Mark Latham; Economy; James Hird

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Mark Latham; Economy; James Hird


Interview with Neil Mitchell


Monday, 6 May 2002
8:50 am


SUBJECTS: Mark Latham; Economy; James Hird


On the line, as I said, Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, good morning.


Good morning Neil.


Is he the new headkicker, are we into a new era of politics?


I think both. Mark Latham, this is a pre-meditated speech that he gave on the

weekend and he said that the Labor Party had to get more vicious, and he went

down to the Young Labor conference and said we have got to get more vicious

and he named the people that Labor was going to get vicious against. And in

the course of doing that he described Tony Staley as a deformed character. Neil,

Tony is a friend of mine. I have watched Tony Staley, he actually died at one

point, I have watched him fight back from the most horrific, crippling injuries,

he walks in great pain, he is on crutches, he has difficulty standing up, he

doesn’t have the use of most of his lower body, and to describe him as deformed

I think is absolutely appalling. This is a man of great courage, whether you

agree with his views or not, you do not go around calling people like that deformed

and Mr Latham should withdraw it. He should withdraw it and he should apologise

and Mr Crean should tell him to do so. They are just digging themselves into

this and carrying on as if it is all justified.


Well, you’re a bit of a headkicker yourself though. The Labor Party says that

you called Kim Beazley a fat man with a famous name in 1995.


In the heat of the Parliament we have all said things that we shouldn’t have

said and I have had to withdraw numbers of things. But I will tell you this,

Neil, I think it is beyond the pale to start attacking people with physical

disabilities. You might say something about your opponents, you might disagree

with them, sometimes you say too much and I have certainly done that. But I

tell you I would not wander around calling somebody on crutches who has lost

the use of their lower body, deformed. And, if I did, I think the Leader of

the Party ought to make it clear it is unacceptable and force him to withdraw

it because otherwise I am not quite sure where this new low is going.


Okay, so that’s what you want from Simon Crean, he is either with Latham or

against him?


Well, Mr Crean was given the opportunity yesterday to make it clear to Mr Latham

this is unacceptable behaviour and to repudiate him. In fact he endorsed it.

And the message from all of that was, yes, this is going to be a new tactic

in political life, a new level of viciousness. Mr Crean, of course, said he

was going to turn over a new leaf…


Will you kick back? Will you kick back?


Well, what we will do is we will draw to the public’s attention that this is

absolutely unacceptable behaviour and try and have it withdrawn and try and

have the person who did it disciplined. Now, if we were just to do the same

as Mr Crean and Mr Latham the whole political debate would just degenerate.

We want Mr Crean to show some leadership. We want Mr Crean to say that this

is unacceptable and what is more we want to say that this is, we want him to

say that this is not a new tactic, that he is not authorising new lows in political

life for political advantage, and that is the only way you will get politics

back onto an even keel. And as for Tony Staley, incidentally, here is a man

who I, is one of the most courageous people that I have ever met and that most

Australians ever will and I think he is owed a very big apology today.


Have you spoken to Tony Staley since this happened?


Haven’t spoken to him today, I hope to get onto him this morning. I know that

others have, but I am certainly going to go out and defend Tony Staley because

I have such an admiration for the way in which he has overcome this physical

disability and he does not deserve that kind of treatment.


Just a couple of other things, big week for the economy? Interest rate decision?


Yes, there is a meeting of the Bank during the week, Neil, and obviously I

can not foreshadow what will be decided at it. But the economy has been running

in a pretty strong manner over recent months. We are probably the most fast

growing economy of the world – unemployment has come down, we will be getting

some new job advertisement figures today – so…


With all that you have to say that the pressure is on rates to go up though?


Well, leaving aside the question of rates, what would you prefer Neil? A weak

economy like the United States or France, or Germany, or a strong one like Australia?

I’ll take a strong one any day because it means more job opportunities.


And I know, look, I know you have to get away, but just quickly, James Hird,

as an Essendon supporter it must, it is horrific stuff. I wonder whether he

will play again. What do you think?


James is, you know, one of the most talented people you will ever come across,

not just on a football field but as an individual. He has got a great job, he

is well paid, he is good in the media and I have often thought to myself, why

does he play football. And the answer is, I think he just loves the game, you

know, I have seen him before matches, and he gets so pumped up, I think he just

loves the game. And if you, it is a matter for him, it is a decision for him,

obviously, but if you ask me I think he will be itching to get back on the field.

I know it is a horrific injury but this is a guy that just loves playing football.


Thanks for your time.