Last week, I wrote that Peter Brent (Mr Mumble) was unduly influenced “by his extreme distaste for Mark Latham.” Perhaps trying to prove me wrong, he has now devoted a post to “The Good Things About Mark,” admitting that his leadership “wasn’t the unmitigated disaster I initially expected.” Brent’s points include the following:

  • The 2004 election result wasn’t the worst in history or close to it, as some are now saying.
  • Latham had a sophisticated understanding about making connections with the community that was more than the standard Simon Crean/Wayne Swan “stay on message mate, keep plugging away on health and education/government waste.”
  • Latham was excellent in the debate, relaxed, on top of facts, revealing a lovely side to his personality.
  • He knew the value of keeping quiet at times and remaining attractive at a distance.

These are all valid points, but to my mind they pale alongside the one big issue: Latham was the man who killed the parliamentary superannuation scheme. Killed it stone dead. When everything else about 2004 is forgotten, he will deserve to be kindly remembered by Australian taxpayers for that alone.

Brent was less charitable earlier in the week with his comment that “the Lad will be back on the IPA/CIS/Quadrant circuit in no time.” We can only hope so; those places could certainly do with a shake-up. But a glance back at Latham’s famous “imagine the hide of these people” speech from 2002 (available here) might suggest that too many bridges have been burnt in that direction.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey