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Latest Newspoll indicates a close contest for ALP leadership.

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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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Tuesday 2 December 2003

Latest Newspoll indicates a close contest for ALP leadership


DAVID HARDAKER: Who knows what they'll make of that in Canberra, but this morning the 92 members of the Labor Caucus are gathering to cast their vote. 


Our reporter Matt Brown has been talking to the number crunchers from both sides of the contest, and he joins me now from our Canberra studio. 


Matt, it's, I imagine, been a rather big night. What's your sense of how the numbers are playing out? 


MATT BROWN: Well, we've spoken to number crunchers for both sides, as you said. The Beazley camp's assessment hasn't changed, they already have the numbers for a victory, although that is a slim margin. The Latham camp, on the other hand, says they are confident, quote "we will win".  


They say the Beazley camp's claim to be just over the line for a victory must be wrong, and when I asked one of the numbers men how he was counting the votes, whether for example there was any element of assumption in his numbers, he answered simply "no-one counts them harder than me, mate". 


DAVID HARDAKER: So we have different numbers being put up by both sides. So how does that come to be? 


MATT BROWN: It comes to be, in part, because each side has an interest in either inflating or weakening the counts that they're tallying up on their actual pages. There's the issue of credibility. Mark Latham's people are warning that this could mean for Kim Beazley a compromised mandate if he's got a slim margin. On the other side of the ledger, everyone wants to claim a slim margin or be the underdog so that waverers will come to their side if they feel that the issue of a compromised mandate is a problem for either candidate. 


The Beazley camp can credibly dispute some of the published lists that are around this morning, and I've checked some individuals who claim to have either gone to Mark Latham or are undecided aren't quite right in the newspapers. 


But they acknowledge that the group of undecided numbers in Caucus has shrunk. They've only picked up a few in the last 24 hours. That does get them over the line according to their calculation, but it also means that the momentum has been favouring Mark Latham, albeit that he's been coming from behind. 


One of Mark Latham's supporters, incidentally, Tasmanian MP Dick Adams, says the Beazley camp's been doing a bit of tough arm-twisting overnight. People in the Latham headquarters say that they're, "sanguine" about this sort of thing, they don't think it's a big worry for their numbers, but here's what Dick Adams did have to say this morning. 


DICK ADAMS: I understand there was a bit of pressure around yesterday and last night, and people were saying that there was some pressure being applied to them. 


REPORTER: From both sides, or… 


DICK ADAMS: Well, it seemed to be more from one side than another. 


REPORTER: Do you think this morning's opinion poll will sway any members of the Caucus this morning? 


DICK ADAMS: I guess that's why it's in the press today, to try and do that, and it's been quite interesting to see how the manipulation of the press has taken place, to try and influence the leadership of the Labor Party over the last two years. 


DAVID HARDAKER: Dick Adams there, Matt. And the latest Newspoll in the Australian this morning has on the face of it good news for Kim Beazley, doesn't it? It has him at 50 per cent support amongst the public, with Mark Latham on 49. 


MATT BROWN: It does, in a sense reflecting a bit of the straw poll you heard from the streets of Melbourne there, a relatively low recognition factor for Mark Latham, high recognition for Kim Beazley. It's a certain residual fondness for the man who took Labor to a couple of defeats. 


That, it should be said, also had in it, the Newspoll published the Australian , Kevin Rudd as a candidate. Now he's not in the ballot, so you do need to factor that in and probably most of the votes that he could've pulled would go to Kim Beazley anyway. 


But more interestingly, the primary vote for Labor has fallen back. It's well below where it was at the last election when Kim Beazley lost and it's back to below where it was after George W. Bush's visit, when the Liberals achieved a significant boost. They've got that boost again, and at that time it was on an advantage that evaporated fairly quickly. This time it's on the back of so much fighting within the Labor Party and disunity that it makes it difficult for the Labor leader who inherits this Party's leadership. 


DAVID HARDAKER: Well, indeed, because if this vote is so close, as everybody's predicting, then surely the split it leaves in its wake risks being quite severe doesn't it? 


MATT BROWN: It does. Whoever wins, on the current calculations, cannot win by the margin that Simon Crean won by in the ballot five months ago - that was 58 to 34. So on the current calculations no-one will have the mandate that Simon Crean had last time around. 


Now, people say a vote for Mark Latham and a narrow win is endorsement of a new face and a new approach. A narrow win for Kim Beazley might not be so bad for him, a win's a win. They are all talking unity, although it has to be said it's difficult to see how that's going to function, some people just are bloody-minded. 


One of Kim Beazley's supporters, Roger Price, came into the doors this morning, he thinks Mr Beazley's ahead, and he also addressed the unity issue. Here's what he had to say. 


ROGER PRICE: Well, I think Kim's in front. 


REPORTER: Will he win by many? 


ROGER PRICE: He's in front.  


REPORTER: Will you support whoever becomes the new leader, whether it's Kim or Mark? 


ROGER PRICE: If we're going to win the next election, we've got to get the team together. 


DAVID HARDAKER: That's Kim Beazley supporter Roger Price and I was speaking there to Matt Brown, with his assessment of what is happening with the Labor leadership ballot this morning.