Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
AWU National President speculates on position of Opposition Leader, Simon Crean.

Download WordDownload Word



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.





Friday 28 November 2003

AWU National President speculates on position of Opposition Leader, Simon Crean


HAMISH ROBERTSON: To the leadership struggle in the Labor Party, wh ich has now entered its final phase. Simon Crean's chief rival, Kim Beazley, is now preparing for the looming leadership ballot and says that Mr Crean will make a decision about his future clear later today. 


Labor's Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kevin Rudd, will be a contender if Simon Crean vacates the field but fellow Queenslander, Australian Worker's Union chief, Bill Ludwig says his colleagues should keep their focus on Kim Beazley's return and he's warned against the elevation of Shadow Treasurer Mark Latham. 


The gradual collapse of support for Mr Crean turned critical over the past 36 hours, as Matt Brown now reports from Canberra. 


MATT BROWN: Simon Crean may still lead the Labor Party, but it's been effectively decapitated. As he left Parliament House late last night with his wife Carole, Mr Crean sounded like he was thinking only about the short-term. 


(to Simon Crean): Have you heard any arguments at all that are valid for you to step aside? 


SIMON CREAN: Listen, I'm just looking forward to having dinner with my wife tonight, and some mates. Thanks very much. 


MATT BROWN: And after dinner? 




MATT BROWN: At dinner with Craig Emerson, Julia Gillard, Nick Bolkus, Mark Latham and Laurie Brereton, Mr Crean considered how he'll handle the looming leadership ballot.  


Kim Beazley will definitely be in the ring again, but in a slow motion replay of the opening stages of the last leadership ballot, at Perth Airport late last night, a weary Mr Beazley made it clear that he's holding off until Simon Crean's intentions are made public later today. 


KIM BEAZLEY: He has indicated, I understand, that he intends to talk about all this with the media tomorrow and I wouldn't have anything at all to say about any of these matters until he's had a chance to put his view across. 


REPORTER: What about Mark Latham, do you think he's got much to contribute to the front bench? 


KIM BEAZLEY: Same issue, same answer applies to that question obviously. 


MATT BROWN: Whether Kim Beazley will face any real opposition in the ballot remains to be seen.  


Beazley-backer and Australian Workers Union chief, Queenslander Bill Ludwig, says the impasse must be solved quickly. 


BILL LUDWIG: Now that it's come to this position it should be resolved as quickly as possible. This just frustrates the rank and file and the supporters. 


MATT BROWN: Are Beazley supporters to blame for this situation? 


BILL LUDWIG: No, I don't think so. No, I mean, we should've been gaining a lot of traction and I don't believe we've been doing that. 


MATT BROWN: Around the corner from Mr Crean's dinner gathering last night, Foreign Affairs Spokesman Kevin Rudd dined with some other who voted for Kim Beazley last time round, like Leo McLeay, Roger Price and Julia Irwin. 


Mr Rudd will probably run his own race this time, but fellow Queenslander Bill Ludwig is urging his colleagues to keep their focus and hopes pinned on Kim Beazley. 


BILL LUDWIG: Kim Beazley led us to two very close losses. I think he's a great leader and I think that he's the type of person that could bring the Party together and actually lead us to a victory. 


MATT BROWN: With Simon Crean out of the picture, the Shadow Treasurer Mark Latham could stand, but could also stand to lose much more than he gains, risking his political rise too soon on leading a Party headed downhill. 


A way to avoid a bloody and ultimately risky shootout may yet be found, and Bill Ludwig is warning his colleagues not to contemplate Mr Latham's elevation above the Treasury portfolio. 


BILL LUDWIG: I'll put it to you this way. I think that when Simon Crean put Mark Latham up as his Treasurer, the general community had a look and said my God there's two of them.  


MATT BROWN: Two of what? 


BILL LUDWIG: Two of the same. They obviously didn't like Crean, so they put Latham up and they don't like him either because if you have a look, as soon as he put Latham up he went further down the ladder. 


MATT BROWN: Bill Ludwig and other members of the "bring back Beazley" camp have largely maintained radio silence until now, but this latest trouble did not begin in the Beazley camp. Simon Crean's support has been falling away. People like the Shadow Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, who voted for Mr Crean in June, are now disillusioned and want a quick resolution. 


ROBERT MCCLELLAND: Look, can I be frank, I think the Australian people, or many of them, want a reason to vote Labor, and we haven't given them that reason. Unless and until we sort this out they won't have a reason, so it is imperative that we sort it out very quickly. 


MATT BROWN: It all began at Mr Crean's home on Wednesday night. Left-wing power brokers John Faulkner and Martin Ferguson, who supported Mr Crean in the last ballot, confronted their leader with the reality that he'd lost crucial support. Then, yesterday morning, Mr Crean called in supporters like Kelvin Thomson to scout the numbers. 


KELVIN THOMSON: He gave every indication to me that he wanted to continue on and he seemed to me to be very resolute and determined. 


MATT BROWN: What was it like in his office having yet another of these sorts of conversations? 


KELVIN THOMSON: I think very frustrating for him and very frustrating for me. 


MATT BROWN: The numbers were not decisive, but during the day a string of key figures brought bad news. Simon Crean's Deputy, Jenny Macklin, told him that she'd abandoned ship and the future was split wide open - a choice between continued dogged defiance or a compromise between the contending forces. 


HAMISH ROBERTSON: Matt Brown reporting there.