Mon, Sep 19, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Ex-Labor leader's book vilifies Australian MPs

AFP , SYDNEY

The memoirs of Australia's most divisive politician since Pauline Hanson are released today, in a book which publishers say will provide a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the underbelly of political life in Canberra.

The musings of a former opposition leader who resigned after losing his first major election would normally be of only marginal interest in Australia, but the diaries of ex-Labor Party leader Mark Latham have dominated front pages and airwaves for more than a week.

Major issues such as approval for full privatization of telecoms giant Telstra and Prime Minister John Howard's trip to the UN world summit have been overshadowed by debate over the book's claims.

Latham, 44, was hailed as Labor's saviour heading into a general election last October. But voters emphatically rejected his leadership and handed Howard's conservative government a fourth term in office.

He came to the leadership with an admiration for former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who was renowned for calling his political opponents "scumbags."

Latham adopted similar vitriol in his 13 months as leader, referring to US President George W. Bush as "the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory" and Howard's government as "a conga line of suckholes."

The former opposition leader turns his guns on his own side, including former colleagues whom he blames for his defeat, in The Latham Diaries.

The Labor Party is derided as a corrupt, irreparably broken, unelectable cesspit, while current Labor leader Kim Beazley is accused of orchestrating a smear campaign of sexual innuendos in his quest to get the top job.

"I wouldn't make him the toilet cleaner at parliament house, let alone the leader of the opposition," Latham told the ABC ahead of his book's publication.

Latham also reveals that his pre-election support for Australia's US alliance was not sincere, calling the pact "the last manifestation of the White Australia mentality" in reference to the country's discriminatory migration policies that were scrapped in the 1960s.

The book has sparked a political furore not seen since right-wing firebrand Pauline Hanson condemned Asian migration and Aboriginal welfare in the 1990s.

Labor campaign strategist Bruce Hawker said the bile and double standards revealed in the book would affect all politicians' standing in the community.

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