The Latham Diaries
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|The Latham Diaries|
|Publisher||Melbourne University Press|
|LC Classification||DU117.2.L37 A3 2005|
The Latham Diaries (ISBN 0-522-85215-7) is a political memoir by the former Federal Parliamentary Australian Labor Party (ALP) leader, Mark Latham. The book, published in 2005 by Melbourne University Press, attracted a great amount of criticism. Much of the controversy revolved around Latham's candid and scathing criticisms of the ALP, as well as highly personal and occasionally ribald comments regarding some individuals. However, readers of the book comment that there seem to be two facets to way Latham appears in it: an intellectual writing in longer entries, and an embittered Latham, who has been much-criticised and the main focus of media discussion.
The book is an abridgement of Latham's personal diary, from his election to the Australian House of Representatives in 1994 until his retirement in 2005. He has claimed that the book is not intended to discredit the ALP, but rather to correct the record for the benefit of his sons, alleging the media has not accurately portrayed him during his time in Parliament.
In it Latham frequently refers to his belief that in the 10 years between the ALP losing office in 1996 and publication of the Diaries, Labor failed to respond to major changes in Australian society, wrought by globalisation and the policies of the Keating and Howard governments. Latham says that, under the leadership of both Kim Beazley and Simon Crean, the party has failed to develop new and innovative policies, and has either looked backwards and inwards for ideas, or has taken a purely negative position with government initiatives.
Latham reiterates his belief, expounded in earlier books such as Civilising Global Capital (1998) that the ALP should reject many of its traditional policies, such as protectionism and the welfare state, and should instead focus on the expansion of social capital. These views and Latham's frustrations with the development of Labor party policy over time, are shown in his entry for August 12, 1999:
- The horse bolted in the first half of the [20th] century when Labor abandoned its mutualist traditions—socialism in the relationship between people—and embraced the welfare state—socialism in the relationship between government and its citizens. We can talk about the Third Way, a fourth way, a fifth way. In practice, it will take a miracle for the control freaks and power junkies of the Labor movement to reform their ways. I'm pissing in the wind. (p.110)
In the book, and in interviews following its release, Latham also singled out Beazley for harsh criticism on the grounds of character, alleging that — as both party leader and an ordinary MP — Beazley failed to offer Latham and other Labor MPs the support and loyalty they were due. In one now-famous comment, he described Beazley as "a dirty dog" who is "not fit to clean toilets at Parliament house."