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Shadow Minister discusses positions of ALP leadership contenders, Kim Beazley and Mark Latham.

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Monday 1 December 2003

Shadow Minister discusses positions of ALP leadership contenders, Kim Beazley and Mark Latham


DAVID HARDAKER: Kim Beazley's supporters say he has a "rock solid" base of votes, just a few short of the majority he needs to take the leadership of the Labor Party. 


Underlining his commitment, Kim Beazley says he'll resign from Parliament if he's chosen as leader and loses to John Howard. 


Beazley supporter and Labor frontbencher, Mark Bishop, has been speaking to Matt Brown in Canberra about Mr Beazley's all or nothing campaign. 


MARK BISHOP: That lays it squarely on the table, Matt. Beazley this time is about winning. It's about going for the lot. It's about taking your chances, but most of all it's about taking the crown. So it's not about saving the furniture, it's not about propping up half a dozen or eight seats in New South Wales and Queensland, it's not about building for the next six years or the next three years and then having a serious go, it's about having the fight now, it's about pulling on the Prime Minister. 


But in the final analysis if you have three goes and you're unsuccessful, then perhaps that's a time to be reading the tea leaves. 


MATT BROWN: And he does bring that record of failure doesn't he? What is it about Kim Beazley that has changed since the last election? 


MARK BISHOP: I think the thing that's changed about Kim Beazley in the last six or nine months, I've noticed more, is just a quiet, steely determination. He's no longer prepared to accept advice from a small group of people, he consults fairly widely, he's throwing himself out, and he just has, in his heart and his mind and his eyes, a burning desire to win. 


MATT BROWN: And yet Mark Latham has spoken a great deal about the importance of loyalty in the Party, insinuating that Mr Beazley, certainly people in his camp, have been disloyal and are responsible for the dilemma in which you find yourselves now. Why should that be rewarded? 


MARK BISHOP: I don't buy that. I think Kim Beazley has given overall great loyalty and overall commitment to the Labor movement for over 20 or 25 years in public life. He was a loyal servant to senior men in Keating and Hawke. I've rarely ever heard him be critical of his colleagues. He's always put the interests of the broader Party… 


MATT BROWN: But Mark Latham says this is about moving forward for him, that this is, to him, about taking the Party forward not taking it back. 


MARK BISHOP: I think it's about taking the country forward. It's about taking the country into our confidence over the next eight or ten years, it's not about going back to the 50s, and Mr Latham may well have those views, but not too many of his colleagues share them at the moment. 


MATT BROWN: He says he's going to tone down his use of language, for example, in other words that even he acknowledges that there are some rough edges he could knock off, and therefore improve himself as a leader. You don't acknowledge that that's possible? 


MARK BISHOP: No-one can forecast the future. If Mr Latham says that he's got some faults, then so be it. If he's going to go down a different tack into the future, if he's going to apply himself and show all of the traits that are required of a leader, I say all strengths to his arm. 


MATT BROWN: Isn't this part of what your colleagues are weighing up though, whether or not he can grow in the job and get some of the things that people see as his disadvantages under control? 


MARK BISHOP: That may be one or more of the things my colleagues are looking at. I think most of my colleagues are saying, publicly and privately, they've been in opposition now for seven or eight years. On the cards, the way we go at the moment if things don't change we could have another six years in opposition. That's a whole generation of Labor men and women who would've wasted most of their time in public life. They want to concentrate now on winning with the person whom they believe has the overwhelming support of the Australian people at the moment. 


MATT BROWN: Does Mark Latham have a mortgage on the Treasury portfolio do you think? 


MARK BISHOP: He does have a considerable intellect, he does have a commitment to policy, and I think he can make a contribution in a senior position on the frontbench. But in the final analysis, which body fits into which hole on the frontbench has always been a matter for the leader, and we should not seek to disturb that. 


MATT BROWN: Given the deep bitterness that there is about this ballot and the circumstances preceding it, what can Kim Beazley possibly do to heal the rifts that there are in the Party, the rifts typified by the significant differences between himself and Mark Latham? 


MARK BISHOP: I think it's a matter of Kim showing the direction in which he wants to lead the Party. It's a matter of him involving all of his Caucus colleagues in committing to that outcome. 


MATT BROWN: But many of them believe that he has been part of or failed to rein in significant disloyalty. 


MARK BISHOP: Some of them have said that from time to time, and that's said in the heat of the battle. Come Tuesday afternoon when things are different and we're all committed to beating the Howard Government at the next election, I think some of that emotive language might be best forgotten and put in the past. 


DAVID HARDAKER: Labor frontbencher Mark Bishop with Matt Brown in Canberra.