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Opposition Leader expected to be out of hospital after suffering from pancreatitis.

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Thursday 19 August 2004

Opposition Leader expected to be out of hospital after suffering from pancreatitis


MARK COLVIN: The Federal Labor leader, Mark Latham is expected t o be out of hospital as early as tomorrow. Mr Latham is suffering from pancreatitis but his doctors can't say what's caused it. His illness comes with the election campaign all-but on already. 


Mr Latham has had to cancel a planned trip to the Northern Territory, while the Prime Minister is out and about in Adelaide, which is home to some of the key seats in this poll. 


Louise Yaxley reports. 


JENNY MACKLIN: I spoke to him this morning and he was very cheerful. He certainly improved out of sight. He's not in pain anymore, and he certainly expects to be home by the weekend and we expect him back at work very soon. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The acting Labor leader, Jenny Macklin says Mark Latham's recovery is on track. Mr Latham's sudden illness comes as both sides of politics are in intense preparation for the election. 


So it's bad timing, but perhaps not as bad as it would have been if it wasn't masked by the Olympic Games overshadowing most news in Australia. 


Mr Latham's office says the latest development is that he's expected to be out of hospital by the weekend, but it depends on the doctor's decisions to determine exactly when he'll be out. They can't say yet how long he'll be out of action while he recovers, and they can't say what has caused the attack. 


The contrast is stark, with John Howard zipping from Gunnedah in north-western New South Wales yesterday to Adelaide today. 


Jenny Macklin has played that down, saying it's Mr Howard's credibility at issue not his health. 


JENNY MACKLIN: And the thing about John Howard - he has no credibility. He refuses to take responsibility for things that he has done himself that were totally opposite to what he promised before the last election.  


He said there would be no $100,000 university degrees. He said we had to go to war in Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction. These things have now found to be untrue.  


I think what's very, very serious is that we have a Prime Minister whose credibility has been shot to pieces. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Prime Minister has wished the Opposition leader well and won't respond to questions about whether he's tempted to take advantage of the illness by calling an election any earlier. 


Mr Howard's age has been an issue since he suggested he'd consider his future, but it is the younger man, 43-year old Mark Latham, who's ill. 


It means the Deputy leader, Jenny Macklin, usually a low-profile figure, is much more in the spotlight. 


As Jenny Macklin says, Labor would have preferred its leader didn't have this attack and it has political disadvantages. But now that the illness has struck, Mark Latham is seen using the health system in the same way one of his constituents would. 


JENNY MACKLIN: I think the important thing is that Mr Latham wanted to be treated just like any other Australian. He was taken to an emergency ward. He waited in the emergency ward, just like everybody else should wait their turn. He's been very, very well treated in our public hospitals, and I think that's a great credit to the staff in those public hospitals. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The leader being rushed to hospital with a potentially serious problem does raise the question - what would the Party do if his recovery does take longer than expected? Does it have a Plan B? If so, Jenny Macklin's not saying. 


JENNY MACKLIN: Well he certainly expects that. He sounded well this morning. He's not in any pain any longer, so I think the good thing is he's feeling much better. 


REPORTER: It takes a long time to recover from pancreatitis though. If the election campaign is underway - and as you say it is a phoney campaign already - are you prepared to be out and about? Will you be … 


JENNY MACKLIN: I'll be out and about. I can tell you, I'll be out and about with Mark Latham, and I'm sure he'll be back on deck very soon.  


MARK COLVIN: Acting Labor leader Jenny Macklin ending Louise Yaxley's report.