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In the wake of news that Mark Latham’s pancreatitis has recurred, only announced after he was criticised for his lack of comment on the Tsunami tragedy, reports are already appearing about his leadership being called into question. This is not a good start for Labor’s new year. My take on this is that Latham’s leadership is finished, unless he can really turn around Labor’s chances quite soon. He’ll probably survive til after the budget, though:

“His position’s quite secure,” a Labor MP, who asked not be named, said. “Otherwise they [the anti-Latham group] would have done something about it.”

But all of the Labor members the Herald spoke to conceded that the adverse publicity generated by Mr Latham’s failure to respond publicly to the tsunami disaster had hurt the party and raised the spectre of another leadership challenge.

ELSEWHERE: Saint has a different take on the politics of disaster over at DogFightAtBankstown.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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flute
2022 years ago

He’s gone mate, gone. He was gone on October 10th. The spill of talent (I mean people like McMullan not that twat Tanner) made it inevitable. He promised so much, he was a visionary. But when push came to shove he tried to play Howard’s game and buggered it up. Who will replace him? There are obvious frontrunners, but is there a winner in there? Perhaps Gillard in a wee while, but not Rudd (even though I quite like the bloke). The ALP should look at getting some real talent into parliament next election and cut loose some of the deadwood.

Irant
2022 years ago

Latham will be okay till his supporters come out with the comment “He always has and always will have my support” or worse “I stand behind the party leader). Then we know that he is about good as gone.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

He is sick.
His Shadow minister ,Ruddy, has been all over this story. If people didn’t know that they are ignorant.
notice how much exposure Ruddy has gotten. This is because it is only governments that can deliver $s not Oppositions.

In polling terms the ALP are doing pretty well given historical figures. Few people apart from Charles richardson have commented on this.

whether Iron Mark is leader or not will depend on how those heavily leveraged property borrowers go. don’t forget that a government of this vintage wil undoubtedly have a few smelly affairs as well. We have already seen Kelly in deep dooda. more will follow.

Something similar was said about a labour leader quite some time ago. He managed only a slight swing and everyone thought he was deadmeat.
His name was John Curtin.
At this stage no-one knows how well Iron mark will go.
It is not in his hands however.

saint
2022 years ago

I agree with Flutey. I think Latham is gone: his front bench choices sealed his demise I think. MacMullan on the backbench, for example, is just stupidity. At this point in time, Rudd is the best front runner, IMHO. He can be a dweeb at times, not sure how he fares in internal party and parliamentary circles, sometimes lacks the ‘gravitas’, but noone denies his ambition, hard work and intellect. And for all that, he can consistently cut through the media. Neither Crean nor Beazely could manage that.

saint
2022 years ago

Having said that, his comments or not about the tsunami disaster are irrelevant to both the disaster response and to his leadership.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

“He is sick.
His Shadow minister ,Ruddy, has been all over this story. If people didn’t know that they are ignorant.
notice how much exposure Ruddy has gotten. This is because it is only governments that can deliver $s not Oppositions.”

Come on Homer. The Tsunami happened on Boxing Day. There was near total ALP silence until Rudd got an opinion piece in the Oz on the 4th of January. Since then he’s been highly visible but no-one appeared to have told him or the bulk of his colleagues about Latham’s situation before we all found out two days ago.

Of course oppositions can’t do much in these situations – that’s why opposition is best avoided. That doesn’t remove from the fact that they have to steer a course between alternative government visibility and the pitfalls of being seen to be carping for the sake of it. Invisibility isn’t an option. Rudd has handled this well but he’s in catch-up mode. I think it’s news if the leader of the opposition is unable to carry out his duties through illness and it’s absolutely news if his office is stupid enough to deliberately say nothing about his unexplained absence until the media force it out of them.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Sorry Geoff but Ruddy has been all over this story. He hasn’t been playing catch up at all.

I like the way that it is only when the leader says something that people take notice. too much US imperialism I think.

ntp
ntp
2022 years ago

Of course, it’s all the fault of the US isn’t it Homer.

saint
2022 years ago

“The Tsunami happened on Boxing Day. There was near total ALP silence until Rudd got an opinion piece in the Oz on the 4th of January.”

Umm, do a google search on ‘Kevin Rudd’ and ‘tsunami’ or do a search on the national papers websites. Rudd has been commenting in the media almost daily (and probably daily if you figure in TV and radio) since the 27th.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’ll trust your search abilities saint but even if Rudd was on the case earlier than I’d imagined, the negative impression left by his leader’s lengthy unexplained absence remains. It was, put simply, badly handled and in terms of it’s effect in a continuing flow of negatively impacting impressions, absolutely avoidable.

saint
2022 years ago

Fair enough Geoff, but as I asked on my blog, what would have been a reasonable response from the Opposition, and in particular the Leader of the Oppostion in this circumstance?

During the first couple of days, all attention was focussed on the Government anyway, with some media and members of the public sniggering that the Government was not doing enough etc. How much would he and others have been able to cut through when all media attention anyway – and to say what? Too much public comment or crititicism by the Opposition may also be perceived as running interference. I don’t think the public appreciates the overt politicisation of disaster as Howard himself has said.

(Mind you I am not so idealistic about what goes on on both sides of the house behind closed doors. I don’t doubt Howard, Downer’s etc compassion; they have handled this well – but I don’t doubt their opportunism either.)

saint
2022 years ago

Still, our pollies have been remarkable self-disciplined and are to be commended for that, and I for one am happy that Labor has been supportive of the government’s efforts.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

As I said earlier, being in opposition isn’t easy. The line between the negativity inherent in carping critique and the media oxygen essential for alternative government plausibility, is a finely judged one – particularly with a natural disaster on this scale. In the first couple of days, a leader’s statement acknowledging the enormity of what was unfolding and support for swift and effective response was appropriate. It didn’t happen. Nor did any explanation as to why it hadn’t. Was Latham on leave? If so, who was the acting leader? Days passed and perceptions of an apparent ALP leadership vacuum grew. By the time the media began to fan the flames (once their phoning had revealed that much of the shadow cabinet were as mystified as everyone else) it was the sort of “issue” it should never have been allowed to come. All Latham needed to do was issue a press release – he didn’t even need to get out of bed. His pancreatitis could have been covered at the same time. Evans and Rudd carry on, problem solved.

Nababov
Nababov
2022 years ago

Yep, Geoff. Any half decent staff could have knocked out a public statement in an hour.

“I join with the Australian people and the Prime Minister in expressing my heartfelt sorrow and deepest sympathies for everyone suffering throughthis terrible tragedy. I am sure the Australian people will again reach out with their great generousity and open hearts to our neighbours in this time of etc, etc”

Instead, what the hell were his staffers doing? Sitting in his office chair, spinning round and round, going “Wheee!”? When he gets back on his feet, there should be some inflamed arses around the office.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

ntp,
I was alluding to the silly preoccupation of some people that the Leader of the party has to make a statement.
This is a case of US imperialism as that is what the yanks expect of their president.
They do have the best system in the world but it aint our system yet.
Thus shadow spokemen in this case can speak for the party.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I’m with Geoff and nabs. What we needed was a statement by someone on behalf of the leader, if not Latham himself. Homer – I think this is an issue that goes beyond the responsibilities of a shadow spokesperson – and the Leader of the Opposition has a public role in addition to a party role – hence his presence at Armistice Day, Anzac Day commemorations, services for the opening of parliament and the like. If the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader join in saying something on behalf of Australia, it sends a pretty strong message that we as a country are united in the stance taken.

saint
2022 years ago

Cool, then Jenny Macklin was acting leader at the time, and now Chris Evans. Jenny Macklin on 27 Dec at her usual anaemic best. Get rid of Jenny Macklin? I’m not complaining.

saint
2022 years ago

And Rudd has been working the media as he always does.

saint
2022 years ago
ntp
ntp
2022 years ago

Homer, I’m quite aware of what you’re insinuating, I just happen to think you’re wrong. Certainly leadership can be a group attribute, but the US didn’t invent the talking head called the leader. Me thinks you’re just barracking for your side and getting a kick into the US at the same time. Pretty cheap really.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

Being anti-American is strange when you support their system of government and indeed wish it to be the template of all potential and existing democracies.

ntp
ntp
2022 years ago

Strange indeed that one so knowledgeable should use the word imperialism then. Nothing emotive about that.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

nothing strange if you understand the key differences between Australia and the US.

There are some parts of imperialism I wholehearetedly support.
football and cricket from Victorian England for example.

saint
2022 years ago

You know, I just thought of something. Did Howard make any public statement on behalf of Australia, not withstanding his intended national address to explain the aid package sometime soon (Playing a bit of Devil’s Advocate here. Symbolic gestures have their time and place, but this was a huge disaster and it took everyone some time to grasp its enormity and impact through all the chaos. I really don’t think this is even worth arguing about)

Jethro
Jethro
2022 years ago

There was a letter to the editor in the Brisbane Courier Mail the other day, which complained about the lack of a response by Labour to the tsunami disaster.

Kevin Rudd responded by claiming that he was approached for comment by the media, but they declined to publish because he was not criticizing the Government.

flute
2022 years ago

Ner ner nee ner ner. Told you so.