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Shadow Minister and former ALP Leader praise Budget reply speech during book launch.

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Friday 23 May 2003

Shadow Minister and former ALP Leader praise Budget reply speech during book launch


MARK COLVIN: Simon Crean may be worried about the 'it' factor, but w hen it comes to the endorsement of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, he's got it. Back in 1974, Gough Whitlam sacked Simon Crean's father Frank as Treasurer after a humiliating series of leaks that Crean was on his way out. 


But today Mr Whitlam's praise for Crean the younger was unstinting, as the Party's elder statesman launched a book by frontbencher Mark Latham. Mr Whitlam said Simon Crean's budget reply delivered last week was Labor's best in a decade. 


Paula Kruger was at the launch at The Sydney Writers Festival of Mark Latham's latest political tract, From the Suburbs .  


PAULA KRUGER: Mark Latham, a man who's denounced some leftwing ideology as "post-materialist basket weaving for gentrified inner-city types" was in enemy territory today. 


WAITRESS: Two skim lattes. 


PAULA KRUGER: The Sydney Dance Company Cafe, on a pier just round the corner from the Opera House, would not be everyone's first choice for a book called From the suburbs .  


But then no-one ever accused Mark Latham's mentor, and the man he asked to launch the book, of predictability either. At times, the Sydney Writers Festival crowd must have wondered whether they were at a book promotion or a seventies campaign launch. 


PUBLISHER'S INTRODUCTION: Please welcome Gough Whitlam. 


GOUGH WHITLAM: Last Thursday was a great day for the Federal parliamentary Labor Party. The Senate carried, without a division, a motion denouncing the Governor-General, whom the Prime Minister had chosen without consulting any other person. The House of Representatives heard Simon Crean give the best Labor speech on a budget for nearly a decade.  


PAULA KRUGER: A point pushed further by the author, Labor frontbencher Mark Latham. 


MARK LATHAM: And why was it such a good speech? Well, he got stuck in and stood up for what he believes in. He gave the true believers something to cheer for and he set up a good Labor agenda, a great Labor agenda for the future. 


Too often since 1996 people have said to me "what are the differences between Labor and Liberal?" Well, now the answers are becoming crystal clear. We need to do the things that provide Australian families with affordable health care and affordable education prospects for their children. 


This is one of the reasons I wrote my book - the view from Campbelltown and Liverpool and my electorate is very different from the view from Kirribilli. It's so easy to get out of touch, unless you take a view from the suburbs. 


PAULA KRUGER: But is sharing a view from the suburbs enough to win the hearts and votes of Australia's electors, who have hardly flocked to Federal Labor in recent years. 


Mr Latham says the Party is making progress. 


MARK LATHAM: Policy and good ideas. That's what our side of politics is about, progressive ideas for the country. Affordable education, affordable health care, good ideas for saving the environment. 


In my book, there's ideas about helping working class families to become asset owners, there's ideas about housing, urban policy, welfare reform, improving democracy, opening up the political system. All of that is well in tune with what people from the suburbs want to see. 


PAULA KRUGER: Have good ideas and innovation been missing? 


MARK LATHAM: Well, you know, I mentioned that Simon gave a very good speech setting out the agenda. I'm interested in the future, rather than a long review of the past. We've done enough of that. 


PAULA KRUGER: Mark Latham was on the backbench under Kim Beazley, and only returned from that exile when Simon Crean became leader. He's backed Mr Crean solidly throughout the recent turmoil and when asked about the leadership today declared it a dead issue. 


It's no secret that Mr Latham has long term leadership ambitions himself. Gough Whitlam praised him as one of Labor's best performers, but also chose not to elaborate on Mark Latham's future. 


You've had some glowing words for Mr Latham. Do you think he's prime minister material? 


GOUGH WHITLAM: Look, we're very busy signing the book. 


PAULA KRUGER: It could be Mark Latham's last book promotion for some time. With two young sons, the member for Werriwa says there will be more time spent on playing backyard soccer and less on writing about suburbia.  


MARK COLVIN: Paula Kruger.