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Opposition Leader discusses cricket; federal election; and ALP leadership.



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FEDERAL LABOR LEADER MARK LATHAM

INTERVIEW WITH PILKINGTON & CONLON, 5AA ADELAIDE THURSDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2004

Subjects: Cricket; Election; Leadership

INTERVIEWER NAME: Mark Latham, welcome to the studio.

LATHAM: Thankyou very much. Good to be here.

INTERVIEWER NAME: Can’t hang about for the Test?

LATHAM: I would love to dearly. There will be plenty of runs there, nice flat track.

INTERVIEWER NAME: Are you a bit of a cricket tragic too?

LATHAM: To some extent yes. I like watching the cricket of course. The team we have at the moment are doing so well aren’t they? I hope we get the full five days of the Test and a bit of value out of it. Let’s see how they fair. Adelaide normally get a lot of runs so it should be good value for the spectators.

INTERVIEWER: It is a big social thing in Adelaide too the Test, people come from all over the state, you know. People come down from the country they make it a whole week’s holiday as part of the Test. I saw the Australians going through their paces yesterday gee they‘re professional about the whole thing. John Buchanan; the coach, kind of hovers around. Terry Jenner was down there talking to Shane Warne. You look at them and think yes this is a highly paid, very professional outfit.

INTERVIEWER: Now maybe you would go down to Adelaide Oval if you could and you could hang about because last night you did the barby. And obviously you are into post election, where do we go? How do we set up the Labor Party for victory either in one or two elections? Tell us about the backyard BBQ last night. Who was there and what came out of it?

LATHAM: Well it was a chance to talk to people away from the glare of the TV cameras. So they were people in the seat of Hindmarsh, Steve Georganis has just won, so it was a chance for me to say thank to the people who backed him. But also to talk to the people who voted for the other side. To get a guide as to

what motivated them, what were the key issues in the election campaign. So yes they obviously talked about the interest rate scare, the $600 payments and gave me some good feedback. I have been getting right around the country about the

things that drove the election result and where Labor needs to learn from that and where we can do better in the future.

INTERVIEWER: Do these people actually, eventually open up? When they first arrive I would imagine they would be a bit tentative, a bit nervous and thinking well, hang on a minute or so, we have seen this bloke on the TV, he is a big bloke so let’s not tackle him. But eventually did these people not say to you; this is the reason we did not vote for you?

LATHAM: Yes sure. We had a really good discussion about their experiences but also talking to their friends down at the local school or in the local community and it was a beautiful balmy night. We sat back and had a good old talk about the result and it was consistent with what I have heard in other parts of the country about the impact of the interest rate scare campaign. But also the impact of the $600 payment. A story of a woman in a shopping centre who said to one of the people there that the $600 bought her, her first car. Well it wouldn’t have been much of a car. When the Government hands out $52 billion in the budget, which is what they did and lots of spending after that, it obviously has an impact on how people vote.

INTERVIEWER: Now if we can put two things together here mate and test the theory. If economic management was the issue you were criticised or the Labor Party was criticised for not countering that during the campaign, for not standing up and saying we have got a better record than that. Don’t whack us with Keating all the time. If you put that together with the suggestion that is now emerging that you are an absolute loner when it comes to policy. That you get people around you but then you don’t take them on board. I mean, were you personally responsible for not picking up on economic management or did the whole camp fail?

LATHAM: Well we had strengths that we tried to promote and the people that were there last night were saying ‘gee you had a good schools policy’, ‘geez that Medicare Gold sounded good’ but on balance people were swayed by the economic scare campaign. So there are a lot of cross currents in a campaign. It is not as if there is only one issue that is occupying people’s minds but it is the balance of those issues and the decisive factor in the end. So obviously you try

and promote your strengths but we have said hundreds of times that we were going to run surplus budgets and that we weren’t going to put upward pressure on interest rates. That we were going to be responsible economic managers. But if we have got to say got it a thousand times, that is the message to constantly reassure people that Labor is going to have good financial management and not put pressure on interest rates.

INTERVIEWER: How do you respond to the criticism that you just don’t trust anybody, you don’t take anybody else’s advice on board? How do you respond to that?

LATHAM: Just look at the main economic policy that we put out in the campaign. The Tax and Family Policy that was devised by a committee of Shadow Ministers; Bob McMullan, Simon Crean, Jenny Macklin, Wayne Swan and myself so we do all these things in a collegiate way and try and get the best result. There is not a single policy that is the product of one person, it is a team effort but one person goes out and promotes the policies primarily and that is the Party Leader.

INTERVIEWER: As you search out and try to look for reasons, you get walloped every time you name one. Bob Carr has had a go, the Vics hate you because you mentioned things. And so what about South Australia? What do you thing went wrong here? so that you lose Kingston which didn’t even appear on the radar for most commentators. How do you lose Kingston?

LATHAM: Yes well that is a good question. We won two seats here, Adelaide and Hindmarsh and lost two and the losing two was unexpected. But talking to David Cox and Martin Evans, they point to the swings against them in the new housing estates, the mortgage belt. Again evidence about the impact of that negative TV advertising. So you can over analyse election results and look for a thousand things but very often it is one or two factors that have been decisive and also in Kingston the preferences of the Family First Party were decisive. And it was a result that defied expectations and I think there was an Adelaide Advertiser poll two weeks out in Kingston that had David Cox ahead 54 to 46 or 55 to 45 or something like that. So it was something that was unexpected but his analysis is about the new housing estates, the urban growth and the impact of the mortgage belt campaign.

INTERVIEWER: One of the new things that you are going to introduce out of the executive meeting last week is that you are going to ask candidates, and I guess that includes sitting members, to sign a contract, to put in these hours make those phone calls, tread those streets. Was Kingston partly lost because Labor

didn’t have it’s eye on it and the work didn’t go in and the money didn’t go in?

LATHAM: Oh well David Cox was working in the seat non stop since he was elected in 1998. But if the swing is there because of a particular factor, the local member can be hard working and diligent but it still mightn’t save him. So I don’t think there is any question about Coxy’s work ethic and commitment to the seat but other factors overwhelmed him, particularly in the last two weeks.

INTERVIEWER: Mr Latham, last night about when you were talking to people did the issue of national security come up? I mean it has certainly always been a strong point of the Government ‘s and something that would have played well for them in the election.

LATHAM: Yes one fellow was saying he was disillusioned with the Government over Iraq and that is one of the reasons he supported Labor. He had been a Liberal supporter voter years ago but has progressively embraced our side and is disillusioned and the Government about Iraq and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.

INTERVIEWER: Other people there, were they saying they supported the Government’s stand on terrorism and national security?

LATHAM: No. There was none of that feedback. They supported the Government and even the Government‘s critics were saying, “oh well on the economy you have to look at the growth record they have got you can’t take that away from them”. So the strength the Government seem to have is about economic management, the scare campaign rather than issues of national security. The only talk on that front was negative.

INTERVIEWER: All this speculation about a challenge to your leadership, you obviously have to take it seriously. What do you do to dampen that down or have you effectually been told look you have got six months to improve your performance and lift the Party’s standing?

LATHAM: Well I have been through two Labor Party Leadership processes in the last twelve months. Won the first one and was unopposed in the second so I can’t do anything more than that. I think the message for our Party is that disunity is death and you look at us in the last Parliamentary term, the eighteen months where people are destabilising and criticising Simon Crean with all of these off the record comments. If we do that a second time around the public would just think ‘well you have no right to govern, you can’t even run your own show”. So obviously in those circumstances the Party has made a decision about its front bench team, it’s leadership and we need to get on with the job of representing the real interests of the Australian people. If we just talk about ourselves, talk about internal Labor Party stuff, well people will say what about

our schools? our health system? economic prospects? Unless we address those issues we have got no hope.

INTERVIEWER: So you haven’t been given a deadline then?

LATHAM: No the timeline is a month ago I was elected unopposed as the Labor Leader and that was to do the job for the three years Parliamentary term.

INTERVIWER: What we are getting at is Mark, is that is there no faction Leader, no senior member who has said Mark this is serious, we are talking about a timetable now?

LATHAM: No absolutely not. You see what you get is things that are leaked to journalists. Some of them are of a nature that they run stuff but obviously material that is leaked is not done for accuracy it’s done for mischief and no-one ever puts their name to it of course. So it can never be tested in the public arena and it’s like trying to grab hold of a puff of smoke. So a lot of this is just nonsense and scuttlebutt that fills newspapers but the reality is that the great bulk of the Parliamentary Labor Party is trying to get on with the job of our policy review, listening to the Australian people about the reasons why we lost. Trying to improve the key policies areas; economic management and credibility, where we need to do better for the future.

INTERVIEWER: Dougie Cameron has put his name to it, the Union movement is worried that you want to take the Party to recognise the needs of the self employed now. He says the Trade Union movement is fundamental, what’s more your two term strategy is self fulfilling so you can’t say that. How do you respond?

LATHAM: Many Trade Unions are trying to win the support of the self employed, just look at the Transport Workers Union. They recognise that they are base was shrinking so they needed to reach out and win the membership of owner drivers in the transport industry and they have been very successful in that regard. So there is a lot of Trade Unions that inspire us to believe that the best action for political Labor is to broaden our base by becoming more relevant to the needs of the consultants, the contractors, the self employed, the small entrepreneurs, the real growth sector in a modern Australian economy. So we are not shifting our base we are trying to broaden and that is consistent with strategies that the Union movement itself has deployed. And if they have been successful as in the case of the Transport Worker’s Union then that is a good lesson for us to learn as well.

INTERVIEWER: Mark Latham, thanks for coming in, welcome to Adelaide.

LATHAM: Thank you, a pleasure. Sorry I can’t stay for the Test I will try and enjoy a bit on the telly over the weekend. If it lasts that long.

INTERVIEWER: Do they give you a couple of hours off at the weekend do they?

LATHAM: Yes they do, absolutely.

INTERVIEWER: Thanks again

ENDS

[ends]