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Election 2004: Opposition Leader attacks Prime Minister's credibility on his Tasmanian forest policy.

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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.


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Wednesday 6 October 2004

Election 2004: Opposition Leader attacks Prime Minister's credibility on his Tasmanian forest policy


MARK COLVIN: The Labor leader, Mark Latham, h as used his last set-piece performance of the campaign to intensify his attack on John Howard's credibility, and try to ease lingering concerns about his own bid for the prime ministership. 


Mr Latham presented his case at the National Press Club in Canberra, calling John Howard "fundamentally dishonest" and claiming that the Prime Minister has set a "new land speed record for breaking a promise" over the Tasmanian forests.  


The Labor leader, who counts Gough Whitlam as a mentor, promised his transition to office would be "steady and disciplined" and free from "adventurism" and "cockiness". And he's offering the business community a special consultative role if he wins government on Saturday.  


Matt Brown is travelling with Mr Latham. He filed this report from Canberra. 


MATT BROWN: There are just two days of campaigning to go before Australians cast their judgement on Mark Latham's bid to storm the lodge. 


MARK LATHAM: After a year in the spotlight, and six weeks under the microscope, the Australian people know me pretty well.  


MATT BROWN: But the Labor leader is almost wishing this campaign wouldn't end. 


MARK LATHAM: I could keep on going. I could keep on campaigning. 


MATT BROWN: And perhaps if he could keep going, it would be a good thing. 


According to the polling so far, too many people are still holding back, not throwing their lot in with Labor's new man, despite what he says has been his best effort. 


MARK LATHAM: We've told our story plainly and honestly. Now sure, there are still voters with a question or two on their minds as they consider their decision. That's only natural. 


MATT BROWN: Despite politically damaging complexity in some key policies, Mark Latham has campaigned well on the ground. He's certainly defied those who predicted that he'd implode. And today, he revisited his iconic promises on the Tasmanian forests, Medicare, education, and tax relief.  


MARK LATHAM: I've tried to run a positive campaign, appealing to what I regard as the best side of the Australian character. 


MATT BROWN: The contrast, he said, couldn't have been more stark. 


MARK LATHAM: The most relentlessly dishonest and negative advertising campaign in the history of Australian politics. You know, Mr Howard hopes to win on Saturday by scaring people, by spreading fear and uncertainty.  


MATT BROWN: That's obviously not the most complete, or fair, summary of the Prime Minister's campaign so far. The trouble is, fear and uncertainty about Mark Latham may yet prove to have been the Prime Minister's most potent political weapon, and one that didn't take a dollar off the budget's bottom line. 


So Mark Latham set out today to put that fear and uncertainty to bed, with a pledge that sounded a bit he was pushing aside the ghost of his mentor, Gough Whitlam and his helter skelter assumption of power 32 years ago. 


MARK LATHAM: If we're honoured to win on Saturday, Labor's transition to office will be steady, and it will be disciplined. No adventurism, no cockiness, straight down to work, putting our plans into place. 


MATT BROWN: In case listeners missed it the first time, Mark Latham returned to that theme. 


MARK LATHAM: Now my Government will be energetic and hard working, but it will not be rushed or impulsive. 


MATT BROWN: Unlike Bob Hawke, a Latham Labor government would not have an accord with the union movement, but selected members of the business community will have a seat at a special table all their own. 


MARK LATHAM: One of the first things I'll do in office is convene regular business round tables - a group of informal business advisers covering big and small businesses and regional interests to assist with the implementation of our economic plans. 


MATT BROWN: As well as repudiating the high interest rates of the previous Hawke/ Keating Labor Governments, Mark Latham is promising to break below what many economists claim is the natural rate of unemployment. 


MARK LATHAM: To get the national rate under five per cent. In particular, we need to tackle the crisis of long-term unemployment, with more than 350,000 of our fellow citizens on the dole for more than 12 months. 


MATT BROWN: In the process of setting out his own agenda, Mark Latham also rounded on his opponent. 


MARK LATHAM: Mr Howard started this campaign talking about trust. He's ended it with the politics of the big lie. Don't tell a small lie, tell a whopper, and that's what he's doing. Not one independent economist in Australia supports Mr Howard's claims on interest rates. Not one. 


MATT BROWN: And Mark Latham says that, despite independent calculations, like those published each day in the Financial Review , Labor's promises have not started to have a bigger impact on the budget surplus than the Government's. 


MARK LATHAM: That's why Labor will have a bigger budget surplus than the Coalition - an extra two to three billion dollars over the forward estimates. 


MATT BROWN: Mr Latham used his ease with colloquialism to attack John Howard's claim to the economic high ground. 


MARK LATHAM: Mr Howard talks about economic responsibility, but he spent the entire campaign walking around marginal seats just dropping some money out of his pockets. That's how he's been campaigning. If the election went for another week, he'd be offering steak knives. 


MATT BROWN: Mr Latham returned to the theme of dishonesty to focus on John Howard's forest policy, in advance of its release in Launceston this afternoon. 


MARK LATHAM: But he set a new low in terms of political dishonesty - a commitment in the campaign, fed out to newspaper outlets for the obvious reasons, to say he was going to stop the old growth logging. You can look at the headlines. And if he doesn't fulfil that commitment today, he's got a new world record of land speed for breaking a promise. 


He did it during the campaign itself. The man in fundamentally dishonest. 


MATT BROWN: In an hour-long performance, Mark Latham attempted to meld his various policies into a cogent program for government - an attempt to dispel the assumption behind the lingering question of these last few days. 


JOURNALIST: I was just wondering, Mr Latham, whether you believe that there is any honour in winning the campaign but losing the election? 


MARK LATHAM: Well there wouldn't be much fun in it, would there? (laughs) But … I don't know about honour. 


MARK COLVIN: Mark Latham ending that report from Matt Brown.