The 500 students, political operatives and journalists who turned out last night to see Mark Latham wind up his two-week media tour at Melbourne University may have been a little disappointed when Iron Mark’s official speech was trumped by his appearance with Tony Jones on Lateline last night (here).

And although Latham may have originally planned his Melbourne Uni speech as his last public hurrah, last night’s Jones interview, originally scheduled for last week, may be the last we see of Latham for a little while – and it probably wasn’t the way he wanted to go out.

One of the few prominent journalists Latham didn’t tear apart in his diaries, Jones’s tone was noticeably more antagonistic in last night’s interview than it was when he spoke to Latham just over a week ago. Jones told Crikey he wasn’t going into bat for the politicians and journalists attacked in the Diaries, merely testing Latham on some of the key allegations.

Jones accused Latham of hypocrisy for airing sexual allegations about a senior political figure that had caused the figure’s marriage to fall into turmoil. Then the interview veers into dangerous territory when Latham started sprouting names of alleged dope smokers and drug dealers in parliament.

MARK LATHAM: Oh, Tony, I mean, this is on Triple J, joking around with comedians who appear on this network – The Chaser Program – you need to, you know, perhaps understand the context, but also what am I supposed to say about Tony Wright? He turns up at my function in Lismore in early 2004 telling me that he’s stoned off his face, he’s been down to Nimbin and been on the hoochy coochy all day. What do you want me to say, Tony? What do you want me to say?

TONY JONES: Well, first of all, I’d like you not to name people on this program, if you wouldn’t mind. The basic problem you’ve got now are your unrelenting attacks on all and sundry have given people licence to vent their rage against you…

Jones told Crikey this morning he’d cut off Latham there because “I just didn’t want him to go through the through the process of making allegations for which our program had no proof.”

Peter Fray

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