premiers to blame: latham

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    Premiers to blame: Latham
    By Steve Lewis
    November 24, 2004

    MARK Latham has blamed Labor premiers for contributing to the ALP's devastating federal election loss, stunning colleagues and angering the state leaders.

    Blame game ... Labor leader Mark Latham / AAP

    During a difficult two-hour election post-mortem in Canberra yesterday, the Opposition Leader also cited his failure to engage with business and problems within his office as prime reasons for the poll debacle.

    He said the Scoresby freeway controversy and the public outcry over Sydney's Orange Grove development contributed to a slump in support for Labor in Victoria and NSW.

    He was also critical of the role played by Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon in the lead-up to Labor's forestry announcement, blamed for the loss of up to four seats across Australia.

    Despite the sometimes-frank assessment of the loss, senior figures were not impressed.

    "Latham's f..king mad; he's in complete denial," one said.

    Of the Scoresby allegations, a senior Victorian source said: "It is a preposterous proposition unsupported by internal party polling."

    And a NSW Labor source said last night: "NSW was the best performing state for federal Labor. How does Latham account for Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania?"

    As Labor's national executive placed candidates on notice that they will have to perform or else, Mr Latham led a detailed discussion on the reasons behind the party's lowest primary vote for more than 70 years.

    He also challenged some key members of the national executive - including incoming national president Barry Jones and union boss Bill Shorten - who have criticised the party's direction post-election.

    It is understood Mr Latham referred to the Scoresby issue as "Bracks's Broken Promise", following the Victorian Government's decision to impose a toll on the road project earmarked for Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs.

    And he told colleagues that the Tasmanian Government's failure to share vital information helped derail his forestry plan, which aimed to save about 240,000ha of old-growth forest.

    But in a further sign that the Labor fraternity is far from united, Mr Latham's outburst has provoked a strident response from some critics.

    Victorian government sources believe he is deluding himself on the reasons behind the October 9 loss.

    And Tasmanian government sources also insisted that Mr Lennon and state Labor figures had made repeated approaches to federal Labor on forest policy in the 12 months leading up to the election.

    They pointed to Mr Lennon's speech to a closed session of ALP state conference last month in which the Premier accused Mr Latham of repeatedly "refusing to listen" to advice and information provided by state Labor.

    Members of the ALP national executive believe Mr Latham was signalling a tougher approach with Labor premiers in the future, even if that risked straining relations with his state colleagues.

    "He's saying that we were a bit too principled, that we should have been a bit tougher," a senior party figure said.

    As reported by The Australian yesterday, the Labor executive agreed to establish a detailed research strategy to look at the reasons behind the fall in the party's primary vote to just above 37 per cent.

    But as Labor figures question whether Mr Latham would survive as leader into the new year, the national executive agreed to a long list of recommended changes.

    These include a more robust approach to attracting star-quality candidates to marginal seats.

    But Labor national president Carmen Lawrence said candidates and campaign officials would also have to sign "milestone contract" setting out benchmarks for respective performance and obligations to the campaign.

    These would force the party to be tougher on candidates and ensure they had qualities likely to make them good campaigners.

    "They have to be pretty robust, they have to like people, they have to be prepared to go out and sell the message," Dr Lawrence told reporters in Canberra.

    "It's particularly targeted at marginal seat members, where you want members to be agreeing to do certain things like telephone canvassing, door-knocking (and) delivering certain outcomes in terms of fundraising."

    Dr Lawrence suggested Labor would also bring forward its next national conference to give the party more time to develop and market its policies.

    Additional reporting: Matthew Denholm

    The Australian


    How long before Latham gets the shove, not long at all I suspect.

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