October 21, 2004


Taxi drivers might agree with this assessment of Mark Latham:

Critics say he lacks effective people-handling skills.

No kidding. Then again, if "effective people-handling" includes the ability to wrestle colleagues into back-bench obscurity, Latham is a champion:

First Mark Latham lost the election. Now he is losing his front bench.

Lindsay Tanner's refusal to serve in his leader's team shook the Labor Party yesterday and brings the number of experienced frontbenchers who have quit to six.

Make that seven:

Labor housing spokesman Daryl Melham has become the seventh frontbencher to retreat to the backbench.

Why is everybody so unhappy? Steve Lewis has a theory:

Much of the discontent appears to revolve around the position of treasury spokesman, which now appears likely to go to Latham confidante Julia Gillard. Gillard would become the first Labor left-winger since Jim Cairns to hold the treasury portfolio.

Oh, great. As for the rest of the likely Latham A-Team, Drooble writes: "If they keep gettin' any younger, they'll be chuckin' foetuses on to the front bench."

UPDATE. Not content with demolishing Laborís front bench, Latham is now trying to remove John Anderson:

Opposition Leader Mark Latham today urged Nationals leader John Anderson to stick to his election campaign promise and resign following the defeat of Nationals MP Larry Anthony.

If Latham really wanted Anderson gone, he should become leader of the Coalition. Seems to work with his own party.

UPDATE II. Well, he is kinda foetus-like:

Strong pressure is still being exerted on former rock star Peter Garrett to stand for the front bench, after he indicated to colleagues earlier in the week that he was inclined not to put himself forward at this stage.

Sources said the centre faction was having difficulty filling its allotted two positions and Mr Garrett, who is unaligned, is being pressed to solve the problem.

When Peter Garrett is the solution to your political problems, youíre in far more trouble than you realise.

UPDATE III. Anderson hits back. Includes comment from De-Anne Kelly: "None of John Anderson's front bench are moving to the back bench."

Posted by Tim Blair at October 21, 2004 04:07 AM

That's an AbFab reference, right?

Posted by: buzz harsher at October 21, 2004 at 04:59 AM

It's eight if you include John Faulkner: McMullan, Emerson, Crean, Beazley, Ellis, Tanner, Melham, Faulkner.

I wonder if they're going to have anyone left to put on the front bench?

Posted by: Leigh at October 21, 2004 at 05:28 AM

OK, I'll ask a stupid American question: what's a frontbench and a backbench? Do the party spokesmen/women sit on the frontbench and the ones who don't want to be as active sit on the back?

Posted by: Sarah at October 21, 2004 at 06:06 AM

Frontbenchers are the more important people - the cabinet. They've got the big portfolios, like Defence, Education, Health etc.

Backbenchers sit behind the frontbenchers, and represent their party and local constituency without having a big important portfolio.

Hope that clears things up.

Posted by: Leigh at October 21, 2004 at 06:35 AM

Hey, comments are back.

And now troll-free!

Posted by: Quentin George at October 21, 2004 at 07:17 AM

Well, don't you think that an inexperienced opposition leader shouldn't have an inexperience front bench...

Posted by: rebel at October 21, 2004 at 08:00 AM

I don't know, I'd rather the opposite actually.

Inexperienced PM + inexperienced frontbench = Gough Whitlam

Next thing we know, Latham will have a two-man ministry.

Posted by: Quentin George at October 21, 2004 at 08:12 AM

Gillard would become the first Labor left-winger since Jim Cairns to hold the treasury portfolio.

That's Julia "Universality AND Choice" Gillard, right? If she can't manage logic, how is she going to manage the economy?

Posted by: 2dogs at October 21, 2004 at 08:30 AM

Follow on stupid question from Merika

Why would the losers have a portfolio? (Which I assume translates to a cabinet post)

Posted by: CujoQuarrel at October 21, 2004 at 08:40 AM

Seven front-benchers down: Latham's suckholes are dropping out of his conga-line!

Posted by: EvilPundit at October 21, 2004 at 08:43 AM

CujoQuarrel: Opposition front-benchers have a "Shadow" portfolio -- they each cover their opposite number in the government front-bench. If the Opposition wins government, the members of the Shadow Cabinet usually just move straight into their respective opposites' positions in the real Cabinet.

Posted by: EvilPundit at October 21, 2004 at 08:45 AM

QUENTIN! Hush, now! Be still, y'hear? Them trolls might be out there listenin', waitin' for the chance to bushwack us'n, like them dag blasted French 'n' Injuns did way back when mah Granpappy was a young'n!

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 21, 2004 at 09:27 AM

Reports the Herald Sun today:

A defiant Mark Latham has vowed to remodel his shadow ministry with talented young, progressive women as a seventh frontbencher quit..."I think you will find the key characteristic of our new front bench after Friday will be the emergence of a group of talented young, progressive women, who will do great credit to the Australian Labor Party and the labour movement in the future," he said on The 7.30 Report

So Mr Latham is going to promote to the front bench "young, progressive women". Oops - bad move.

He still hasn't cottonned on. Young progressive women might well be a great credit to the Party, but voters won't be interested. This is because 'progressive' is Labor cant for 'extreme left wing'. It's 'progressive' policies that just lost Labor the election, and gave the non-Progressive Liberals a landslide. Will Labor never learn?

Posted by: walterplinge at October 21, 2004 at 09:47 AM


Was that from the transcript of the interview on the "7.30 Report"?

I am just wondering whether he meant 'labour movement of the future' or 'Labor movement of the future'. The former seems to suggest an incredibly short future if the IR reforms go through....while the latter isn't looking too bright either.

Posted by: Dylan at October 21, 2004 at 10:20 AM

I just read in the local paper that there is a good chance that Peter Garrett will become a frontbencher. And he just won an ARIA award for some Midnight Oil record that they put together (I thought they split up??). He doesn't even live in the Kingsford Smith area! I'm quite amazed at how quickly an ageing pop star can get to the front bench.

Posted by: Naomi at October 21, 2004 at 10:56 AM

Ms. Gillard is going to revive Jim Cairns wages policy, and its good news for everyone!

If only you dumb RWDB's would sit back and LISTEN you would see a plan thats good for everyone:

"A Latham Labour government will lift everyones wage above the average."

Posted by: Robert Blair at October 21, 2004 at 11:01 AM

"A Latham Labour government will lift everyones wage above the average."

Are you serious?

Posted by: EvilPundit at October 21, 2004 at 11:11 AM

I am very pleased they are focusing on re-arranging the deck-chairs. At least it stops them focusing on their real problems like Union control of the party, factions, disconection with a majority of the electorate.

Keep up the good work!

If only they could have a leadership spill and bring back Beasley, or Crean. (Am I hoping for too much?)

Posted by: Razor at October 21, 2004 at 11:13 AM

Wasn't Tanner the fella that said that the Howard landslide played into labour's hands?

I can't wait to hear his spin on the entire shadow cabinet, including himself, moving to the backbench. How about... "we needed more depth and talent on the backbench" or "Mr. Latham wanted some guys up front who could organize a pissup at a brewery."

In any event, I think it's safe to say the Howard landslide did NOT play into labour's hands.

Posted by: Bobs Your Uncle at October 21, 2004 at 12:11 PM

Are Mark's young progressive women gonna have big boobs?

Posted by: mr magoo at October 21, 2004 at 12:39 PM

So once the entire front bench bails, does the second bench then start fighting to get to the back of the room?

Posted by: richard mcenroe at October 21, 2004 at 12:43 PM

Wow, the ALP front-benchers who I actually considered reasonably worthwhile human beings are all dropping like flies.

Melham is not included in that list...the slimy turd.

Posted by: Bad Templar at October 21, 2004 at 12:49 PM

Why is it that labor, having just been caned for having a total lack of credible policies, think that the electorate cares WHO delivers the policy, rather than What the policy is about.

Unless it is Tammin Sursok in a leotard. then all bets are off.

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at October 21, 2004 at 01:21 PM

Reminds me of that old army joke:

"Volunteers take one step forward!" You then here the sound as the entire shadow cabinet steps back and leaves the dopey ones standing out in front.

Posted by: Allan Morton at October 21, 2004 at 01:22 PM

Not satisfied with having caused seven of his own to fall whatever blunt instruments were available he is now demanding that John Anderson resign because of the defeat of Larry Anthony by the Byron Bay Savingon-Blanc Socialist Set.The depth of this clowns self delusion is breathtaking but at the same time no doubt reassuring for his opponents as he has obviously learned absolutely nothing from the Election result.His arrogance is unabated. Does anyone think he will last as Leader beyond March 05?

Posted by: Lew at October 21, 2004 at 01:40 PM

Don't know about the breaking the taxi drivers arm thing going against Latham....I lived in Sydney for a year, and he nearly got my vote just for doing that alone!

Posted by: david at October 21, 2004 at 02:02 PM

Bad Templar: "Wow, the ALP front-benchers who I actually considered reasonably worthwhile human beings are all dropping like flies."

There were worthwhile human beings on the ALP front bench, other than Beazley?

I saw Kevin Rudd speak last year, and can't stand him or his cliched I've-been-in-opposition-too-long-and-it-shows rhetoric. Crean makes me sick, Julia Gillard is really annoying, and I've never seen anything attractive about McMullan or Tanner.

Posted by: Leigh at October 21, 2004 at 02:40 PM

Gillard will have a much tougher time in Treasury. Health in Opposition is easy: you just stand there and kick.

Treasury is all about taking money off people, rather than giving it to them (even though they don't deserve it).

Posted by: Jim at October 21, 2004 at 02:55 PM


You're right about Rudd. What a born-to-rule wimpy little pratt he is.


Posted by: Elaine at October 21, 2004 at 03:18 PM

Speaking of prats, has anyone ever seen Kevin Rudd and Martin from the Simpsons in the same room? Separated at birth maybe?



Posted by: Art Vandelay at October 21, 2004 at 03:31 PM

John Anderson's Nationals may have lost the seat of Richmond in the House of Representatives but they look like picking up 2 Senate seats for the Coalition.

That translates into a majority in the Senate, something that the coalition has not had in 25 years.

That spells a fair achievement in anyone's books and measures up pretty well against the result that Mark Latham achieved as leader of his party.

Does anyone get the feeling that poor mark is trying to divert attention away from his own not inconsiderable problems?

Maybe next he will call on the Prime Minister to resign because he had a swing against him in Bennelong.

Have a look at the scoreboard, Mark.

Posted by: amortiser at October 21, 2004 at 03:32 PM

The worst thing Latham could possibly do is promote any of those hideous Victorian "Emily's List" feminazi types. The reason that Labor is so on the nose with Australia is precisely because of the influence of these dopey bints.

Posted by: neoconchick at October 21, 2004 at 03:55 PM

Cracks me up! Lose an election because (amongst many other reasons) people don't trust you to manage the economy, and then appoint a leftie as Shadow Treasurer. What was the name of that BASE jumper who jumped into the big hole? Looks like Latham's forgotten his parachute.

BTW, it's good to see Mr Magoo asking the important questions!

Posted by: Paul Johnson at October 21, 2004 at 04:13 PM

So, any chance the press might not actually play along with the nonsense, and instead continue to get their printable quotes from the now-backbench guys because the new inexperienced frontbenchers don't actually have a clue? I mean, Peter Garrett is up for a shadow position? WTF?

Posted by: PW at October 21, 2004 at 04:26 PM

I quite enjoyed putting this release together. Here's the full John Anderson release in response to Latham's bizaare "resign" call...

Latham Loses It

A155/2004 21st October 2004

Mark Latham cannot help embarrassing himself.

Less than two weeks after a heavy election loss - off the back of the most incompetent campaign the western world has seen since Walter Mondaleís disastrous US presidential run of 1984 Ė Mr Latham has today unbelievably called on another party leader to stand down.

What I did say last month is The Nationalsí party room would have every entitlement to judge my performance as leader based on the election result. They did that, yesterday in Canberra.

The loss of Larry Anthony in Richmond is tragic, but I should point out to Mr Latham that the expected arrival of two new senators in Fiona Nash and Barnaby Joyce means The Nationalsí party room will be expanding in size. Thanks to The Nationals, the Coalition is set to hold a majority in the Senate.

Mr Lathamís press release today is both dishonest and desperate.

It is his turn tomorrow to front up to a smaller Labor party room. Already, his most senior frontbench colleagues are deserting him. Good luck Mr Latham.

Media contact: Paul Chamberlin 02 62777680

Posted by: Chambo at October 21, 2004 at 04:30 PM

Wouldn't "effective people-handling" dictate that Mr. Latham put his shorter colleagues on the frontbench and taller ones on the back? Also, some better lighting in there would help your shadow government problem. I've worked issues of government efficiency before.

Posted by: Al G. from Tennessee at October 21, 2004 at 04:53 PM

Man, I have a soft spot for Kevin Rudd, ever since a left-wing uni friend of mine described him as "too conservative".

Plus another good friend of mine once embarrassed himself on a date with Rudd's daughter.

Heh, heh.

Posted by: Quentin George at October 21, 2004 at 05:09 PM

If Larry Anthony has to resign for losing one seat, shouldn't Mark go as well?

And Bob Brown, since the Greens lost Cunnigham?

Posted by: Quentin George at October 21, 2004 at 05:12 PM

Costello working out on Lifelong in Parliament will be sublime.
You'll know he's in trouble when he fails safe to babbling about reading to trees.

Posted by: TT at October 21, 2004 at 05:36 PM

Latham's use of the phrase "young progressive women" suggests that he's going to respond to his defeat by increasingly preaching to the choir. Oh dear.

Posted by: Ghost of 3LO at October 21, 2004 at 06:09 PM

Garrett for Shadow Treasurer!

No, no...Shadow Defence Spokesman!

Posted by: Quentin George at October 21, 2004 at 06:27 PM

All those women together running the Labor Party would be a disaster, in fact women should not be allowed to congregate in groups of more than 2. They just go stupid.

Posted by: John P at October 21, 2004 at 09:13 PM

I'm guessing you don't get many dates, John P.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 21, 2004 at 09:30 PM

I'm sorry, I forgot what century I was in. I promise I will never be sexist again.

Posted by: John P at October 21, 2004 at 10:14 PM

Is this what we have to look forward to on the opposition front bench ?
The ABC replay of Parliament Question Time would be interesting.....

Posted by: Johnny Wishbone at October 21, 2004 at 10:31 PM

Who invoked the name of the unholy, J*m Ca*i*ns?

Now I have to go back and dance on his grave again, and make doubly sure he is still in it.

Posted by: Pedro the Ignorant at October 21, 2004 at 11:24 PM

The election is turning out to be the gift that keeps on giving. All we need now is for Bush to be re-elected and I think that most of the RWDBs will die of over-gloating, if there is such an affliction. Here's hoping we find out soon.

Posted by: Rob at October 22, 2004 at 12:12 AM


Remember to drive a wooden stake through his heart - it's very important to do it properly.

I'm starting to think Malcolm Mackerras was right on the money when he compared this election to 1958. Although Mackerras didn't say this explicitly, Latham increasingly appears to be the reincarnation of Doc Evatt, right down to his downplaying of totalitarian threats to western liberal democracy.

After the elections Evatt launched a public attack on his enemies in the Labor Party. This precipitated a disastrous split in the party, culminating in the formation of the Democratic Labor Party, a breakway group which directed its preferences against Labor at subsequent elections. This, together with his obsessive hatred of Menzies, which led him into many tactical errors, cost Evatt the 1955 and 1958 federal elections, at both of which Labor was heavily defeated. During the 1958 election campaign Evatt made a dramatic offer to resign as leader if the DLP would return to the party, but the offer was rejected.

In 1960 the Labor government in New South Wales appointed Evatt Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, an appointment which was widely seen as a means of giving him a dignified exit from politics. But in 1962 he suffered a nervous breakdown and retired from the bench. He died in Canberra in November 1965. Evatt remains a hero of the Labor movement, despite many attacks on his reputation since his death. It is sometimes asserted that Evatt was insane in his later years but both of his recent biographers refute this.

Well they would, wouldn't they?

Posted by: Clem Snide at October 22, 2004 at 12:58 AM

Doc Evatt was definately insane. When the Soviet spy scandal flared up, he thought it was just a Menzies beat up.

So what did Evatt do? He wrote to Molotov in the USSR and asked if there were any spies in Australia.

Naturally, Molotov said "No, of course not."

Think about it, he asked the Soviet Ambassador if there were Soviet agents in Australia.

No wonder when he said this in parliament, the government benches exploded in laughter while the Opposition ones were dead silent.

Posted by: Quentin George at October 22, 2004 at 07:14 AM

You bastard Clem Snide I was just going to say that the similarity between Evatt and Latham is uncanny.

Imagine a leader from the NSW right who depends on support from the left...has mildy intellectual pursuits which makes him think himself superior to the dullard that keeps beating him in elections ... is erratic in the extreme and slightly paranoid...and thinks all your have to do to win an election is to offer people a heap of money in your campaign launch.

Posted by: mike A. at October 22, 2004 at 10:03 AM

Mark boy-now don't you go listening to all these meanies- you is on the right track- I wants to see lots and lots and lots of 'young progressives gals'in your ministry and Janelle does too- I betcha and perhaps you should enlist Gabrielle the 'Sex Machine' and you will be 'ome and 'osed
Sorry Gabrielle you are gorgeous-my old man suddenly wants to take up the Tango but it wiil help Peter Costello grab the votes next time from those jealous little moos

Posted by: Rose at October 22, 2004 at 10:38 AM

I don't know about "young progressives" but it appears he has increased female representation on his front bench from 20% to 25%.What a team,a bunch of ugly angry harpies and Simon Crean as well.Outstanding!

Posted by: Lew at October 22, 2004 at 02:34 PM