Day Three of our series in which former Opposition
Leader and diarist Mark Latham answers questions from Crikey

Bill Bristow: Have you ever had more fun that you have had in the last month?

Mark Latham: It has certainly been an enjoyable time
Bill. I had a great day at the races
last Saturday – an absolute screamer at Randwick. Plus some of the media interviews for the
diaries have been howlers, especially JJJ with the Chaser fellas and MMM with Mick Molloy and
his mate Robyn. There are some very
funny people on FM radio and it was good to kick back and chat about the book
in a light hearted way. Mick Molloy summed
it up when he said, “What’s everyone going on about? I can see where you’re coming from – what
you’re really saying is ‘who gives a shit’.”
Exactly. All the things in the diaries
happened, so why are people in the ALP and the media so worked up about
them? The likes of Lindsay Tanner in the
Labor Caucus and Tony Wright and Mike Seccombe in the Press Gallery should do
what they do best: kick back, spark up and not give a shit.


Steve Darcy: Hello Mark, I would like to know who our Government is
currently acting in the interests of? And the reasons they are acting in their
interests in your opinion please. Thanks.

Mark Latham: I think that’s one for Plato or Socrates,
Steve, minds greater than mine. Although
one thing I worry about is the growing influence of the fanatical Religious
Right on both sides of politics. Usually
these people have a series of sexual hang-ups that they try to rationalise and
overcome by imposing their moral code and policies on the rest of society. Just look at Heffernan’s perverted activities
inside the Liberal Party, assisted by the likes of Abetz, Abbott and the rest
of the Lyons Forum fanatics. Just look
at Costello taking to the pulpit of the Hillsong Church in Sydney’s


Phil Robins:
Congratulations on your book, Mark. It presents a lot of good policy ideas,
cuts through the bulldust and rings true on many matters (especially the
soul-destroying factional deals which keep Labor from putting its best team in
to bat for the battlers). I think you could have gone in harder against the
Libs. And while I appreciate your need to settle old scores, it was
disappointing to see you embarrass erstwhile friends by revealing confidential
conversations. Finally, while Kim Beazley has his faults, you haven’t convinced
me that he (unlike some of his cohorts, perhaps) is the bad bugger that you make
him out to be. Do you have any misgivings at all over giving the hard men of
Australian politics a critical free kick at the expense of the party which
nurtured you and gave you the chance to be prime

Mark Latham: No regrets Phil. Every man and his dog in the ALP
had their
say about our election defeat at the end of last year. Having kept my
diary and worked on its
entries for 11 years, it would have been crazy if I didn’t put my views
in the
public domain. As for Beazley, I
recorded what I saw and heard, accurately and precisely. Moreover, the
old adage is true: you can
judge a man by the company he keeps. So
what can be said of Beazley given that his cohorts include Ray, Swan,
and McLeay – the worst elements of ALP machine politics and bastardry?
When they sit around talking about people and
planning their strategies, you can be assured it’s not an exercise in
Zen Buddhism. In fact, Beazley is similar to Howard in this
regard. Over the years, Howard has
surrounded himself with the worst elements of the Liberal Party – such
Heffernan, Staley, Baume and Abbott – but then tried to present himself
as Mr
Brady Bunch to the electorate.


John Hayward:
Your remarks on the extraordinary solicitude of Paul Lennon
for logging giant Gunns Ltd points to a situation which can probably be smelled
from Calgary. Why has the Labor
Party otherwise refrained from commenting on the fastest, least efficient, and
most destructive logging operation in the developed

Mark Latham: Gunns is a significant donor to the ALP,
plus they have a very close relationship with the hapless Forestry union. Just as Michael O’Connor and the union sold
out to the Tory Government and embraced Howard during the last election
campaign (maybe, deep down, they like his industrial relations agenda), they
sold their souls to the timber bosses years ago.
It’s a classic case of corporatism, with these personal relationships
and side deals – an unholy alliance of labour and capital, Labor and Liberal –
driving policy making in Tasmania. In my Diaries, I described
Gunns as the new Hydro, a fair reflection on their role within the Lennon
Government. The Premier is a close
personal friend of the head of Gunns, John Gay.
Inside the ALP, the Forestry union is a leading player, integral to
Martin Ferguson’s powerbase and his many factional deals with the Right-wing
unions. This web of influence means that
the timber companies exercise significant power over many leading ALP
figures. When it comes to Gunns, they
wouldn’t say Boo to a goose. No policy
issue or set of relationships better demonstrates the ethical decline and
political corruption of the Australian Labor movement than Tasmanian


Scott Needham: Given your comments
recently, can Peter Garrett be as real
in politics as he is/was in music world ?

Mark Latham: Inevitably there are
compromises that make people less ‘real’ in politics. But Peter Garrett is a very good person,
miles better than the union hacks, yes-men and branch stackers that win
preselection out of Sussex Street these days.
The ALP needs more Peter Garretts and fewer Mark Arbibs and Eric
Roozendaals if it is to have any hope of restoring its reputation as a
semi-decent political entity.

Send questions for Mark Latham to
[email protected].

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