From today’s press conference at Melbourne Airport.
JULIA GILLARD: I’d like to thank the many members of the media who volunteered to come out to the airport and help me with my bags. That was very generous of you. We thought in view of those many kind offers that it was probably better to do it like this.
All jokes aside, can I start by saying this is obviously a difficult period for the Labor Party. I thought it was a real tragedy that Mark Latham decided that he couldn’t continue his career in public life. Mark was a leader of energy, of enthusiasm, of conviction, of ideas. I’m going to miss him. Obviously our personal friendship will continue, but I think there is a real vacuum left on Australia’s political stage by Mark Latham leaving public life.
Obviously now the issue for the Labor Party, with Mark having resigned, is to resolve the issue of the leadership. It’s not my intention today to say anything about that matter, except that I want to talk to my Caucus colleagues.
I have obviously been on a private holiday in Vietnam, as I think you know. I’ve been in a different time zone. I haven’t been able to see all of the media and I think it’s important that I spend some time talking to my Caucus colleagues.
I’ve always found in the various leadership issues I’ve been involved in that there’s a great deal of wisdom in Labor Party Caucus and I want to tap into that wisdom by talking to my Caucus colleagues.
Having said that, can I just say looking at the media, one of the problems with Labor leadership contests, or perhaps with leadership contests generally, is that they look in the media as if they’re some sort of political beauty contest. That’s not the way I view the question of the Labor leadership.
The question of the Labor leadership is a question about Labor’s future direction and policy vision for Australia. And I think Labor supporters, Labor members, people who would like to be Labor supporters want to see Labor be a strong Opposition, but they want to see a Labor Party that’s stridently out there advocating an independent foreign policy, advocating health, education and family policies that make a real difference to people’s lives and to their life chances. And they want to see us out there advocating an economic policy that shares opportunity and prosperity and the prospects of opportunity and prosperity for all Australians.
Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, they aren’t either/or. We’ve got to do those things all at the same time. I think we’ve failed in that regard to date and part of the way I will look at the leadership issue in the Labor Party is I will be looking to see how we can strengthen Labor’s hand to pursue that sort of policy direction to which I’m very deeply committed.