Sun, Sep 18, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Australia's Latham calls alliance with US `neo-colonialist'

AFP , SYDNEY

Australia's ex-opposition leader Mark Latham wants his country to scrap its alliance with the US as the link represents "the last manifestation of the White Australia mentality," according to excerpts from his diaries published yesterday.

Latham, who insisted he supported the US alliance in the lead up to his crushing defeat in last October's election, offered a scathing assessment of the pact in diary entries published in the Weekend Australian newspaper.

"It's just another form of neo-colonialism," the former leader of the center-left Labor Party said, claiming the alliance had unnecessarily dragged Australia into wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

`A timid, insular nation'

Latham said the US alliance was hindering Australia's integration into Asia and represented a security blanket for "a timid insular nation at the bottom of the world, too frightened to embrace an independent foreign policy."

He said the mentality that embraced the US alliance was the same that created the White Australia policy, the discriminatory migration policy that until the 1960s made it difficult for non-caucasians to settle in Australia.

Latham resigned shortly after losing to Prime Minister John Howard last October and until this week had shied away from public life.

However, his 440-page book, The Latham Diaries, has dominated Australian newspapers and airwaves in recent days as the ex-leader has launched a vitriolic attack on his former colleagues that has been described as "the biggest dummy spit in the history of Australian politics."

Allegations

Current Labor leader Kim Beazley has threatened to sue over Latham's allegations that his successor spread sexual innuendoes about him, while key Labor figures have bristled at his assessment that the party is "irreparably broken."

Labor frontbencher Robert McClelland said his party did not share Latham's views on the US alliance and had a 65-year history of supporting links with Washington.

He said Latham had lied about his views on the alliance, which has long been a central platform of Australian foreign policy on both sides of politics.

"He was misleading not only his colleagues but also the Australian public," McClelland said.

Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile said Latham's comments raised questions about Labor's commitment to the US alliance.

"We cannot let the frontbench of the Labor Party off the hook on this, they supported the Latham leadership, they supported his policies," Vaile said.

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