3 December 2003

Govt says Latham a danger to Australian-US alliance

CATHERINE MCGRATH: The Government wants to neutralise Mark Latham as soon as it can and in Question Time the frontbench focussed on his comments about George W. Bush.

The Prime Minister.

JOHN HOWARD: I take the view, and I believe that most Australians take the view, that it is not in Australia's interest, Mr Speaker, it is not in the national interest of our country that the alternative Prime Minister of this country should describe the current American President, no matter what that American President's politics may be, as being the most dangerous and incompetent President in the history of the United States.

But that is what, that is what the Leader of the Opposition sought to do this morning and by doing it, Mr Speaker, he's demonstrated that in his new position he is dangerous so far as the American alliance is concerned, Mr Speaker.

More on this when the 7.30 Report transcript of their Costello interview is available. Meanwhile true political junkies could always download Hansard and read the Man of Steel's proclamation.


PETER COSTELLO: Well, I think Mr Latham was probably lucky to be elected.

I think he's lucky to have got to the leadership of the Labor Party without having any experience at all.

He's never had --

KERRY O'BRIEN: He's been in the Parliament 10 years.

He's been on the front bench and in the Shadow Treasury portfolio and other portfolios.

PETER COSTELLO: He's never been in government.

I watched him very carefully when he was Shadow Treasurer and he never produced a policy.

Most of the things that he called policies were revoked or overruled in one way or another.

So, I think he's very untried, very untested and to that degree he's a lucky politician.

KERRY O'BRIEN: When were you elected with the so-called dream team with Alexander Downer as deputy leader in Opposition, you had not been government and hadn't had that experience.

Surely there are many people elected to Opposition Leader who have not had experience in Government.

Is that the measure?

PETER COSTELLO: I think the Labor Party is putting Mark Latham forward as an alternative PM.

Now bear this in mind.

If Labor were elected to Government, he would presumably want to go to the White House and discuss the American alliance.

And I think a lot of people should be very concerned about the views that he has expressed on the American alliance.

KERRY O'BRIEN: I notice that the US ambassador rang up and congratulated him.

PETER COSTELLO: Of course he would, because that's the job of an ambassador -- to try and mend fences.

But can you imagine what the view of the American Administration would be?

We know Mr Latham's views about President Bush because he reaffirmed them today.

What I would find more interesting, frankly, is to know what President Bush's views were on Mark Latham.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is that important?

The alternative leader of the government proving he is unlikely to trouble the Man of Steel's hold on the party leadership in the near future.

You can hype national security to some of the people all of the time...

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