July 21, 2004


Mark Latham -- who complained only a day or so ago about the Howard government running out of "things to say about Australia's future" and wanting to "talk about things that are 10, 20, 25 years past" -- reaches back 30 years for a fund-raising slogan:

Opposition Leader Mark Latham is stepping back to the past by adopting the iconic "It's Time" slogan from his mentor Gough Whitlam.

Mr Latham's back-to-the-past move is revealed in ALP election fundraising material which is a direct copy of Mr Whitlam's celebrated 1972 campaign.

Naturally, oldtimers who remember the Whitlam era are abandoning Latham’s cause.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 21, 2004 06:55 AM

Whitlam - isn't that the bloke who took the nations credit card to breakfast, with an Arab loan shark ? Yeah, we remember...

Posted by: jafa at July 21, 2004 at 07:27 AM

He tried to get a loan from the Iraqi Baath party, funnily enough.

Oh, the irony...

Posted by: Quentin George at July 21, 2004 at 08:10 AM

"It's time".

Mark Latham's loyal wife said the words with a steely resolve, knowing there was no turning back from the terrible decision she'd come to.

"It is Mrs Latham - it's for the best", said Dr Kerr.

"Men, you can go in now."

The burly attendents went into the study, where the leader of Her Majesty's Australian Opposition strode up and down near his book-case mouthing words for speeches he would never give.

Although it was 1.30pm, he was still wearing the Thomas the Tank Engine pyjamas given to him by the Moonee Ponds branch of the Children's Book Club. The two orderlies from the Rene Rivkin Memorial Hospice for the Utterly Bewildered felt the poignancy of the moment when they beheld the great man so attired. The jim-jams evoked his finest hour in politics.

"Hello Mark, would you like to go for a ride in a nice van?"

Mark lunged and tried to twist one of the men's arms to breaking point but that was expected and successfully repelled.

"Boocause nothing will save the Governor-General!"

"You're so right Mark - now just put your arms through this comfy white dressing-gown."

"Well may we say... well, I'm not a crook... the horror, the horror."

Mark repeated words from history, echoing from within, from the heart of the darkness that had overcome him. He gathered up a hand-full of soil from a pot-plant beneath the portrait of Richard Nixon and gestured to one of the guards to take it from him.

It was a touching reminder of Prime Minister Whitlam's symbolic return of sovereignty and land to Aborigines back in the 70s.

"Take this oh humble native person, and remember the great one who set ye free."

"Why, thank you Mark."

"Dirt unit, dirt unit", the Opposition Leader said accusedly at the plant.

It was his last gesture before the jacket was fitted.

"Come on now."

The three men walked into the ante-room of the study. Mark headbutted his wife's medical adviser as he passed.

"Kerr-err's cur", he spat.

He stood at the threshold of the van's back door and his arms twitched restlessly as he sought to raise them aloft in a victorious two-armed salute of goodbye.

He uncharacteristically mis-spoke his farewell utterance to the assembled party of Labor frontbenchers and the family's cleaning lady: "I won't have anyone to kick around anymore."

The van's doors were shut and Mark Latham - the man who once sought the nation's highest office - was gone.

"It started to go wrong when he grew those side-burns in the run-up to the election", Mrs Latham said to Dr Kerr.

"And those paisley ties, flaired trousers and wide lapels... God, what was it all about?"

Dr Kerr had the good grace to offer no answers to a distraught woman's imponderable plea for meaning.

She looked over and saw the Labor pols laughing, shaking hands and slapping one another's backs. It was false bonhomie of the funereal kind. Or maybe, just maybe, in the beaming smile of Simon Crean she saw a glee that an obstacle to progress had been finally removed. She was disgusted and forgiving at the same time.

"I suppose we just have to focus on the future and not the past", she said.

"It's time", said Dr Kerr.

The medico shuffled his shoes and toed nervously at the gravel and went instantly crimson when he realised the faux-pas he had committed by saying the immortal words.

Then - to the astonishment of everyone - Mrs Latham burst into a paroxysm of laughter that came deeply and contemptuously from the belly.

The old pols joined in and finally even the staid Dr Kerr lost control.

"It's time... it's time!!"

The blasphemy was infectious.

The cleaning lady was breathless, tears of hilarity welling in her eyes.

One of the frontbenchers caught his breath long enough to start in with fresh mockery, the way a laugh-addict does when he wants the sensual deliciousness of amusement to roll on:

" 'The proclamation you have just heard read'..."

It sent them all over the edge.

From the great man's study came the frantic strains of Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at July 21, 2004 at 09:24 AM

CL- Bellisima!

Posted by: Sortelli at July 21, 2004 at 10:18 AM

"Dirt unit, dirt unit", the Opposition Leader said accusedly at the plant.


Great story, CurrencyLad, just great.

Posted by: PW at July 21, 2004 at 10:22 AM

Brilliant, CL! Just read it out to everyone in the office, and we're all laughing like loons. Keep em coming champ, all the best, By

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at July 21, 2004 at 11:22 AM

Quentin George, you are correct. Whitlam in fact sought financial support for the federal election, December 13 1975, worth $5,000 from the then deputy leader of the Ba'ath party. The guy in question was none other than Saddam Hussein and the meeting was held in an inner city hotel in Sydney in 1975.

Suffice to say Whitlam lost the election and Saddam made off with the 5 grand.

Posted by: scott at July 21, 2004 at 11:22 AM

Just goes to show what a lightweight Latham is. Can't even come up with an original campaign theme. I know that Whitlam mentored him but this is a bit too much.

Latham/Whitlam - not the kind of theme that is going to win over any swing voters I am afraid.

Posted by: Rob at July 21, 2004 at 11:46 AM

Actually this theme was revived by Whitlam himself when he made that commercial flogging those photocopiers years ago.

"Its time - time to get a new photocopier."

or something like that.

Posted by: Rob at July 21, 2004 at 11:51 AM

CL, well done, well done indeed.

You could well imagine this scene: (at ABC TV)

Latham: No, in fact, I find the suggestion that I am some sort of Whitlam acolyte, devoid of any ideas, to be quite frank, both insulting and incorrect. Its no good looking into the past like John Howard, who is fixated with the 1950's.

ABC Hack: So, in the lead up to the election, what plans do you have?

Latham: Our campaign is about to be launched, with the overall theme of "its time!"

ABC Hack: That sounds vaguely familiar, are you sure it hasn't been used before?

Latham: The dirt unit over at Liberal HQ will tell you otherwise, but no, its mine.

ABC Hack: Are there any other initiatives?

Latham: have you heard of an artist named Jackson Pollock ?

Posted by: nic at July 21, 2004 at 12:01 PM

It's getting almost embarrassing watching Latham self-destruct in front of the electorate. However, I am glad, because I beleive that the ALP will benefit from at least 20 years in Opposition.

Posted by: Toryhere at July 21, 2004 at 12:40 PM

Totally OT: Australia was one of only six countries to vote today in the Jewhatin' Nations against a resolution ordering Israel to allow suicide bombers free access to Israel.

Good for you, Australia, is all I can say. (I of course consider Tim Blair's site to be the official drop-off spot for messages directed at the whole of the Australian people.)

The other sane nations-- besides the US and, needless to say, Israel-- were, curiously, Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands. What's up with that, I wonder.

All of Europe (which incidentally still holds the record for killing Jews-- at least until Iran finishes its bomb!) voted in favor of Jew killing, as did former record holder Russia.

Posted by: Mike G at July 21, 2004 at 12:51 PM

To Mike G, thanks for that information. I've been to the UN website to find out the vote but the information is either not provided or cunningly hidden. Perhaps if I offered them 10% off the top...

Posted by: Paul Johnson at July 21, 2004 at 01:45 PM

Here's hoping the UN is as diligent in pursuing this resolution against Israel as they were the resolutions against Iraq.

No, really.

By the way, considering the way the Palestinians are imploding over one lousy wall, wait till Sharon adds the roof...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at July 21, 2004 at 01:56 PM

This vote I believe was after the International Court of Justice ruling where 14 to 1 justices voted the wall illegal. The one dissenting judge was the US representative at the court. Short version is = no problem with the wall, but put it in your own territory.

Posted by: carlos at July 21, 2004 at 02:40 PM

Scott the deal was worth a lot more than 5k a hell of a lot more and is why he should have been deposed.(Regime change?)

Iron Mark is copying gough Campaign and Johnny is copying gough's spending habits.
how cute.

Posted by: Homer Paxton at July 21, 2004 at 02:43 PM

Sorry Carlos but it is their territory now and the Palestinian populace are sooooooooooo glad to be on the Israeli side of the wall and all the nutbags on the other.

CurrencyLad you should have your own blog. The mental images of Nacker Lacker being fitted with a tight white overcoat are almost (but not quite) too much.

Posted by: Fool to Himself & Burden to Others at July 21, 2004 at 03:18 PM

Remember the old joke?

Gough and Marg in bed. Marg turns to Gough and whispers in his shell-like, "Go on - do to me what you're doing to Australia. Only do it slowly."

It was considered hilarious in 1973.

Posted by: walter plinge at July 21, 2004 at 03:56 PM

Does Latham the timekeeper really have only one nut? Why hasn't this been lampooned before?

Posted by: JakeD at July 21, 2004 at 04:11 PM

Well, we can safely predict one thing, when Whitlam finally goes, get ready for the revisionist heart rendering spiel from our leftist media. You wait, Saint Gough of the blessed rag.

Posted by: nic at July 21, 2004 at 04:29 PM

i saw 'irony mark' latham on telly visiting sick people in hospital and i swear that one of them cringed and mouthed the words 'dont hit me!' as he leant in towards them.

Posted by: rocsoe at July 21, 2004 at 06:46 PM

nic, just wait until the next lot of files classified under the 30 year rule get released at the end of 2005 - that's when we all find out exactly how Gough told Suharto that he can do what he likes with East Timor. Love to see the lefties get Gough out of that one.

Posted by: steve at July 21, 2004 at 09:15 PM

Steve do you think Fraser would have acted any differently if he had been PM or Snedden. Perhaps Howard might have or perhap not.

Posted by: mike a. at July 22, 2004 at 08:28 AM

Scott was it really Hussain in the Sydney room promiing the money. I had often wondered what he was doing in 1975 because of the iraki affair.

Posted by: mike a. at July 22, 2004 at 08:30 AM

I see that The Economist is predicting that John Howard will narrowly scrape back into office at the election. Their predictions are usually pretty accurate. If Labour loses, expect to see the knives out for Biffer, with Rudd pushing his chances, Crean bitter and twisted and Bomber Beazley waiting for a resurrection. I agree that twenty years seems about right for the amount of time they'll be out in the wilderness. It couldn't happen to a nastier bunch!

Posted by: Freddyboy at July 22, 2004 at 05:20 PM

I wonder if Retro Marky Mark Latham will bring back the fanny-flashing It's Time Dancers.

Imagine the cellulite flying around during the can-can.

It would turn you off eating marshmallow and voting Labor for life!

Posted by: bad templar at July 22, 2004 at 08:45 PM


It is interesting speculatig who will be the ALP leader after Latham's resignation. The problem is that Labor has no really good performers who are leadership material. Latham is the best they can do!!??

Too many ALP Federal parliamentarians are party hacks elected because it was their faction's turn to get a seat. Very few of them have any real experience outside politics.

Posted by: Toryhere at July 23, 2004 at 12:22 PM

I find it hard to comrehend this stupidity-It's time.!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's time to reflect on Whitlam???
Next Mad Mark will warn us all about the dangers of becoming a bannana republic ala Keating.
Well may we say Mad Marks chances are rooted because with this Labor Party sentimentality he is fucking himself over.

Posted by: gubbaboy at July 23, 2004 at 05:25 PM

The problem is that Labor has no really good performers who are leadership material. Latham is the best they can do!!??

It's interesting that the same can arguably be said about the big Left(ish) parties in several major countries... The available choices in the U.S. Democratic primary were a joke, and Kerry more or less won by default; here in Germany we've got Chancellor Schröder and not much else (that's why he isn't gone yet - even though the left wing of his own party pretty much loathes him, they've got no presentable replacements); the French socialists have pretty much seen their entire platform co-opted by Chirac who's trying his damnedest to hang on to his job; Canada's liberal party sounds more like a hereditary monarchy these days; and well, you Aussies have the ALP with Latham at the helm. Haven't paid much attention to the UK's Labour Party, but they also sound rather devoid of capable politicians if one excludes Tony Blair and those loyal to his course for the party.

Lots of apparatchiks everywhere, but little personality or, gasp, actual talent.

Posted by: PW at July 24, 2004 at 01:09 PM