The Latham Diaries come in
several forms. There were the original handwritten entries at the time
events happened. Then came the version Latham transcribed into his
computer after leaving Parliament. Then the version he submitted to
Melbourne University Press. And the final version after the lawyers and
editors presumably did a fair whack of tinkering.

But for all
the huffing and puffing by the ALP and media establishment, there are
still no signs of anyone suing. Paul Kelly started out okay in his
original analysis of The Latham Diaries as he attempted to give a taste of what was to come, but by the time we got to last Saturday’s feature he was writing him off, and by Tuesday he was telling ABC Sydney that Latham now despises the entire Australian community.

Showing
that News Ltd hasn’t collectively shut-down on the man who has
unleashed a volley of attacks on the Murdochs and their spear carriers,
Mike Steketee today produced a thoughtful analysis in The Australian which is well worth reading here. If only Laurie Oakes could have put his bruised ego to one side and managed something similar.

Steketee
hones in on Latham’s powerful critique against Beazley’s politics,
which are far more profound and well-based than all this overblown (by
Latham and everyone else) dirt spreading stuff, because they go way
back to 1996 before the two fell out. Beazley sounds like a waffling,
unreconstructed Whitlamite who has no problems with big government,
interventionist industry policy and budget deficits. There is also so
much baggage from his Ministerial days that it is hard to imagine him
ever becoming Prime Minister.

All these journalists who keep
saying Latham’s vitriol overshadows some good points should actually
start focusing on those good points, of which there are many. The
factional system, union power and Beazley’s policy position over the
last 10 years and small target strategy are all very genuine concerns
and Latham has laid it all out on the table in a devastating fashion.

Compare
the quality of that first Hawke Cabinet to the factional luddites and
union duds who now populate the green and red benches for Labor in
Canberra.

“The tragedy of The Latham Diaries is that they
will poison the climate in which there can be a productive debate about
such issues,” Steketee concludes rather pessimistically.

Not so, the evidence presented by Latham is so powerful that Labor will
simply have to act, unless they wish to stay out of power federally for
another 10 years. For the first time, someone from inside the ALP has
laid it out for all to see in a compelling argument, yet this has not
yet been discussed anywhere in the aftermath of the book’s release.

Peter Fray

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