September 20, 2004


"The tropical heat of the Top End has brought back the real Mark Latham," writes Sue Dunlevy:

Channel 9 correspondent Laurie Oakes was attacked for making "smart alec commentary" as the Opposition Leader went troppo.

Mr Latham was still trying to sustain the bizarre argument the families would be better off on a weekly basis and only worse off annually.

"If journalists don't get it, well bad luck, the Australian people do and Labor is going to solve the problem for them," he told Channel 9's Sunday.

Oh, thank you Uncle Mark! You can tell when Latham is trying to control his temper; he begins uptalking like an indignant teenager. Inflections were rising all over the place when this happened:

Mark Latham yesterday demanded his three-year-old son Oliver be left out of the campaign and turned on journalists covering his election bid.

The extraordinary outburst followed one question about whether the Labor leader might send his children to a private school.

"I'm a supporter of the public education system. The truth of this matter is that we've put Oliver's name down for a couple of pre-schools next year.

"And we've picked one [private pre-school] out that we hope he will go to, if we're still in Sydney."

Note to Mark: if the question is about what school you’re sending your kid to, it’s a question about schools. You might have a legitimate cause for grievance if the question was about your kid having no friends or if he’d learned to walk yet or if other pre-schoolers called him "Ollie Ollie Oxen Face".

What was I saying about schools a couple of weeks ago? Oh, here it is: "Raise the cost of private education and some of Mark Latham’s beloved aspirational class won’t be able to afford it. The gap between rich and poor will increase!" Scarily, Robert Manne agrees:

The reduction of public funds from private schools is not only dubious politics; it is a policy mistake. Parents most affected by this will be those struggling to pay their private school fees. As a result such schools will become even more exclusive than is the case.

Manne is on-side with the single-parent families, too:

When Labor's family and tax policy was released, it immediately became clear that low-to-middle, dual-income-earning families would benefit quite handsomely from the package. It also became clear that once the Coalition's recent offer of $600 a year a child was taken into account, many single-income families would suffer financial loss, especially if the income of the sole breadwinner was low and the family had a number of children to support.

The single income family is, in general, the type where severe economic difficulties are now found. Nevertheless Labor was now going to the election promising many single income families that if it were elected they would be noticeably less well off.

Meanwhile, at the serious end of politics:

Prime Minister John Howard is today expected to launch a $98.7 million assault on terrorism with plans for specialist counter-terrorism flying squads to be dispatched in the region to help Australia's neighbours guard against terror attacks.

News of the planned announcement last night came after Mr Howard flexed his muscles on national security yesterday by restating his readiness to launch a pre-emptive strike if a terrorist threat emerged against Australia.

Mr Howard reaffirmed his position after Opposition Leader Mark Latham ruled out taking similar military action, suggesting it was best to use diplomatic channels.

UPDATE. An article from last week’s Herald Sun (no link available) by Dr Kevin Donnelly, a staffer with Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews:

The first thing to be said about the ALP’s schools policy is that it represents a grubby and cynical political exercise that destroys any promise about trust and openness in government.

How else do you explain why voter-sensitive Jewish schools in marginal ALP seats like Melbourne Ports are excluded from funding cuts?

The Australian Education Union (AEU) last week launched a $1.5 million campaign across 28 marginal seats in an attempt to unseat the Howard Government. The very next week, surprise, surprise, Mark Latham announces an additional $1.9 billion for AEU-dominated government schools.

Forget that the AEU’s curriculum policy - one which refuses to hold teachers or schools publicly accountable, that is anti-family and that promotes the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people and that applauds PC fads like black armband history – is one reason why parents are deserting government schools.

Of course, Mark Latham is smart enough to know, given that 32% of students attend non-government schools (in Victoria the figure grows to 41% at years 11 and 12), that it would be political suicide to stop funding non-government schools altogether.

The answer, engage in the politics of envy and establish a hit list of 67 so-called wealthy, elite schools and freeze the funding at a further 111.

Ignored is that the current SES formula used to fund non-government schools is already needs based. The average student government recurrent funding (2001-2002) is just under $9,000, students at Scotch College only receive $1,713 in government funding and students at The Kings School in Sydney receive $1,905.

By cutting funding and forcing schools to increase fees, all the ALP will achieve is to financially penalise those parents who wish to choose what is best for their children. Worse still, every student that is forced back into the government system represents an additional burden on government spending.

The fact is that that 47.9% of independent school families earn less than $78,000 a year and, according to figures released by the Productivity Commission, such parents save Australian governments $4.2 billion a year. Such parents not only pay for their children’s education, their taxes also fund government schools.

Take our family as an example. Julia and I both went to government schools and ended up teaching in them as well. Such was our experience of the state system that we sent James to Camberwell Grammar and Amelia to Ryton – both independent schools are on the ALP’s hit list.

The only way we paid schools fees was by Julia taking on part time work and by increasing the mortgage. Of course, we did not expect governments to cover the cost. At the same time we certainly felt, as parents, that we had the right to choose and that some of our taxes should support our children’s education.

Not only is the ALP schools policy guilty of the tall poppy syndrome - let’s attack those schools that achieve the best academic results and that promote values that parents want - but the policy also gives greater control to state and federal left-leaning bureaucracies and teacher unions.

The ALP policy released this week calls for a nationally consistent curriculum, including teaching Australian values and common approaches to reporting and literacy and numeracy. Those parents who remember Joan Kirner’s VCE and Paul Keating’s national curriculum will understand that dangers in such an approach.

Posted by Tim Blair at September 20, 2004 02:57 PM

"families would be better off on a weekly basis and only worse off annually"

Well, that's pretty clear, isn't it? Latham will simply add more weeks to the year. This will have the added advantage of making us all feel younger.

Posted by: ras at September 20, 2004 at 03:12 PM

I saw a picture of Latham watching his own outburst with Laurie Oaks in the paper.My bet is mogadon man comes out for a couple of days.Perhaps another dig about Oliver soon to be attending private pre school will shake Uncle Marks tranquility. What would it look like if Mark lost it?Will the next Liberal flyer have first hand accounts?

Posted by: gubbaboy at September 20, 2004 at 03:17 PM

"Meanwhile, at the serious end of politics:" ; Rofl;
you are the unconscious man's funny man.The Australian Pre-Emptive Military Task Force or Aussie PMT , will strike terrorists where ever they raise they heads preemptively so watchout Surabayans for that black helicopter. The Liberal Party is busy sending out "messages" as they love to call them to South East Asia saying all this bull manure is only for local electoral consumption.

Posted by: Biil O'Slatter at September 20, 2004 at 03:34 PM

I reckon all Mr Latham has to to get any terrorist to surrender is to provide a "scary" photo of himself in full troppo mode. Oh, and get Baldy McRitch to hand-deliver it to them while doing one of his dance routines. Even scarier!

Posted by: Lofty at September 20, 2004 at 03:39 PM

i think it's been proven beyond any doubt that the coalition, with the combined intellect & skills of Robert Hill and Alexander Downer, is the only political party capable of defending us from terrorism - right?

Posted by: chico o'farrill at September 20, 2004 at 04:13 PM

So did you hear about Latham's new blog, inspired by this incident? It's gonna be called...Troppo Oppo-Dildo!

Ba-da-BING! Thank you. I'm here all week.

Posted by: J.J. Ruthven Shabadoo at September 20, 2004 at 04:16 PM

Latham amazes me. On fathers day he 'happened' to have a press conference at home. Oliver 'happened' to be capering nearby. Oliver 'happened' to pull out a story book to read.

Latham uses his own kids whenever he feels he needs a lift in the polls. To ask a legitimate question based on his own strong opinions is entirely legitimate. Keep going Latho' even the lefties are starting to wonder.

Posted by: nic at September 20, 2004 at 04:43 PM

Actually he was asked about pre-school.

Anyone who has had to try to get their kiddie into pre-school or daycare knows you have to register at everyone around.

you didn't note that the female reporter who asked this question was the one who asked him about the 'alleged' bucknight's video.

If he lost his temper then how come he din't raise his voice!

Posted by: Homer Paxton at September 20, 2004 at 04:56 PM

He only raises the very last bit of each sentence, Homes. Like he's asking a question? But he isn't? He's only making a statement?

Posted by: tim at September 20, 2004 at 05:06 PM

Now it turns out that Knacker lacker is also a branch stacker (see latest ABC news headlines).
It's over for the ALP now.

Posted by: Toryhere at September 20, 2004 at 05:12 PM

The man making the allegations is running against him.

also given he was a shadow minister at the time he didn't need to stack he was automatically pre-selected.

Posted by: Homer Paxton at September 20, 2004 at 05:30 PM

"The man making the allegations is running against him."

Andrew Wilkie is running against Howard. Guess we should discount everything he says, too.

Posted by: tim at September 20, 2004 at 05:48 PM

He's hardly going to claim he signed up 49 members if it can't be proven. Unless he's running dead and when the claims are proven groundless, Lacker will get sympathy for the cruel attack. Nah, not even the NSW right could be that devious. Besides sympathy and Latham don't belong in the same sentence.

Posted by: slatts at September 20, 2004 at 06:02 PM

Bargshoon is the guy behind the branch stack claim.He tore up a photo of him with lacker on T.V.As much as I wish it were true I reckon the guy's full of crap.

Posted by: gubbaboy at September 20, 2004 at 06:11 PM