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Shadow Minister apologises for remarks about ALP Leader Mark Latham.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

 

Monday 29 November 2004

Shadow Minister apologises for remarks about ALP Leader Mark Latham

 

TONY EASTLEY: A damaging showdown at the Labor Party's Shadow Cabinet meeting t his morning has been averted following a statement of regret by a key member of Mark Latham's leadership group. 

 

Senator Stephen Conroy said he regretted the destabilisation of Mr Latham's leadership and promised loyalty, however he stopped short of admitting that he'd been directly involved in the promotion of disunity in the ALP. 

 

Mark Latham is said to have accused Mr Conroy of waging a jihad against his leadership and was set to try and sack the Victorian from his frontbench this morning. But the Labor leader now says the issue has been "resolved." 

 

Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra. 

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mark Latham's declaration that he wanted Labor's Deputy leader in the Senate sacked or disciplined, had many in the Caucus fearing it would resolve little if anything. Banishing Senator Conroy to the backbench could have been dangerous. 

 

And while Mark Latham was expected to get Caucus backing to punish his frontbencher, some feared his leadership would have been damaged if he didn't win by a big enough majority.  

 

Others assert Stephen Conroy can count and wouldn't have issued this statement if he had the numbers.  

 

STEPHEN CONROY: In recent times there has been unacceptable disunity in the federal parliamentary Labor Party. I absolutely regret that has arisen and I absolutely regret the adverse publicity the party has received… which has arisen as a result. 

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But the statement, while expressing regret, doesn't contain any admission of what he'd done wrong. 

 

Mark Latham's being criticised by some for losing his cool. Both supporters and critics let him know they didn't relish the prospect of a showdown and AM's been told Deputy leader Jenny Macklin played a crucial role in the settlement. 

 

Mark Latham made it clear he blamed his frontbencher for waging what he called a "jihad" against his leadership. 

 

According to one pro-Latham insider the trouble started just over a week ago, with a heated exchange between the two men. There were no witnesses, but that hasn't stopped Latham supporters claiming Senator Conroy conceded to leaking and destabilising and vowed to continue, which the Conroy camp disputes. 

 

Lots of MPs and party strategists have been leaking, venting their dejection and apportioning blame after their fourth election loss. One MP says Mark Latham singled Senator Conroy out because he's in the elite leadership group of 4, which demands exemplary conduct - in other words 100 per cent loyalty. 

 

Another source says Senator Conroy made it clear to colleagues over the weekend he was being blamed for things he didn't do, but accepted the need to make a statement and draw a line in the sand. 

 

STEPHEN CONROY: And I propose to devote myself to my Shadow portfolio tasks, playing my role in holding the Howard Government to account and helping to win the next election and serving in a Latham Labor government. I urge all of my party colleagues to do likewise, putting the focus where it belongs - on the Howard Government. 

 

Thank you very much. 

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mark Latham can now look forward to reaching his first anniversary as leader on Thursday. But first he'll get to see Senator Conroy express his regret, in person, today, to both him and the entire Shadow Cabinet.  

 

The Labor leader's also released a statement, saying he's glad this matter's been resolved, but is warning colleagues he's determined to confront and deal with problems that divert Labor from its real task.  

 

While many in Labor are relieved, hoping they can now get through the last fortnight of Parliament without any more stories of infighting, there's no guarantee things will be any better after the long summer break.  

 

One critic despairs Labor is "still rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic," while one Latham backer says the leader must start taking some advice, warning if things don't improve MPs will try to "massage" Kim Beazley back into the leadership. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Alexandra Kirk reporting.