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ALP National Conference 2004: ALP Leader speaks; Treasurer says speech lacks pledges on budget deficit, taxes and interest rates.

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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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Thursday 29 January 2004

ALP National Conference 2004: ALP Leader speaks; Treasurer says speech lacks pledges on budget deficit, taxes and interest rates


PETER CAVE: Vowin g that Australia is a strong, proud and independent nation that's "nobody's deputy", Labor Leader Mark Latham has made an impassioned plea for the support of mainstream Australia in his opening speech to the Labor Party Conference at Darling Harbour in Sydney. 


And in a blatant appeal to John Howard's battlers, Mark Latham said that he believes that economic aspiration is good and that social mobility even better. 


From the ALP National Convention, our Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath reports the speech was the unofficial launch of Mr Latham's bid for the Lodge, and the mood of optimism from his audience was almost palpable. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: For the first time since Labor lost the last election the party is looking competitive. Mark Latham was introduced to the party conference to the sounds of INXS and the track, 'New Sensation'.  


CARMEN LAWRENCE: Delegates, observers and guests, it's my honour and privilege to introduce our leader, the next Prime Minister of Australia, Mark Latham.  


(Sound of applause) 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: He took the march through the convention centre, shook the hand of New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, and began his speech. His pitch was to the middle ground, to the Howard battlers, and he promised to stand up for Australia. 


MARK LATHAM: I'll tell you one thing: your travel budget doesn't teach you how to stand up for Australia. Your love of this country does. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: On the issue of government schools he went straight on to the front foot, with the help from a friend - his former primary school teacher.  


MARK LATHAM: I know of no more powerful institution in our society than a good government school. And today I feel particularly honoured that one of my school teachers - all those years ago in the 1970s - is here at the conference. He's sitting right there, next to Janine. 


Neville Smith has been teaching in public schools in Liverpool and Campbelltown for 35 years. He's a friend and mentor, for me and hundreds like me in our community. So let me say to you, Neville, thank you. Thanks for caring and thanks for teaching us. Thanks for teaching us about good citizenship and community service. 


And delegates, if Mr Howard wants a debate about values in education, I say come and talk to Neville Smith, and the thousands of teachers like him, right around Australia. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And he played one old and well tried trick - taking on the role of the anti-politician politician. 


MARK LATHAM: When I first got interested in politics 30 years ago, it was regarded as an honoured profession. This was the noble ideal of public life - a life lived in the service of others. 


But let's be frank. The Australian people no longer see it this way. After years of broken promises and broken programs, they no longer trust the political system. They see a system that looks after the powerful, not the people. They see election campaigns with too much spin-doctoring and stage management. They see political entitlements with too many rorts and too much featherbedding.  


So I commit myself here today, I commit myself to this great national purpose: reinventing and revitalising our democracy, opening up greater public participation. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Mark Latham is trying something that hasn't been achieved by Labor since it lost office. He's trying to define the political debate based on his own parameters. Not on boundaries designed by the Government. 


But will it work? 


The Government is now going to set out to fight him all the way, and this afternoon, Treasurer Peter Costello took the first swipe at Mark Latham. 


PETER COSTELLO: Well, when Mr Latham spoke to the ALP Conference what was important was what he didn’t say, rather than what he said. He gave no pledge on the Budget deficit, he gave no pledge on taxes and he gave no pledges on interest rates.  


We now know that Labor's policy means higher interest rates, higher taxes and Budget deficits. There was a hidden text, just as there's a hidden agenda. And Labor's economic agenda is higher taxes, higher interest rates and Budget deficits.  


PETER CAVE: The Federal Treasurer Peter Costello.