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Former ALP Leader intends to contest party leadership; Shadow Minister considers whether he should; backbencher is disappointed with treatment of Simon Crean.

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Friday 28 November 2003

Former ALP Leader intends to contest party leadership; Shadow Minister considers whether he should; backbencher is disappointed with treatment of Si mon Crean


MARK COLVIN: At this stage Tuesday's vote looks to be a close contest between former leader Kim Beazley and the outspoken and at times unpredictable Mark Latham. Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd is still weighing up how much support he would win before making an announcement. 


As Louise Yaxley reports, the lobbying is already intense, but many Caucus members remain bitter and angry at the events of the last 24 hours. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Simon Crean was butchered, said one Caucus member, furious there's a need for a search for a new leader. But the search is on and there are three possible contenders; so far though, only one has actually said he wants the job. 


The former leader, Kim Beazley, who led Labor to two federal election losses and was defeated in the challenge in June, will stand in Tuesday's ballot. 


KIM BEAZLEY: The first thing I want to say is Simon Crean made a very dignified statement today, announcing the end of his leadership and his intention to call the Caucus together for a ballot next Tuesday. 


As a result of his decision to stand down, I'm announcing today my intention to contest the leadership again of the Australian Labor Party. This is a matter for me to discuss from this point on with my Caucus colleagues. It's not a matter I intend to discuss in public. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Kim Beazley won 34 votes in the June Caucus meeting. He will retain the support of most of that group including his closest backers, Wayne Swan, Stephen Smith and Stephen Conroy, the so-called "roosters". He'll be backed again by a group from the left including George Cambell, Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek and Jenny George. 


Those who argue he is the best person to lead the Labor Party say Kim Beazley has the most popular support and the best chance of denting the public support for John Howard. But the camp occupied by those against Kim Beazley is strong. The argument goes that he has had his chance and lost two elections. 


That question was put to him when he emerged briefly from his house this morning to announce his candidacy. 


REPORTER: Mr Beazley, why should the public trust you yet again though, when you failed so many times before? 


KIM BEAZLEY: Well, all of that is for us to talk about when we have an opportunity to do so, after my colleagues have had a chance to deliberate on this after the next Caucus meeting. Thanks very much. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Mr Beazley's detractors also say he is too closely aligned to the Government line on border protection, the US alliance and terrorism, and some argue his views could boost the Greens vote at Labor's expense, especially in the inner-urban areas. 


It's time for generational change, say those against Beazley. And the next generation is represented by Shadow Treasurer Mark Latham and Foreign Affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd.  


Far from being seen as too close to the United States, Mark Latham is viewed by many as offensively anti-American. At this stage, most of those who voted for Simon Crean in the June ballot will transfer their votes to Mark Latham. 


Mr Latham hasn't announced his candidacy formally, instead he has issued a written statement praising Simon Crean. He says he feels sad and disappointed for what has happened to Simon Crean, but he is determined to do what is best for the Party and the Labor movement. It's understood Mark Latham will announce his candidacy formally at the weekend. 


And Kevin Rudd, Labor's Foreign Affairs spokesman, says he will reveal his plans soon too. 


KEVIN RUDD: As for myself, I will be making a decision by the time Parliament resumes on Monday as to whether I'll be a candidate for the leadership of the Parliamentary Labor Party. 


What I want to do over the next couple of days is talk to my colleagues. I've begun that process, but there's nearly a hundred of them and it takes a bit of time. I also want to talk further with my wife and my kids before finalising this decision. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: Mr Rudd is too brash, too much of a smarty, for some of his colleagues. Not likely to win as much public good will as the earthier Mark Latham. Kevin Rudd won't say what he's up to. It seems to depend on his assessment of whether he will win enough numbers to make his run look respectable. But he wouldn't confirm early estimates he already has around 20 backers. 


KEVIN RUDD: I've been talking to some folk and I appreciate the levels of support which are being expressed. There's a long way to go and it's going to take some days. As I've said, there's nearly a hundred people in the Parliamentary Labor Party, so Telstra will do very well out of us this weekend. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: The Beazley supporters answer the generational change argument, with the retort that another recycled leader, John Howard, has won both public support and elections. 


Kim Beazley remains the only person to declare he's running. Mark Latham will, but didn't want to do it on the day Simon Crean made the intensely difficult announcement he was stepping down. Kevin Rudd today had most to say publicly, but hasn't decided if he'll run. 


With two contestants in the field, Mark Latham and Kim Bealzey, the votes are tight. Mark Latham is understood to have more votes now than Mr Beazley won in the June challenge.  


It won't be done on formal factional lines, but those in the left believe a strong majority of that faction will back Mark Latham rather than Kim Beazley. And quite a few in Caucus are confused and unsure of who they will choose on Tuesday. 


There's a lot of anger about the way Simon Crean was treated during his leadership and little sign that today will unite the party. 


The member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons. 


STEVE GIBBONS: It's very disappointing, and especially for Simon Crean. He certainly deserved better than the treatment he's received. I'm not too sure who the next leader will be, but whoever that is they can expect precisely the same level of loyalty and support from me that they showed Simon Crean. 


LOUISE YAXLEY: What are you suggesting by that? 


STEVE GIBBONS: No more comments. 


MARK COLVIN: Ominous words from Steve Gibbons, the member for Bendigo, talking to Louise Yaxley.