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Latham

September 21st, 2005

I’ve been reluctant to post on the Latham book, for a variety of reasons. In particular, I don’t much like politics as blood sport. I found the Brogden business pretty depressing, and similarly with this. The whole affair has certainly brought out the worst in a lot of people, including Latham himself.

Although I’ve seen various selected quotes, I didn’t watch the Denton interview until last night and I still haven’t got around to the book itself. Latham made some good points in the interview and had he chosen, he could have used his current position to make severe but constructive criticisms of the Australian political process and the Labor party. But on the whole he failed to do this, preferring instead to seek revenge on real and imagined enemies. Publishing a book of this kind is always a bad idea, and has obviously damaged Latham himself more than the targets of his indiscriminate attack. It’s also damaged the Labor party, though they are at such a low ebb in any case that it will probably not make much difference beyond the short term. But Beazley, his main target, seems to have emerged almost completely unscathed.

It’s clear enough from the Denton interview that Latham is very bitter about his election defeat and, even more so, the way he lost the leadership. I don’t think this degree of bitterness is justified. Although, like all party leaders, Latham had to contend with enemies within the party, he got more solid support from the Labor Party as a whole than most recent leaders on either side, at least until the election defeat. He certainly hasn’t repaid that loyalty in kind. As for the people who told him he had to go at the end of last year, that was pretty obvious from his non-response to the tsunami disaster, and he concedes that he had in fact decided to quit,

What’s less clear is the weight we should put on a book like this as compared to his public performance as leader, which I thought, and still think, was pretty good. It’s hard to tell whether, for example, Latham was unusually duplicitous as regards the difference between public and private views. The fact that he was unenthusiastic about the nature of the US alliance, for example, was scarcely a secret at the time, and it would take a fairly detailed comparison to make a clear judgement as to whether he was doing more than the usual act of a politician who has to endorse the party’s policy despite private reservations.

Similarly, the book has been clearly edited and publicised for maximum dramatic impact. Whether this was confined to focusing on the juicy bits, or whether the diary was ‘sexed up’ to enhance its subsequent impact, remains to be seen.

Overall, it is, as Denton said several times, a sad business.

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  1. September 21st, 2005 at 18:17 | #1

    I have not read the Latham book, I will not buy it, and I could not bring myself to watch the whole of the Denton interview. As JQ writes, it is a sad business. There is, however, some amusement to be derived from the book’s wash-up, namely in the spectacle of the slug-like Laurie Oakes trying to extract from Barry Jones the admission that Latham would have made as bad a PM as the book suggests (Ch 9, ‘Sunday’), and the suggestion by certain Coalition figures that while Latham would (of course) have been unrelaible, nevertheless his memoirs are reliable enough to be used as ammunition against Labor. There’s nothing like having it both ways.
    One aspect of the Tony Jones Lateline interview intrigued me, though, and it related to the Tasmanian forests/Paul Lennon issue. My recollection of 2004 is already hazy, but it appeared to me that Latham was doing OK in the run-up to the election, until the Tasmanian forests issue came up, upon which he appeared to stumble badly. Can anyone clarify what really happened, and the role of the egregious Paul Lennon?

  2. Glenn Condell
    September 21st, 2005 at 18:18 | #2

    ‘Latham is very bitter … I don’t think this degree of bitterness is justified’

    What he lacks is the capacity to take even a portion of the blame for what happened. It was ten years too early for him, but I’m not sure his is the sort of immaturity and self-absorption that erodes over time. His centre was exposed under pressure and it wasn’t pretty; more importantly it ruled him out of the job he was going for.

    Of course, a certain PM doesn’t say sorry or I was wrong either, but he has whaever demons he possesses under very firm control.

  3. Dave Ricardo
    September 21st, 2005 at 18:50 | #3

    I’ve read the Diary and thought it was a great read, and very funny in places too. The personal vitriol was generally over the top and sometimes cruel (like his continual reference to the harmless Bob McMullan as Comb-over) but deserved in some cases. But that is a side issue, though it could keep a team of defamation lawyers busy for years, IMO. What the Diary revealed about Latham was that not only was he his own adviser on political strategy but that his ideas on policy were largely self-taught, based on some book or pamphlet that he’d read. A bit of half understood economic rationalism here, a bit of quarter understood communitarianism there, add a dash of anecdote and personal experience, and voila!, our alternative Prime Minister’s plans for the country.

    No wonder it all ended up as dog’s breakfast on every level. No wonder he is so disillusioned. He is not just a failed political leader, he is a failed philosopher king as well.

    I don’t know about Beazley emerging unscathed. Leaving aside the allegations about Beazley spreading salacious rumours about him, Latham’s main criticism of Beazley is that he is weak, lazy and a windbag.

    None of this is new, but as criticism goes, it has the inestimable advantage of being true, and everybody reading the diary will be reminded of this fact on page after page.

    Latham’s fundamental criticism of the Labor party, that it has become a play thing of the faction war lords, who exercise power just for the sake of it, with no thought to the Labor Party’s overall interest, is also true. John Button said the same thing three years ago in his quarterly essay.

    Latham unloads on everybody and the usual suspects are busily saying it doesn’t matter, because it’s just the defamatory ravings of an embittered man. Well, it is the defamatory ravings of an embittered man but it’s not just that. There’s plenty of truth in what he writes as well.

    The person I feel sorry for is his wife. He was probably never the easiest person to live with, and I doubt that it is going to get any easier.

  4. September 21st, 2005 at 19:03 | #4

    What’s less clear is the weight we should put on a book like this as compared to his public performance as leader, which I thought, and still think, was pretty good.

    I tend to agree with Pr Q, Latham’s political and policy performance was not all that bad. He favoured equity in social policy, efficiency in economic policy, national interest in security policy and national integrity in cultural policy. These positions are all fair and reasonable forms of social democracy. And he argued the case for them with some degree of verve and originality.

    The ALP lost the election because of Howard’s Unholy Trinity. Mainstream Australia is in the midst of an unprecedented bout of economic prosperity. And Howard has the ALP boxed in on the national security and cultural identity political debates. There is nothing much Latham could have done, policy or personality wise, to outflank Howard on these prime bits of political real estate.

    But when he lost the election the public witnessed the transformation from the Latham politica to the persona and the latter was ugly. This makes me think that, if and when, he was to suffer the inevitable political setback he might be prone to reckless and malicious acts of vandalism, out of personal pique.

    So it looks like Australia was fortunate to dodge the Latham bullet, because we are all surely heading for rockier times. It cant get any better than this.

  5. Matt Canavan
    September 21st, 2005 at 19:12 | #5

    peterd I think you are little bit harsh on the Liberals. As far as I can tell, they haven’t exploited the content of the book (not yet anyway). They’ve taken the line that the guy is obviously a lunatic but he is a lunatic that the Labor party served up to the electorate and they must live with that. Fair cop!

    There are some parts of the book that the Libs could exploit. If you take out the saucy, over-the-top allegations and stick to Latham’s reporting of conversations, caucus meetings, etc (which I can’t see why Latham would fabricate) it confirms the worst fears about the Labor party. They are poll-driven monkeys who wouldn’t know an idea if it slapped them in the face.

    Latham reports that Labor’s opposition to the GST was completely poll-driven and based on no principles at all. When Beazley finshed a typical lengthy harangue against the evils of the GST in caucus, Sid Sidebottom piped up with, “How are we going to fix it Kim?” Apparently Beazley spluttered and avoided the question before saying, “We can’t really go in to details yet.” How could anyone vote for these lackeys?

  6. Ros
    September 21st, 2005 at 20:02 | #6

    His so called truths are issues that the Labour Party has identified for itself as weaknesses and hardly make them orphans.

    His attitude towards women makes my skin crawl eg “quality box”

    Dave’s comment about Janine, imagine what her life is like. Living with a control freak who turns on his nearest and dearest with the same venom as he turns on his opponents if they dare cross him.

    I don’t believe they are “The Diaries” as he says when dealing with questions. I think he has been busy writing them since he signed his contract. Take the handshake explanation for example.

    Rod Cameron said last night he needed treatment, absolutely

  7. a friend
    September 21st, 2005 at 20:07 | #7

    Latham dumped on Lennon over the Richard Butler payout. Lennon thought this poor form and, later, responded in kind.

    Latham didn’t ‘stumble’ after the Tassie Forests, he just lost the vote two days later. Tassie Forest had an effect on just one seat: Braddon.

  8. Joseph Clark
    September 21st, 2005 at 20:15 | #8

    Matt,

    It’s become a bit of a standard Labour voter response to call the
    diaries `sad’ and to attack Latham personally rather than responding
    to what he says about the Labour party. It’s a pity because what he
    does say could have prompted some genuine changes within the party.

  9. September 21st, 2005 at 20:39 | #9

    Matt, what makes you think the Liberals are any less contemptible in their internal machinations?

  10. Matt Canavan
    September 21st, 2005 at 21:04 | #10

    I don’t think they are, Robert, I just think they take policy development more seriously. Guys like Abbott, Nelson and Costello don’t just follow the latest polls; they passionately care about certain issues. I don’t see their equals (maybe with the exception of the ostracised Gillard) on the other side.

    Perhaps its a function of being in opposition, but Labor often seem to oppose most things the Government puts up, simply because the polls tell them to (contrast this with the Liberals’ support of unpopular Hawke-Keating reforms while in opposition). Latham might have got it wrong but I’m not going to vote for someone who carps on about the GST being the “worst tax in history” but then runs on a platform that largely leaves it intact.

    I know that some in Labor have recently been saying that they need to determine policies on long-term national interests rather than short term political factors. However, their reactive stance against Telstra and IR reform (again without plausible alternative policies) belies these public comments.

  11. Peter Evans
    September 21st, 2005 at 21:34 | #11

    Matt, I think your being hopelessly naive (and I say that with no malice – I think you’re naive with the best will in the world). The Libs have all the same problems that the ALP has – careerism, a narrow selection base, no policy ideas beyond playing on peoples envy and fears, an authoritarian factional system (though it revolves around party “prefects” rather than a more formal union derived factional system). Howard is fully aware that when he finally goes all hell will break loose, since after ten years of strong-arming the Party he’s gutted it of any ability to decide things amicably (all decisions go through him). It’s keeping him in the job, the certainty that the blood-letting will shadow his reputation as a political maestro. Costello hates his guts and has for years. Just you wait…

    Also, on Latham’s book, I’d urge people to withhold joining the pack (Prof Q, it’s a rare thing to see you running with the dogs) until you read the book. And as Dave Ricardo said, it’s a hell of a good read. There’s been a sustained mob attack in the press precisely because the book’s simple, blistering honesty utterly destroys the cosy little illusions so many people in politics and the media would have the rest of us believe. I grew up inside politics and I didn’t read a single thing that remotely surprised me, and all this posturing in the press is just so much cant. Get over it. Occasionally, someone will blow the whistle.

  12. jquiggin
    September 21st, 2005 at 21:51 | #12

    Peter, as I said, I’m basing my reaction so far on the Denton interview. I think that’s enough to form a broad judgement about Latham’s stance though not, as I said, about a lot of the questions on which people have already jumped to conclusions.

  13. Nabakov
    September 21st, 2005 at 21:58 | #13

    “Matt, what makes you think the Liberals are any less contemptible in their internal machinations?”

    “I don’t think they are, Robert, ”

    Brogden?

  14. Katz
    September 21st, 2005 at 23:50 | #14

    Latham was the ultimate Labor insider. He was prepared to play “politics as usual” for as long as it seemed to him that this role contributed to the script that ended with Latham living happily ever after in the Lodge.

    When the voters of Australia failed to play their role and rejected Latham in unprecedented numbers, Latham suddenly lost interest in “politics as usual”.

    Everyone remembers from their childhood the no-talent fat kid who owned the cricket bat who threatened to take it home if he wasn’t allowed to win.

    Latham is that no-talent fat kid who never really grew up.

  15. Harry Clarke
    September 21st, 2005 at 23:52 | #15

    I find John Howard’s critique of Latham intriguing. It is a response to a general broadside on politicians and politics that sets out to trap many people. The main people Latham has caught so far are the naive idealists who forget that politicians are fallible people who stuff up as badly as everyone. Of course Howard is basically correct — Latham was unsuited for high office and the ALP deserves a decade in opposition for even suggesting this ratbag as a potential PM. But the fallibility one can expect from individuals also applies more broadly to the Social Romantic party of sewer rats and ugly feminists. Dumb but the Liberals and Nationals though dumb (as doorknobs) too are just so much smarter. The Liberals/Nationals with their gauche youngster brigade (and dumpsters like Costello) still produce more civil politicians with far more brains than do the swineherders. This is not a strong claim.

    The hero of this nasty situation? None other than the Australian public who rejected Latham (with emphasis) for his puerile insistence on withdrawing troops at a critical stage of the Iraq conflict, for his opposition to Australia’s main ally and for his dislike of the business enterprises that keep us well-clothed. Hurray for my Melbourne neighbours!…… the purple rinse set and the male be-thonged ‘guddayers’ saw us well past a potentially disasterous appointment with rare skill. On ya and whose shout?

  16. September 22nd, 2005 at 00:50 | #16

    I did not intent to watch Andrew Denton or Lateline about Mark Latham but still ended up doing so. I did not intend to buy his Dairy but now am told to be given one as a present.

    In my view, Mark Latham comes across as someone with a split personality. To be one moment one person and then in seclusion be another.
    Or, he simply manipulated his dairy entrees to make out something that didn’t really exist as such. After all, he was to be prodded as to remember a certain nickname. Why? Surely, writing a diary over the years would have resulted that he would know his nicknames he gave to others?

    The man appears to be over the top.

    With him now attacking his former wife, it may underline that he is trying to be some kind of Weapon of Mass Destruction, that if he is going down then so everyone else, no matter the consequences.

    The man in tears to argue to leave his family alone, turns out to be the one involving his family throughout.

    I for one do not belief anything he claims about his ex wife, for the simple reason that it is over the hill and to me appears to be to juicy his book rather then to be a genuine account of true facts.
    If his former wife really had been having certain conduct, then would he for the sake of his children with his former wife not have kept this from the public view? What seems to be overlooked is that he is directly embarrassing his children with his former wife severely.
    He cannot blame the media for this rot, as he himself makes the allegations. And, considering his overall bombastic conduct, as I view it, and the years of dealing with people, it seems to me that Mark Latham has deliberately attached the ex wife for no other reason but to seek to blame his former wife for the marriage break up, rather then to acknowledge that he may in fact have been fooling around behind her back.
    Time and again when I was dealing with people in matrimonial problems they would raise all kinds of excuses, as if they were facts, as to lay blame upon the other party. And very often they would later admit that they made it all up.
    The conduct of Mark Latham appears to me to be one where he has gone overboard, so to say, in attacking people and so their credibility that it is his credibility that rather ought to be questioned.
    Why at all did he have to attack the former wife at all, where after all he had two children with her?
    Is this not rather showing that Mark Latham wasn’t interested what is just and proper and what is really appropriate?
    Then, apply the same to the rest of his book and we may consider it as some fabrication in general that may have some facts in them but whatever might be true is drowned out by the over the top fantasies.

    As for his sudden change about the superannuation to be cut down, the truth of that may lie more in my Senate Committee submission of December 2003 it being unconstitutional for members of the Federal Parliament to have this kind of superannuation, then anything else!

    If I do get the dairy given to me I will check out if he did set out why he made the announcement in regard of the superannuation as he did. And John Howard soon after agreed with, both not having bothered to consult their fellow party members about it.

    Surely, such important financial decision ought to have been questioned as to why it was made as such, if not for my December 2003 submission?

    Seems to me Mark Latham may just as well seek to re-write history as to pretend that it was all, well most of it, different then what really occurred.

  17. GDP
    September 22nd, 2005 at 07:04 | #17

    Like PrQ, I too thought Latham did a pretty good job throughout most of the election campaign. The turning point for me was not “troops home for xmas” or “medicare gold”, but the interview in which he proudly described himself as a “hater” and that he would teach his own children to be haters too.

    He was talking about hatred for the Liberals, hatred for people who attended well-to-do private schools, hatred for the business community. Generally hatred for anything and anyone without his background.

    Up until then he almost looked like an alternative PM (although without an alternative governing party to go with it).

  18. Paul Norton
    September 22nd, 2005 at 08:14 | #18

    Since the Tassie forests issue has been raised, I think it needs repeating that the real problem was not the content but the combination of the timing of its announcement (on which I’ve commented at Larvatus Prodeo) and the fifth column activity of Pol Lenin and the forestry union in promoting an image of Labor disunity and worker discontent two days out from the election, and aiding and abetting Howard’s media stunt in Launceston.

    If a policy along the lines of what Labor proposed had been announced two months out rather than two days out, it would have: (a) allowed time for the conservation significance of the decision to be made known to the wider public; (b) allowed time to expose Howard’s pea-and-thimble trick of promising to “save” an awful lot of forest which was never going to be logged anyway; (c) ensured that coverage of the policy was done by specialist environmental reporters who understand the issue, rather than political reporters who don’t; (d) minimised the visual and symbolic impact of crowds of irate forestry dependents. However, whilst there would have been some gain for Labor in taking such a course, I have concluded that it would not have been sufficient to change the election result. In the circumstances of October 2004, it was not there to be won by Labor, basically for the reasons given by Jack Strocchi.

  19. Paul Norton
    September 22nd, 2005 at 08:27 | #19

    As to Latham’s bucketting of the ALP and his colleagues, I have three comments:

    1. Latham’s illness and the associated psychological blows of losing his vocation in public life, his physical vigour and his self-image as a vigorous, youthful man must have had some effect on his state of mind. For this reason I am reluctant to condemn him personally.

    2. Having said that, whilst much of what he claims about the internal culture of the ALP sounds plausible, his account seems to be far too subjective and personal, and insufficiently analytical to do justice to a very serious issue for Australian political culture.

    3. I am unable even to consider the possibility that some of his claims about the character and behaviour of some individuals (particularly Beazley and Lindsay Tanner) might contain even the shadow of truth.

  20. Matt Canavan
    September 22nd, 2005 at 09:07 | #20

    GDP, Latham’s comments about being a hater were made to Maxine McKew in mid-2002:

    http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au/bulletin/EdDesk.nsf/All/E5D0425446FA0C07CA256BDE0016BE7C

    Long before he was elected as Labor leader.

  21. September 22nd, 2005 at 09:23 | #21

    Thank you, Paul.
    Sometimes, we really have to contemplate taking action which might make some people feel uncomfortable, but is necessary for the long term… and I mean the long, long term.
    Trouble is most political “insiders” share the politicians myopia: the inability to look beyond the next one or two political terms, so the media gives the impression it would have been appropriate to allow our forests to be lost forever in order to placate the voters in one seat in Tasmania and gain a short term victory.
    The woodchipping industry has been featherbedded for decades. Few people are now directly employed on the forestry side of it; it’s a capital, not labour, intensive industry, and as for the wretched subcontracting truck drivers, don’t tell me that’s an appropriate jobfor people to continue to encourage the next generation into.
    The money promised in the Labor forestry policy would have paid out the few clearfell timber workers out several times over.

  22. GDP
    September 22nd, 2005 at 09:27 | #22

    I suspect Latham made the hater remarks on more than one occasion. The interview I remember was televised, and I don’t think it was with Maxine McKew (but I don’t remember the details).

    What struck me most was not only that he declared himself to be a hater, but that he intended to raise his kids as haters too. That set off the alarm bells for me. But maybe that’s nothing unusual within the Labor party?

  23. September 22nd, 2005 at 11:03 | #23

    I was an enthusiast for Latham – not because I agreed with him on all things but at least he had ideas, had energy (more than any of Labor’s front bench displayed) and he won my heart by leading off with literacy and Mem Fox. I watched Denton’s interview and my attitude was 50/50 – fair enough. But he lost me on the last question about giving to the tsunami appeal. Not a smart answer, telling Denton to butt out of family financial affairs. He could have said “Janine handled that”. The answer made it look like he could not even spare a bob for tsunami victims. Not a generous spirit in the answer and nor, it seems likely, in the deed.

  24. Homer Paxton
    September 22nd, 2005 at 11:38 | #24

    Harry.
    What facts do you have to back up your line?

    I find it amusing that people criticise Latham for being a hater yet there is no greater hater in politics than Howard.

    the Brogden episode shows the liberal perty in NSW which is also in opposition ( strong corelation that) shows the same characteristics as the Federal ALP indeed the Fed Libs did just the same when they were in opposition.

    People often forget Latham was not a parliamentary bovver boy until Crean recalled him back to the frontbench.
    He ‘volunteered to do he business on tony abbott who is still doing it but is appaerently ignored.

  25. September 22nd, 2005 at 12:10 | #25

    I think I saw the best commentary on this in the SMH Heckler column today.

  26. September 22nd, 2005 at 12:57 | #26

    Paul,

    Although Labor always pitched itself as a workers party, the fact is that the Forest Policy was not necessarily on the best interest of forest workers. Forest workers have seen the impact of similar changes in other states, where the transition has been far from smooth. In addition, the conservation side of the policy was weak, going for quantity rather than quality of conservation areas. Furthermore, the costs associated with the policy ($800 m) were extremely considering the expected results.

    I knew several people that were thinking of voting for Mark Latham until he unveiled Labor’s forest policy for Tasmania. They quickly went to vote for the Liberals.

  27. GDP
    September 22nd, 2005 at 12:58 | #27

    Andrew: I am not sure if that piece is intended to excuse Lathm, but if so, I don’t buy it.

    It is one thing to mentally vent spleen at day-to-day irritations. It is quite another thing to commit it all to a diary. And yet another to publish that diary. And still yet another thing to do all that as one who would be PM.

    Homer: “I find it amusing that people criticise Latham for being a hater yet there is no greater hater in politics than Howard.”

    How so? No one more dogged maybe, and few with his political antennae – but he never struck me as a hater

  28. September 22nd, 2005 at 13:31 | #28

    the conservation side of the policy was weak, going for quantity rather than quality of conservation areas.

    As opposed to the Howard plan?

    SMH, May 20,2005:

    Last Friday [Howard] drove off from the Styx before journalists were finally given details of the package that had been negotiated with the Tasmanian Government since the election. A total of 120,000 hectares of old growth was protected, and only 58,000 hectares of that was in formal reserves. The rest was in “informal reserves”, much of it in streamsides, steep slopes and skylines that could never be cut under forest management rules. Titled the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement, it had grown to become a $250 million industry restructuring package that included controversial plans to permit the use of wood waste as “biofuel”. …….. But these “old-growth” reserves include scrubby, dry coastal forests and melaleuca swamps, as well as myrtle rainforest. Many of these trees remain outside national park- or world heritage-level protection, and the battle over the iconic trees of Tasmania – the tall old-growth eucalypts – continues. ………

    If you thought Howard’s plan was about conservation values, he’s weaselled you!

  29. Paul Norton
    September 22nd, 2005 at 14:57 | #29

    Howard’s plan is also failing to provide what it promised in employment terms, i.e. that all the forestry workers would be able to carry on as usual in their existing jobs without needing to be retrained and re-employed. Nine months after the election, over 25% of Tasmanian forest industry workers jobs were put at risk by the inevitable decision of Japanese Paper interests to stop purchasing wood for paper pulp from high conservation value native forests, and Tasmanian forestry workers are now being issued with redundancy notices.

    As far as the impact of forest conservation decisions in other states is concerned, it is noticeable that the average anti-Labor swing in the five mainland forestry seats nominated by NAFI and the CFMEU was less than the national average, the relevant state averages and the average for rural and regional electorates. One (Richmond) which has seen some very firece battles culminating in forest preservation decisions and the associated economic canges, actually swung to Labor. Also, Forrest in WA was the epicentre of the great WA forestry disputes a few years back culminating in the Gallop Government’s decision to preserve the native forests from logging – the anti-Labor swing in the seat was less than the state average, and was less in Manjimup than in the seat overall.

  30. Curious
    September 22nd, 2005 at 15:02 | #30

    Mark Latham has suffered a few traumas in his life – death of his father at a youngish age, intelligent child of a poor family, testicular cancer, marriage break-up, pancreatitis, recent loss of his appointed destiny. Maybe one trauma too many. And all very public. He may now be attempting to work it out – albeit clumsily and in public.

    The book does give an insight into the inner workings of the Labor Party, and probably by extension all poitical parties. It is not seen by most of us unless we work within the system or join a party and participate.

    There is no question that Mark Latham participated in that system and has been its beneficiary and now victim.

    But is the system good for Australia and its future? Or should it be changed?

  31. Razor
    September 22nd, 2005 at 15:03 | #31

    Paul Norton – the Liberal Opposition in WA hardly encouraged a swing so extrapolation is fraught with danger.

    (Bangs forehead on key board.)

  32. September 22nd, 2005 at 17:01 | #32

    Helen,

    Big part of Labor’s proposal “suffered of the same problem”: most of the areas would never be cut. That is somewhat the irony of the political approach to conservation: big parts of the Tasmanian forest estate are already protected (over 40%), another big part that is not protected will not be cut anyway. A typical example is the Tarkine, which before the federal election had over 63% of its area already protected.

    In addition, ‘old growth’ is meant to be, you know, old not tall. Conservation decisions are not meant to be directed to ‘iconic’ trees but to ecosystems that are actually ecologically important. Some of those ‘scrubby, dry coastal forests’ are biologically much more significant that E. regnans tall trees.

    I think that nobody thought that Howard was about conservation values. On the same line, nobody in Tasmania thought that Latham was about that either, but that he was playing with Tasmanians’ jobs to please voters in urban districts.

    Paul,

    The number of jobs affected is smaller, but I have mentioned this problem elsewhere.

  33. September 22nd, 2005 at 19:21 | #33

    Can we just hope that Mark will become a blogger?

    Day to day tedium, as a home dad.
    Alright, a few more dollars ,in the kick, than most of us.
    But, would love to see that diary.

  34. September 22nd, 2005 at 20:01 | #34

    Mark Lathams first blog would go something like ……..
    “We have taken snakes and ladders and burnt them in the backyard ,small one, off to bed”

    Personally, i reckon he would have made a great P.M.!
    Harder still, a good home dad.

  35. Mike Pepperday
    September 22nd, 2005 at 20:16 | #35

    Everyone’s missing a vital point. What we are seeing is a fairly normal expression of Latham’s fatalistic working-class origins.

    The middle class press and pollies are soooo offended. Oh dear! “If he’d toned down the invective, his very real criticisms of the party would be taken more seriously.â€? The pompous pr****. (I’m middle-class and this is a middle-class blog.) They are oblivious to the fact that the most offended person is Mark Latham. His working class respectability is outraged by the two-faced behaviour of the pollies and the pretentious good manners of the middle class.

    In his native environment people are not all that verbal. The world works on a mix of coercion and fate where actions speak louder than words and there is a tendency to resolve disputes physically. The working class doesn’t take much notice of spoken words; they are inclined to tell it as they see it (youse cn all go an get nicked) and little weight is put on what people say because people are not considered very trustworthy. The poncy middle class with its fancy vocabulary doesn’t understand that. This milieu can’t hardly reed or rite (and are in awe of the written word) so we don’t get to hear much of it. However Latham is extremely literate and is applying the written word as he applies the spoken one.

    Latham is right to be offended: we, the whole of the citizenry, should all be as offended by the way the machine politicians operate the system. This is substantive grounds for offence. The precious politically correct middle class media have no idea: this isn’t a case of someone not saying something with the right sort of words. This is a case of the people charged with the responsibility of running the country ruthlessly rorting the system, of these “machine menâ€? spending public money and abusing public trust to undermine democratic arrangements.

    (The machine men will have learned their lesson. They won’t be letting any more delinquents rise from Green Valley. Let them be plumbers!)

    The whole of the middle-class media are in ad hominem mode, playing the man and not the ball. Ad hominem is the great middle-class disease and the pervasive academic pox too. Sure, the diaries are a case of the pot calling the kettle black but so what? The question is whether the kettle is black; the pot doesn’t matter – he’s not even a politician. Why are all these powerful people attacking a private citizen? Calling him mad or sad is lazy, a way of avoiding having to consider the content of his argument.

    I hope the media will get over it and look what the man has to say. He knows better than anyone.

  36. observa
    September 22nd, 2005 at 20:23 | #36

    Lithium was the quintessential leftist and fortunately a democracy realised it just in the nick of time. It was the hand pumping that gave it all away. Other nations’ citizens have not been so fortunate.

  37. derrida derider
    September 22nd, 2005 at 20:36 | #37

    Homer: “… there is no greater hater in politics than Howard.â€?

    GDP: “How so? … he never struck me as a hater”

    Howard is in fact a fine hater, who uses his exceptionally good memory to store up past slights. Notoriously, anybody who has crossed him can never expect to get a government appointment unless there is a clear political advantage to Howard in it.

    And that last clause is the key – unlike Latham, he is extremely well disciplined and keeps his eye on the ball. He’s a far better PM, but not any more admirable as a person.

    On Latham, IIRC I described him on this blog as a nutter while he was still a backbencher, based on personal acquaintance.

  38. Steve Edwards
    September 22nd, 2005 at 20:38 | #38

    How did Wilson Tuckey get in the Ministry then?

  39. SJ
    September 22nd, 2005 at 21:55 | #39

    Latham could have won the election (IMHO) if he hadn’t been forced to drag Beazer the Appeaser in on foreign affairs. That act wiped out a major point of difference between the parties.

    With both parties effectively saying “Bush is our buddy, bullshit is fine, there are no consequences”, there was no alternative government being offered at all.

    I wish Mark a long and happy life. Can’t say the same about the Beazer.

  40. Kevin Brewer
    September 22nd, 2005 at 23:37 | #40

    I haven’t read the book yet. I will. I saw his interview on Denton and, apart from a bit of heckling, found him to be in good humour. I don’t think he is depressed, I don’t think he is a hater. I think he suffers the same as a lot of people when their side loses on Saturday, or when their team loses an election. he should never have been leader of the ALP, but his could have been the hand that rocked the cradle. He has written a number of books about Oz politics (an ideas man is bad karma fro the Oz media-see what they did to B Jones), and should have been used in policy developement. Crean was a dead space in the leadership. I believe Bomber has it in him to be a good PM, and has shown he has it, after all he lost 2 elections. As for Howard, he is the epitome of the late Donald Horne’s remark about this being the lucky country “run by second-rate people who share its luck.” But for the Tampa, 350 dead boat people, and 3500 votes in NSW in ’98 we would not be having this conversation and the ALP would have been in govt gor 7 years. As for Latham’s policy on Iraq, why are we in a war with the US when the main reason was George Bush wanted to show his father how to do it (his comments to his biographer since sacked), secondly, why are we up the arse of a man who can’t do his shirt up properly before appearing on national tv – see recent pix in newspapers of GWB in Jackson Square New Orleans.

  41. Mark U
    September 22nd, 2005 at 23:48 | #41

    There is already a satirical Mark Latham blog! See http://marklatham.blogspot.com/

    It was pretty infrequent but included the perspicacious comment: “If I lose this election I’m going to get really cranky and hit someone.”

  42. GDP
    September 23rd, 2005 at 10:20 | #42

    derrida derider: I wouldn’t class refusing to appoint your political enemies to government positions as “hatred”. It is simply smart politics.

    On his own confession, Latham’s brand of hatred applies to large chunks of the community, including apparently anyone on the other side of politics (whether they have crossed him or not), anyone who went to a better-off private school, and anyone in the business community. And now of course, anyone from his old party (Julia Gillard excepted).

  43. David Havyatt
    September 26th, 2005 at 10:58 | #43

    Folks – don’t pass comment on the Latham diaries till you read them. I’ve only got to the start of 2002 so far and the diary reveals a man who is desperately trying to change the world, with a set of mostly well-designed and economically reasonable concepts who thought the way to affect change was a career in politics and became increasingly frustrated that no one else on his side seemed to care about anything other than power and dividing the spoils of power.

  44. Glenn Condell
    September 26th, 2005 at 14:15 | #44

    ‘Folks – don’t pass comment on the Latham diaries till you read them’

    Thanks David. A thoughtful review by Michael Duffy in Saturday’s Herald made me think the same thing. Might be some fire behind all the smoke.

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