holidays in terms of the politics of this nation and he's getting free kick after free kick, and I think the other side of politics - mine, of which I'm part at least - should be better represented. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Fixed up by Caucus as Peter Beattie says only means one thing, a leadership ballot. 


PETER BEATTIE: Mark's got to clearly indicate what his state of health is, that air has to be cleared very quickly, and if he can continue, then that's an issue for the Federal Party, if he doesn't… 


(interruption from reporter…) 


Look, I don't want to be, I don't want today talk about any individuals. 


REPORTER: You previously backed Beazley, would you back him again? 


PETER BEATTIE: Oh look, I think Kim's got a lot to offer, I think Kevin has, I think Wayne has, there's a lot of good people. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: There is again no comment from Mark Latham today. His office says he's still recovering and plans to return to work on Australia Day. 


But his position is untenable. Even if he returns to work healthy, he's lost the support of Caucus. His leadership is effectively finished. 


WA backbencher Graeme Edwards is another saying it needs to be urgently resolved. 


GRAEME EDWARDS: Well I would encourage my colleagues in the eastern states to just be cognizant of the fact that we are due for an election here, an election that could be called in the next couple of weeks. And I would just encourage them to collectively ensure that the Government in Western Australia, a government that deserves to be returned, is given a clear run during the course of that election campaign. 


JOURNALIST: Just when you say talk about resolution, from your perspective what would you like to see resolved? 


GRAEME EDWARDS: Well I think quite simply we need to have some certainty about the leadership of the ALP, and that's what I want, and I'm sure that's what my colleagues want. 


JOURNALIST: Is it certainty just one way or the other as to whether he's going to stay or not, or if a replacement is needed? 


GRAEME EDWARDS: Well I think it's certainty, as to whether or not Mark Latham is going to stay. 


TANYA NOLAN: WA backbencher Graeme Edwards.