KERRY O'BRIEN: ...your reference to Tony Abbott and the Queen in June last year where you described Tony Abbott as, quote, "Basically hanging out of the backside of the British monarch whenever he can."
What is this obsession you have with bottoms?
MARK LATHAM: I've no particular obsession with bottoms, it's a figure of speech --
KERRY O'BRIEN: Howard the arse-licker and the brown nose kissing bums, as you put it, Abbott hanging out of the Queen's backside, the conga line of suckholes.
-Excerpt from interview, The 7.30 Report, ABC-TV 4 December 2003
When Mark Latham rolled Kim Beazley on December 2, Kerry O'Brien was livid because he chose to give just one TV interview that night... to Ray Martin. Latham appeared on The 7.30 Report two nights later, and boy was Kezza fired up! The excerpt above comes towards the end of fierce and hostile interview, and Latham, to his credit, kept himself well under restraint.
Not so last weekend, when goaded by the Sphere of Influence himself, Laurie Oakes:
LAURIE OAKES: You've - you've promised an $11.7 billion tax and family policy. That's a huge amount. A huge investment. Yet you appear to have got zero political dividend from it. The polls show that you got no bounce at all.
Someone said to me it's a souffle that didn't even rise once.
MARK LATHAM: Well, you know, smart aleck commentary, Laurie, is no use to me, nor the polls.
LAURIE OAKES: It's true, though, isn't it?
The Sphere commented on this interview in his column in this week's Bulletin.
It's a pity that his interview with Andrew Denton on Enough Rope in July 2003 seems to be off-line. It was much friendlier.
If you go to the Parlinfo website's guided search, look for Mark Latham and the keyword "suckholes", you will be taken to the speech on 5 February 2003 during a House of Reps debate on Iraq. I present two extracts:
President Bush's foreign policy looks more like American imperialism than a well thought through and resourced strategy to eliminate terrorists. Bush himself is the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory. It is a bit rich for him to be preaching democratic values when he himself failed to win a democratic majority in the 2000 presidential election. His war with Iraq is more about revenging his father's mistakes. It is about the things that happened in Iraq and Kuwait in the early 1990s and it is about securing domestic political advantage. It is more about those things than a rational assessment of the best way to defeat terrorism. Post September 11, Bush needs to be seen to be acting, giving the American electorate a sense of revenge and puffed-up patriotism. If he cannot catch Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein is the next best thing, the next best strategy, for the American Republican Right.
There they are, a conga line of suckholes on the conservative side of Australian politics. The backbench sucks up to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister sucks up to George W. That is how it works for the little tories, and they have the hide to call themselves Australians. In my book they are not Australian at all. They are just the little tories—the little tory suckholes. The backbench sucks up to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister sucks up to George W. That is all they have left on their rotten little side of politics.
Personally, I can't see why Latham, the Labor Party, or the Australian people should be ashamed of his opinions of that day. OK, so the "suckholes" thing is a bit much...
Go back seven months, and we find another choice Latham quote about John Howard, from an article by Maxine McKew in The Bulletin:
Howard is an arse-licker. He went over there, kissed some bums, and got patted on the head.
(The original article is no longer available on-line for free. This extract is sourced from a comment-piece on the article in AustralianPolitics.com.)
But back on that day when he became leader of the ALP - 2 December 2003 - the dawning of a new Latham was clearly on the horizon. Latham announced the turning of a new leaf, whilst simultaneously baffling the people of four states of Australia, when he announced at his first press conference as Leader of the Opposition:
I'm the same Mark Latham, but I'm in a new role. In that regard, I've got to get the balance right, an inclusive approach. I love the larrikin Australian style, but no more crudity. No more crudity - I'll have to leave that to Reggie Reagan and the Footy Show, I think.
Sydneycentricity, Mark. In the AFL states, read Sam Newman instead of Matthew Johns' hideous alter-ego. (Complete transcript at AustralianPolitics.com.)
Finally, the first act of Mark Latham's Mogadon Man period - his first question as Leader of the Opposition to John Howard on 2 December 2003:
My question is to the Prime Minister. Given the compelling evidence from international research that the first five years of a child's life are the most important for their later learning and development, can the Prime Minister explain to the House why the government has still not produced any early childhood strategy? Can the Prime Minister also explain why he and his Minister for Children and Youth Affairs have failed to deliver any new child-care places in the last three years or do anything to address the chronic shortage of qualified child-care workers? Why has the government failed to support young families and particularly the young children who are the future of our nation?
The rest, as they say, is history in the making.