December 03, 2003


This comment at Tim Dunlopís site nails it:

What surprises me is how a few personalised insults directed at George W gets many on the Left to support a man who on domestic policy is well to the right of Howard.

Exactly. Laborís new leader is a free-market ideologue who backs current anti-refugee policies and wants tax cuts for the rich. All of this is just great, from my point of view, so it is astonishing to witness lefties cheering for Mark Latham -- whose anti-Bush remarks may well have been tailored to sucker Australiaís elite ignoranti. Hereís The Ageís Michael Gordon:

Not since Paul Keating became leader in 1991 has the Labor Party had such an injection of excitement.

Or such a profoundly right-wing leader. Iím happy, and Alan Ramsey is ecstatic:

Latham scares the bejesus out of the Coalition. He really does. He is not another Labor leadership patsy and the Government knows it. Whatever you've heard and whatever self-serving hysteria the Government goes on beating up, Latham is the real thing.

He sure is, especially when it comes to zero-tolerance of illegal migration with tougher penalties for people smugglers. Yay! Yet, strangely, Ramsey never supported John Howardís zero-tolerance illegal immigration policies. Guess Howard wasnít the ďreal thingĒ. Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, Craig McGregor canít contain himself:

Nearly everyone who meets Latham is immediately impressed by him. He has gravitas. He knows what he thinks and says it. And as everyone recognises now, he has passion.

Much the same could be said of Howard. And, on many issues, Howard would say exactly the same as Latham. Theyíre both right-wing, oppose illegal immigration, and champion free market economics; the likes of me canít lose, no matter who claims the next election. Even ABC types are cheering Latham on, although they would scream like dying rabbits if Latham were a Liberal candidate.

Only Phillip Adams seems to want a lefty Labor leader:

Latham's economic rationalism and ridicule of the Left's "rights agenda" would preserve the domestic status quo. Forget the refugees. Forget reconciliation ... Instead we'd have more of Howard's picket fence, razor wire politics.

Bring it on, I say! Iím just amazed that so many on the Left agree with me.

UPDATE. Adding to the right-wing image, Lathamís wife is a former Liberal staffer. And -- this practically secures my vote -- Latham is a Collingwood supporter.

UPDATE II. Tim Dunlop defends Taxi Marky.

UPDATE III. Itís not just lefties aboard the Latham love train. Jason Soon has hitched a ride after undergoing an awesome transformation. Check these quotes, from February and this week:

I saw Mark Latham as PM material once but not anymore ... Latham is famous for his admiration of and fascination for Richard Nixon. I can understand it now - the both of them seem to be driven by the same self-destructive urges and most frightening of all, the same strong sense of vengeance and borne grudges.

I'm quite excited by the prospect of an ALP led by Mark Latham. So excited that for the purpose of proper disclosure, I should note that I am seriously considering re-joining the ALP (which I was a member of from ages 18 to 21) if Latham wins the leadership challenge.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 3, 2003 02:16 AM

I prefer a different type of Latham blower.

Posted by: iowahawk at December 3, 2003 at 03:08 AM

Oops, bad link.

Another Latham that really blows

Posted by: iowahawk at December 3, 2003 at 03:10 AM

The interesting thing is that Latham divides the gushing ALP tribalists - Ramsey, Gordon, and Craig McGregor from the leftist ideologues - Adams. The former are driven by nothing more than tribal hatred for the Liberals, the latter by ideological zeal.

It will be very interesting to see how Carmen Lawrence (who seems to fit in the latter category) gets on with Mark and his views on asylum seekers.

A diverting 9 months indeed.

Posted by: Matthew at December 3, 2003 at 03:29 AM

Lefties are dumb, pure and simple. A few schoolyard insults directed at Bush are all that's needed for them to throw away every ideological objection they have to Latham? Jesus, are they really that fucking dumb? My god, they are.

If Latham, right wing, pro commerce, low-taxing Latham becomes PM do these greenie dipshits really believe he won't make nice with Australia's #1 trading, military and cultural ally America?

Truely we are blessed to have such morons for enemies.

Posted by: Amos at December 3, 2003 at 05:00 AM

Phillip Adams: "Latham's economic rationalism..."

Well, at least he admits that much.

Posted by: Ken Summers at December 3, 2003 at 05:33 AM

hey this is a little off topic, but has everyone seen this? It made my day.

Halfway down there is a wolf or something talking to a cat (or something)

Wolf: "Vote for Dennis."

Cat: "I will."

(slightly awkward pause)

Wolf: "Can I sniff your ass?"

Grandfather Twilight's disturbingly Orwellian child-control propaganda is just priceless. He's got the rodent and feral dog vote sewn up for sure. But wait! Maybe this is supposed to be satire or something?

BHB: Three cheers to that! What about people who worry that Dennis is too short?

Jesus, I can't tell any more. Am I going nuts or are they? Because something is fucked up here.

Posted by: amos at December 3, 2003 at 05:51 AM

So why bother having the Tory light labor party when you can have the real thing?

Latham is even more lightweight than Downer was. Of course, the media pundits will try to build up this straw man into someone with a brian, but it isn't really going to do much good in middle Oz, where Labor is known as the party of the special interest group.

Posted by: Toryhere at December 3, 2003 at 06:51 AM

Don't forget his Big Idea before the last Federal election: Bringing back corporal punishment in schools.

Latham is, as they say, an Ideas man. They spill from his lips like the gentle rain, often three or four different Ideas before breakfast, and sometimes on the same subject.

Can we set up a "ladder of opportunity" counter? His AM interview this morning included (to my count) about seven mentions.

Posted by: Paul Wright at December 3, 2003 at 07:31 AM

>Writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, Craig McGregor canít contain himself:

>Nearly everyone who meets Latham is immediately impressed by him. He has gravitas.

Well coming from a foreigner who has never really seen the Right Honorable Mr. Latham on television or certainly in person, I can only surmise from the following picture that gravitas or no, he certainly does have _gravity_

Posted by: Frank Burdett at December 3, 2003 at 07:50 AM

Latham employs a mish-mash of kooky economic ideas picked up on the internet - GST exclusion zones to boost regional development, for example. (Great, so one side of a street pays GST and the other side doesn't. I'm sure that'll work in practice).

America had Reaganomics. New Zealand had Rogernomics.

Australian Labor now has Googlenomics.

Posted by: Harper at December 3, 2003 at 08:05 AM

No wonder guys like Costello and Abbott went after him. They realise that if this guy was in the liberal party he would be the darling of little Johnny and the next in line for the succession. So in a way by attacking him they are trying to prove to John who is the more worthy - I am sure Shakespeare wrote a play about this.

Posted by: Rob at December 3, 2003 at 08:08 AM

Harper, you putz. Reaganomics saved the U.S. If the Gipper hadn't gone into the orchard with his pruning hook and cut taxes, the boom that happened under Clinton -- and for which the Sinkmaster took the credit -- would never have eventualised.


Well, since the Democrats controlled the Hill and kept expanding social programmes and pork-barreling defence projects, it blew right out.

But guess what: the long-term growth, investment and innovation the Gipper initiated, not to mention the relief he economic stimulation (remember the "peace dividend") generated by giving the Evil Empire that final shove and freeing Eastern Europe, more than made up for it.

Reagan was a genius -- and all the smarter for encouraging the genuine dimwits to believe he was the dolt, not them. Sorta reminds you of another president who just ate turkey in Baghdad, don't it? Reagan's face belongs on Mount Rushmore and his legacy in the hearts of all who, like him, realise that "government is the problem, not the solution." Particularly governments' eagerness to impose taxes.

Posted by: Gipper Guy at December 3, 2003 at 08:19 AM

I've met Latham a few times. He seems like a nice bloke.

My wife has spent some time with him and says he reminds her of me...and I'm a RWDB so that augurs well.

Posted by: Anon at December 3, 2003 at 08:29 AM

Gipper Guy, take a deep breath. You'll get no argument from me that Reagan was an outstanding President.

Mark Latham, on the other hand, talks right-wing economics but has actual policies that come straight out of some Third Way search engine.

Can't Australian Labor just import Roger Douglas from NZ? Now there was a Labor man who knew how to cut taxes, deregulate and privatise...(can't go on...misty eyes...lump in throat...hard to type)

Posted by: harper at December 3, 2003 at 08:31 AM

Harper, apologies. The Gipper is a great favourite of mine, as you may have gathered. As for Latham, ultimately it doesn't matter what he believes or says, not with the ALP as precious and schizoid as it is today -- and likely to remain, God willing.

Posted by: gipper guy at December 3, 2003 at 09:41 AM

If this is how the ALP would like to use their next spell in government, who am I to complain? This bloke amidst the Chardonnay sippers will be like John Elliot at a lesbians' conference.

Politics is all about seven fat years and seven lean years, and our fat years are almost up. But the lean years are starting to look a whole lot more fun.

Posted by: Alan Anderson at December 3, 2003 at 09:42 AM

" zero-tolerance of illegal migration with tougher penalties for people smugglers."

If you didn't click on to the link above from Tim's original post then I suggest you might care to do so.
It really is most illuminating and if nothing else should presage some interesting interactions between "Carmen of Amnesia" and Latham. Always assuming Latham keeps true to his himself.
BTW Tim would love to know how you knew to do a "google" on this letter from Latham. Indeed it appears that the above link does not work except from your blog above - very mysterious.
But this letter is now in my archival treasures on the luvvies - Thanks ever so!

Posted by: Lawrie at December 3, 2003 at 09:56 AM

As a lefty who reluctantly endorsed Latham, I have the following observations

(1) The alternative was Beazley

(2) Latham is not as reliably right-wing as you suggest. For example, he was the only member of Caucus to oppose the cut in the capital gains tax right

(3) Latham is at least interested in new ideas. Given that the 1980s ideas of Howard, Beazley et al clearly favor the right, anything that breaks this mould is going to be good for the left in the long run.

Posted by: John Quiggin at December 3, 2003 at 10:15 AM

Ms Facial-Wart of Fremantle didn't last twelve hours without having a chop at Latham over reffos.
Meanwhile, Latham on "AM" this morning seemed to have had an utter reversal on tertiary education policy- in order to get the numbers, I would say he has had to bend over to the Left in NSW and Vic, and will now meekly follow their agenda.
Latham's about as right wing as Kruschev.

Posted by: Habib at December 3, 2003 at 10:34 AM

Nice selective quotation, Tim. Chris Sheil uses the same Craig McGregor piece to make precisely the opposite point -- and captures the real tone of the article: reluctant acceptance with the faintest glimmer of optimism.

Posted by: Robert at December 3, 2003 at 11:53 AM

Tim Blair writes:

on many issues, Howard would say exactly the same as Latham

But not all issues. This implies that there are issues on which they would disagree. Important issues, perhaps?

I'm not 100% enthusiastic about Latham, but the stuff he says that really impresses me has nothing to do with refugees and the like. It's his expressed desire to help the underprivileged improve their lot, and his view that rewards should be come from hard work, presumably regardless of wealth or social status. (After all, comrade, what is more important than work and productivity? Perhaps five year plans and tractor factories, but I'll let that slide for the moment.) I don't get that message from Howard, who seems to care more about the aspirational middle class, which is possibly why many lefties are enthusiastic about Latham.

("Relaxed and comfortable"? Bah. If Howard's idea of relaxed and comfortable is reflected by his "walking" outfits, give me "tense and edgy" any day.)

Posted by: Joe at December 3, 2003 at 12:08 PM

Alan Ramsey is pro-mandatory-detention. He wrote "Will the real Mr Bakhtiari please stand up" and How Sydney carries the refugee baby.

He is the only Howard-hater that supports mandatory detention. I fear Ramsey supports it for the worst reasons possible.

Posted by: Andjam at December 3, 2003 at 12:12 PM

AM's Catherine McGrath accused Latham of being a faux Liberal leader, a Thatcherite and a Tony Blair Third Way disciple, all of which he threw off fairly easily, but she wasn't buying it.

The ABC has a new hate figure. How much further to the Left will it move (if at all possible) to provide its imaginary 'balance' to the new centrism of Australian politics?

I suspect the charge that anti-Americanism can blind the left to a centrist economic platform is wrong. It's the economy, stupid. He knows it and they know it.

Let the fireworks begin.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 3, 2003 at 12:14 PM

I think it's bloody brilliant! Latham's 2 major mentors are Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, the 2 most destructive and incompetent Prime Ministers this country has ever seen.

Latham's a joke, a product of the yes-men who suck up to bully boys. Only the ALP could see him as a 'thinker'.

Posted by: Paul Johnson at December 3, 2003 at 12:29 PM

Wonders never cease. Blair quoting Adams as an authoritative support for his viewpoint. I suppose even the devil may quote the bible...

But as ever, Blair misses the real point. The real point is that for the sake of the country, it has to be Anyone But Howard. It's not a question of right or left. Let it be Costello, let it be Latham. Let it be Tim Blair, for that matter. But Howard has to go.

To say that Latham would say the same as Howard on many issues is pointless and silly at best, slanderous at worst, for you are indirectly accusing Latham of being a cynical, calculating, serial liar.

Personal? Sure.

Latham provides hope. Slim - but hope.

Posted by: Nemesis at December 3, 2003 at 12:33 PM

Latham at least puts his fists where his mouth is. Ruddock etc. prate about border protection, but only Latham beat up and broke the arm of an ethnic taxi driver who had the cheek to ask him for a fare, and then boasted and laughed about it on TV. The driver apparently hasn't worked since, which will teach all wogs a lesson. An inspiring incident for Australia, and one of which we should remind the nation constantly - who else has set such an example?

Posted by: sue at December 3, 2003 at 01:03 PM

An inspiring incident for Australia, and one of which we should remind the nation constantly - who else has set such an example?

Wilson Tuckey? Max Ortmann? I think also the Dem's Andrew Murray might have gone the biff on one occasion, but I could be mistaken. Eh, happens all the time.

(Seriously, the behaviour shouldn't be excused, but you shouldn't focus on this one person ... there are others.)

Posted by: Joe at December 3, 2003 at 01:23 PM

Mark Latham has never had a real job in his entire life. He's the Kerry Nettle of the Labor Party.

Posted by: Mike Hunt at December 3, 2003 at 01:45 PM

Paul Keating was a Collingwood "supporter", too.

Posted by: Tony.T at December 3, 2003 at 01:48 PM

And Menzies supported Carlton. The message to all clear thinking right wingers here couldn't be clearer: buy a Carlton membership today!

You know it makes sense.

Posted by: Joe at December 3, 2003 at 01:53 PM

The next Prime Minister is Essendon's No 1 ticket holder.

Case closed.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 3, 2003 at 02:08 PM

Hey gipper guy,

Get your facts straight about Reagan. Reagan is vastly over-rated by personality cultists on the US Right.

If Reagan won the Cold War, how come the PRC began to privatise it's economy in 1978 eg Deng in 1978? said that is was "good to be rich". Yeltsin & all the other communists were not afraid of Reagan's arms buildup, they were greedy to get onto privatisation. Communists became capitalists.

It's true that Communist party legitimacy depended on USSR v US military parity. But this was slipping during the 70s, hence the Soviets abandoned the space race and asked for detente.

The US military-industrical complex was miles ahead of the Soviets well before Reagan got into office. After Vietnam, during the 70s under Creighton Abrams, the US upgraded it's weapons and tactics to digital age technology .
In 1983, the IDF creamed the Syrians (90-0) in Lebanon (Bekkah valley) using avionic F-15's.

The US's military dominance certainly pushed the Soviets to give up, but this was apparent well-before Reagan's arm buildup. The USSR was heading for the dust bin of History even if Carter or Mondale had won. Carter had already begun to remilitarise the US DoD, it was Carter who launched the RDF, now known as CENTCOM, which was used to take out Iraq.

All those Team B estimates of Soviet military advantage that the Right came out with in the seventies has been proven to be phony. Soviet military expenditure was declining, owing to the slowdown of the Soviet economy from 1960s on. The only thing that was keeping them alive was the occasional oil price rise from OPEC. The collapse of OPEC II was the final nail in the Soviet ecnomic coffin, not surprisingly that's when they elected Gorby.

And that stuff put out by "the Committee for the Present Danger" was a bunch of scare propaganda. We saw the same con played earlier by Kennedy (missile gap) and recently by Bush (WMDs).

And Reagan created the nineties New Econmoy?
Gimme a break!
Did LBJ create the Reagan boom?
Did Reagan reignite the Finnish economy, which has beaten the US economy in the nineties on tech and eco grounds?

In the 80s, business investment & productivity went down under Reagan, mainly because of the huge waste during the recession and subsequent debt-fuelled asset inflation (remember S&L's?, Junk Bonds?).

How come tax-funded state and public institutions (unis) invented most of the hardware and software that drive the digital economy (DARPA, Berners-Lee, Shannon)Microsoft and Apple were already up and running well-before Reagan ran for President.

I liked Reagan too, but I did not think that the sun shone out of his fundamental aperture.

The US Right needs to have some sense knocked into it on the subject of Reagan, it is completely clueless on how we got from the seventies to the nineties.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 3, 2003 at 02:24 PM

Latham is not a right wing ideologue on economics.
He is a supporter of socialist distribution in universal health and education systems.
He also supports tax-increases on rental investment property (ie the removal of negative gearing tax break).
Increases in tax and social spending.
Does not sound right wing to me.
These level playing field tax and spend policies are argued for by orthodox economic theorists of all ideological persuasions, eg Pr Q, and much more modestly, me.
They are neither right wing, nor left wing.
They are merely True and Good.

Posted by: Jack Strocchi at December 3, 2003 at 02:31 PM

the REAL "conga line of suckholes" are all those journos at the SMH lining up to tongue marko's rectal cavity. the way they described him you woulda thought it was the second friggin coming of Christ! oh, and the fact his heroes are whitlam and keating and his numbers man is the narrow eyed thug/spiv BRERETON puts it all in perspective..

Posted by: roscoe at December 3, 2003 at 02:53 PM

I'm relieved to see a Labor leader come from a working background and not from the Labor royal family. Pollies aping concern and understanding of the battler - Latham really did come from the bad end of town, pulled himself out of it and moved on. In this day and age others from the same background as him would be called aspirational voters and may well have voted for Howard.

If Latham can target those aspirational voters, who would whole heartedly agree with his sentiments on refugees, and seriously try to throw them a hand to help them help themselves, instead of pandering to the minorities and the far left in the party, he may have a shot.

I think he may be smashed next election around while much fun is made of his inconsistancies and scare mongering over removing negative gearing, but four years may present a different, more mature candidate, hopefully not hamstrung by Queen Carmen and her court jesters.

Should be fun to watch.

Posted by: gilly at December 3, 2003 at 03:47 PM

The difference, Joe, is that Tuckey was never, and never looked like bercoming, the nation's alternate Prime Minister.

Posted by: sue at December 3, 2003 at 04:20 PM

Hang on - Simon Crean's personal rating was in the cellar yet Labor has still been neck and neck with the Coalition.

That puts Latham in the Lodge late next year in a Kennett-like rise from foot-in-mouth embarrassment to the top.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 3, 2003 at 04:22 PM

The point is that, at the bottom line, Latham is a turd.

Posted by: hal at December 3, 2003 at 04:25 PM

Jason Soon and Jack Strocchi are like seeing someone have an emotional breakdown every second day because their TV dinner isn't hot enough. At some stage you have to turn away after giving them a razor blade.

Posted by: Gary at December 3, 2003 at 04:53 PM

gees gilly! you really reckon latham came from "the bad end of town"? ...that boarding school at hurlstone park he went to looked REALLY ROUGH! hahaha! i bet the prick had to wear a straw boater too! now if he'd gone to raymond terrace high like i did i'd have some respect for him. as it stands i just view him as another privileged middle class arsehole with working class pretensions..

Posted by: roscoe at December 3, 2003 at 06:09 PM


Are you joking

Green Valley housing Commission - Raymond Terrace looks like Hunters Hill compared to that - and where did you get boarding school from. He went to a State Government High School, a selective school admittedly, but still a state school, no straw boaters there mate.

Middle class, not by a long shot. Have a look at last weeks Bulletin, it tells the storey of his backgound well. When his Dad died when he was 19, 30 families all kicked in $2 a week each so he could still go to uni after finishing Dux of his school. He picked up glasses at the local pub to help support his family. Doesn't sound like middle class privilege with working class pretension to me.

I wouldn't vote for him anyway, a vote for Labor is a vote for lunatic minorities. Putting LATHAM in as leader was a surprising and unexpected move from the federal caucaus - which given the fullness of time will probably provide results.

I may disagree with a number of things LATHAM says but he looks like the real deal to me in terms of a Labor Party leader. If thats your thing of course.......

Posted by: gilly at December 3, 2003 at 07:04 PM

hurlstone ag is/was a boarding school. i dont wanna get into a slanging match here but any school that has a school "song" is fully gay and middle class. also,i bet he was never beaten up by our aboriginal friends like i was. do they allow indigenees at hurlston ag?

Posted by: roscoe at December 3, 2003 at 07:45 PM

oh.. and gough whitlam never came to my uni graduation like he did to lathams. guess i must be unlucky huh? what was that about privilege again?

Posted by: roscoe at December 3, 2003 at 07:52 PM

I wouldn't think so,

Hurlstone is a selective school, you need to pass an academic exam. That should exclude most.

I wouldn't call any selective school middle class and gay, open to all who can pass the exam, irrespective of class or background, which is how LATHAM got in. You have to agree, Latham is not from a background of privilege - whether his school had a gay song or not.

Posted by: Gilly at December 3, 2003 at 07:56 PM

You actually think Gough coming to your graduation would be a privilege?

Posted by: Gilly at December 3, 2003 at 08:00 PM

Well, you got me there, Tim. Unlike your reader Gary Glitter or whatever his name is, I change my mind about people.

Posted by: Jason Soon at December 3, 2003 at 09:34 PM

Remember the last party leader who had a mix of right and left social and economic beliefs, and only one nut;
what's Latham's view on car pooling?

Posted by: Habib at December 3, 2003 at 10:04 PM

you don't have to be anti people smuggling to abhore and detest the cruel and inhumane detention of children whose only crime is one of fate. latham knows this.

latham knows the smart play on this issue, the only play really: "c'mon john howard, as a parent, do the right thing and release the kids by xmas."

love that reverse wedge. finally... a contest.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at December 4, 2003 at 10:57 AM

Miranda believes Children™ Are Our Future! Be still, my beating !

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 4, 2003 at 11:24 AM

Imperialist Miranda would link the freedom of Muslim children to a Christian celebration. For shame!

Posted by: tim at December 4, 2003 at 11:35 AM

Release them straight back to Pakistan.

Posted by: Gilly at December 4, 2003 at 01:43 PM

so funny. laugh, you racist scum, blair.

you brand innocent children with the moniker "muslim" like they've committed a crime.

you're no better than the nazi scum that forced jews to wear the star of david like a brand of shame. indifference to the suffering of innocent children is no laughing matter.

Like i said before, bloghead, drop your own kids at baxter for a year or two before your next "listening tour". See how the Christian blighters like it. then tell me about border protection and the trade in "asian" sex slaves.

Make some funny ha ha jokes about that issue.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at December 6, 2003 at 10:31 AM

Miranda is a saint! Suffering for the blogworld's sins. Say, Mir, is it chilly up there on that cross?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 6, 2003 at 12:42 PM