As I Please: Latham’s Modest Proposal

In a strange intervention ‘Barking’ Mark Latham has asserted in his column in The Spectator that he wants the ABC privatised.

If he is made Chairman ‘for a limited 12-month term,’ he promises, ‘my strategy will be to slice and dice: selling off the component parts of the organisation, starting with its bookshops, then the arty-farty stuff, before moving onto its radio and television assets. Australia’s last remaining mausoleum of socialist demagoguery will be dismantled.’

Nurses will support this move, he adds, because ‘they are under siege, wasting time and resources in having to repeatedly chase the Chaser boys out of children’s cancer wards. Imagine a world without these clowns tormenting terminally ill infants. As with the tragic boatpeople drownings, the humane policy is actually the right-wing policy.’

I fear, and I fear greatly, that he is not joking. He wants one of the true glories of Australia, the creative matrix that gave us Four Corners, Gunston, Frontline, Auntie Jack, The Gillies Report, The Science Show, LNL, Fran Kelly, Triple-J, The True Believers, The Brides of  Christ, Clarke and Dawe, The Big Gig, The Games, Enough Rope, Playschool, Michael Charlton, Mike Carlton, Richard Carleton, Alan McGillvray, Maxine McKew, Margaret Throsby, Andrew Olle, Paul Lyneham, Paul Murphy, Paul Lockyer, Kerry O’Brien, The Inventors, Q&A and The Slap sold off to Alan Jones or Singo or Gina Rhinehart and the squalid peasant sensibility of A Current Affair and Ossie The Ostrich put in its place.

This is the man thought to be a better alternative Prime Minister than Kim Beazley by the austere Left guru John Faulkner (and made leader by his, John Faulkner’s, inexplicable casting vote), a man who cursed his mentor Gough Whitlam on Enough Rope and will boycott, no doubt, this week, Margaret’s memorial service and blast in his column her contribution to Australia.

It is puzzling that Labor has so often picked men with so light a grip on their sanity to lead them over the cliff into certain oblivion. Hughes, who proposed we conscript young farm boys like Les Darcy to die on the Somme. Evatt, who proposed that Catholics be rooted out of the Labor Party. Rudd, who called the 2020 and then insulted every celebrity and thinker attending it by ignoring or disdaining five thousand of their ideas in favour of two of his own.

Latham is another such mad leader. He wrote two books in favour of the Global Free Market (Civilising Global Capital, one was called; I suggested it be renamed Housetraining The Crocodile), of the floated dollar that is lately hobbling our economy and the privatisation of Qantas which has has wonderfully concentrated the minds of most of its customers on their plummeting imminent deaths. Latham agreed to debate me on these things once, after a screening of Ken Loach’s anti-privatisation film The Navigators, and did not, of course, turn up.

Latham is now fifty-two, six months older than Barack Obama, and nine years older than, say, Bobby Kennedy ever got to be. And it seems to me to be worth now asking, when has he ever been right about anything?

Perhaps, in these columns, or in his column in The Spectator, he could give us a list.

Or one of his supporters responding here.

When has Mark Latham been right? Ever?

Just asking.

Leave a comment ?


  1. Bob, Mark Latham is a very entertaining writer and I enjoy reading his columns. His proposal to sell off the ABC is an excellent one. The ABC was necessary in 1938 when there was no access to news for Australians. It did some worthwhile stuff. Sadly in an information rich world, it’s time to send old auntie off to the knackery to be carved up and sold off to whoever will have her. For too long it’s been a sheltered workshop for people of the Left persuasion. It no longer offers a balanced viewpoint. Lefties think its great. Conservatives want it carved up. We will be asking Abbott when he forms government to get a better return on that billion dollar investment and follow Mr Lathams excellent advice.

    • Which ABC programmes would you discontinue?

      • They could replace the 7.30 Report, its starting to smell bad. They could do something modern, you know, with presenters walking around in front of giant touch screens. Female presenters who are tall, gorgeous, speak seven languages, have IQs of 140 and know the football scores. Like they have on Al Jazeera.

        But not the ABC, we can’t lose that. And certainly not because of a lunatic like Latham.

    • I just wish the ABC was artsy fartsy, incredibly artsy fartsy, instead of Midsomers Murder, the Bill or Dr.Who fartsy. The ABC is anything but Artsy Fartsy.

      • I agree, allthumbs. (Felt a bit like a Luke Rhinehart novel in saying that). If only. Arts Sunday or whatever it was, was good. But when Sister Wendy getsth a look in, I’m with Latham per Doug’s quotes.

        • I again ask Frank which programmes he would discontinue.

          • Everything would go. Radio,TV the lot. Sell all the prime premises in Sydney, Melb and Brisbane or lease them to rival networks. SkyNews does a good job these days. Only thing we would keep is the ABC Shop to sell merchandise as it stills turns a good profit. ABC used to have a lot of supporters. No one will miss it these days except a few old women who listen to Radio National.

            • I can’t see the quality and flavour of merchandise holding up under another.
              Who will own it?
              What foreign owned or influenced credit will flow in the veins?
              Indian,Muslim,Mormon,American, Chinese? The IPA perhaps.

              • I am tempted by Frank’s desire to burn the ABC to the ground and sow the ashes with salt. I think I will now ban him from these columns forever. Can he give me reasons why I should not?

                • No, there is a serious debate; but Frank might consider what would fill the void left by some sort of slash and burn.

                  The BBC, the Canadian and NZ equivalents and our own ABC should continue doing what they do; media diversity and proliferation should however be further encouraged. Breaking up News Limited would be a far greater service to the nation.

                • You’ve no right to ban someone for merely speaking his mind. You’re acting like a despot. I thought lefties believed in free speech.

  2. “.. the arty farty stuff”

    Actually, it’s this very thing [quality only] which might help add colour to Latham’s anger blackness, would that he be of mind.

    You’ll get the madnesses. I don’t mind Labor re this; peferable to it being secreted behind closed doors in the Libs.

  3. For some light reading,
    Mark Latham on the topic of the ABC :

    “The ABC represents a significant transfer of resources from low to middle-income taxpayers who have no interest in its pretentious political and arty-farty programs to high-earners who make up the bulk of the ABC’s audience.

    “In the name of social justice, a Labor government should be eager to privatise the ABC, using the proceeds to fund universal community services and infrastructure.

    “At a minimum, it should alter the ABC’s charter to require the broadcasting of programs with broad audience interest.

    “Tangential pap such as The 7.30 Report, Four Corners, Q&A and Insiders would be among the first to go. If the inner-city mob want to watch these shows, they should pay for them through subscription TV.”

    Hmm. Sounds vaguely plausible, but in other places Latham said he wants Labor to abandon its old core and adopt the aspirational shit of the neocons and neolibs . . .

    Did he ever get anything right?

    He described President George W. Bush as “the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory”. Not far off. And Howard as an “arselicker”, and the coalition front bench as “a conga line of suckholes”. Crude, but accurate enough.

    Perhaps Bill Shorten got it right, elsewhere, that “[Latham displayed] all the attributes of a dog except loyalty”.

    Latham is very much a loose cannon in my view.

  4. Hey Bob, here is a question. Why isn’t the True Believers available on DVD? The ABC seemed to have put most of their other older stuff out on DVD.

    I think that this, together with King O’Malley, is the best stuff you have done.

    Also Mark Latham is seriously nuts. Why is he being published.

    • Mark Latham is not “seriously nuts”.

      For one thing, he’s against little boys being dressed up as Zorro - but no plastic sword.

      That makes him sane.

  5. Well Bob, I’d say Mark Latham was right when he pledged our party to bring Australian troops home from Iraq by Christmas if elected in 2004. Apart from that, his attempted reforms of the parliamentary super scheme and other privileges to make them less outrageously exorbitant was a good thing to do early on in his term as Opposition Leader.

    But you are right Bob, apart from that Latham’s scarcely been right on anything - the economy, refugees, IR to name a few all surrendered to the Coalition’s narrative while he was Leader. At least when our party finally puts itself together again, he won’t have much of an audience left.

  6. “Civilizing Global Capital” I bought that tome when it first came out, and made many attempts to wade my way through it without success.

    Latham was of course addressing the readership of the lower income bracket with that book and not looking to the middle class intelllectuals and artsy fartsy types with that thesis. I remember certain interviews on the ABC discussing the book, but for the life of me cannot recall it being raised on Commercial TV or Radio anywhere, maybe I missed it.

    I will have to dig out the book, because I believe it was given a rather glowing introduction as was Latham himself by Beasley, might be wrong.

    Latham, like all smart working class lads, loves and hates the caste he emanates from, are they dumb and docile, or plain speaking and spirited. What he doesn’t realise is that the working class has disappeared. There is the Middle Class and the Vassal class (coffee makers and servers, hamburger flippers, manicurists, beauticians, the service industry in general).

    • For the record, it was Gough Whitlam that wrote the forward not Kim Beasley as I mistakenly recalled, to Latham’s book.

      Beasley’s comments from my reading sound somewhat sceptical and not glowing as I purported, as noted on the front page,:

      I share with Mark Latham the conviction that Labor has the task, from Opposition, of reinventing the role of Australian Government-a government that must define and then realise, a role within a contemporary society for which past practices leave it ill-prepared.

      The canvas Latham paints upon is very broad indeed. May all his readers be able to appreciate it in its full breadth, as I have, as my colleagues have and as, in time will a great many Australians”

      • AllThumbs: I want to endorse that, but I actually find it meaningless rubbbish.
        Has Labor reinvented the role of Australian Govt? Did that dream die as Latham fell? What would a reinvention of the Australian Govt look like?
        Pedantic old-fart nit picking here: why do you say “Gough Whitlam that..” rather than “Gough Whitlam who…”? “Who” and “which” seem to have been deleted from our vocabulary.

        • F.I. Beasley, I think very carefully says that Labor has the task of reinventing government from Opposition. That sounds like a neatly placed get out clause to me.

          As has been pointed out to me before, my grammar leaves quite a bit to be desired, I am a clod, it is what it is. I was raised in the Australian school system when grammar was taught subliminally as an undercurrent of the text. That pedagogic adventure has left me somewhat bereft of an understanding of grammatical mechanics, and I am often identified as a dolt because of it.

          I think Beasley was lending supportive words to a colleague and not much else.

          Listen to this from Lindsay Tanner;
          ” Mark Latham’s exploration of the dilemmas presented for Labor by globalisation is an incisive and thought-provoking contribution to the continuing debate on the future of social democratic and left politics”

          Latham, I think in a nutshell, believed “Capitalism” had won hands down, and therefore the ALP should no longer waste its energies fighting that bogeyman but try to make the fruits of the system accessible to everyone, climbing the ladder and all that stuff. He didn’t see the coming failure of the system manifested in 2008 which(?) I believe hasn’t even got started, he was fooled into believing that the system had found a self perpetual motion mechanism. I think we are returning to a boots and all division of haves and have nots. This time it will be the global middle class, educated, articulate, spoilt, self serving should have beens. They are going to be very angry for a very long time. I can see no government anywhere taking that into account, Titanic, and deckchairs come to mind.

          Reinvention of the Government will be the least of our troubles, Reinvention of societies will be high on the agenda.

          Of course I could be totally wrong.

      • Why do you always spell Kim Beazley’s with an ‘s’?

        • I think you may have diagnosed a creeping case of dyslexia MJ. I can’t answer that, I really can’t, Fuck me, Beazley I honestly genuinely have never noticed how often I have got that wrong.

          No wonder I never received an answer from Lisa Minelli!

          • all thumbs, the ‘s’ made him seem soft; whereas the ‘z’ is stern. Okay?
            I see you mention the school system and grammar, and clods. My mum says no one taught grammar as well as the Sisters, the nuns (there’ll be plenty to heap scorn on that).

            Even though you’re Green, you’re funnier than the Head of the Table.

            • The State education system is regrettably rather patchy. When I was at school in a State public school in the 1960s and early 70s, grammar was still an issue.

              The parsing of sentences and the analysis of usage and syntax were still part of the syllabus.

              Unless one is dyslexic, spelling should be a simple matter of attention to detail.

              It was always the case that some teachers had the respect of their students, whilst others did not. Perhaps I was lucky enough to have some of the better ones.

              • My grandmother, born in 1901, came out of schooling in 7 years with even quality Old English copperplate with quill under her belt. She said there was consequences for not being able to draw a giant map freehand of Australia on butcher wrap type paper.i have kept even some of her old shopping lists as works of art for her descendants.
                The days not so long ago where year 7 was more than enough for many trades.
                Now we keep monkeys in the govt sponsored workers babysitting programs to upend everyone’s education by disfunction.

              • School in the 60s/70s. You’re younger than I’d guessed, DQ.
                Baby boomer!

      • It’s not nit-picking.
        You get this on The Punch and they call themselves journalists. It’s ‘who’, not ‘that’, allthumbs.

        Some say grammar Nazis, but these things are catching.
        No one picked up the early ‘shoe in’ mistakes. Now it’s almost forgotten that it should be a ‘shoo in’.

        This is risky - the Good Manners fairy might turn up to chastise.

        • Don’t start me.

          Fraught means “full” and only in the phrase “fraught with danger” does it have the meaning most would seem to think it does.

          Fond means “foolish”

          Hear Hear! and not “Here Here”

          One of my favourites was the “preying church mice” of the happy-clappies.

  7. I know little of Mark to comment except for the surface fodder provided by media.Read no books. Though i’ve lived through the hormone variations associated with cancer and other forms of shit on the liver in others.
    I like the fire,just the directions offend and the explanations why clatter in my contradictions department producing a darting eyeball and vibrating eyebrow.

    The top crust wants privatisation and what better way to dismantle than use the captive audience people’s complaints painted as the carrier.Trusted ,tried and true.
    “It’s what you wanted.” The fight on amongst the shepherds of sheep directions.

    The quality of the ABC site and producings ,to me,is high as the aim is to not offend in any direction or appear to be biased in any.Is the cloak of conservative that or just in plain site? I get an ominous presence and dose of US church,Christian power might, politics ,psychologies and philanderings in another’s lives when perusing.
    The offensive ranting of condemnation and god lunatic self pampering and self righteous oppression threat visible.
    Trim it back to Australian would be fine thanks, trimming away the barging big pacific sister except for valid content.Though the constant fight to keep institution social order out of it will never end.Getting the highly valid realities of smaller Australian life under them in, an incessant and offensive chore against a machine so adept at domination.

    Take it all away and what do we have? Another Murdoch contender.
    If a private org could do what the ABC does without the conservative and institution tierages, they would be on a goldmine.
    But, they are incapable and have and will not have the nervous system and ecologies or the heart and time or times that have produced the Australian ABC.
    The whole matter needs a lot of thought.Especially as corporate greed and peace and globilisation and the heavy excuse of, robs us of our nation and identity amongst the good.
    A very big subject.

  8. Latham Diaries was one of the best political reads, he is a wonderfully twisted and bitter man. He said Rudd was a “terrible piece of work” apparently a view shared by many of Rudd’s ministers.

    His views on the factional thuggery within the ALP seem to have been born out by Rudds overthrow and subsequent verbal destruction at the hands of the right in his challenge.

    A couple of other statements of his that could viewed as true.

    “”Labor is two separate organisations: at the top, an elite band of union leaders exercising factional power; and at its base, a new class of inner-city leftists.”

    “The key target group in general elections in this country — young, upwardly-mobile families in the outer suburbs — simply do not belong to Labor party branches”

    His views about the sanity of some of the greens is accurate.

    He was certainly wrong on how great Gillard would be as leader though now he has changed his tone somewhat.

    However, while Latham is full of venom, critique, a divider not a builder, his writing is amusing and it’s a unique straight talking viewpoint.

    • You’re right.

      And he changed his tone on Gillard more than ‘somewhat’ - madcap, he rightly called her.

  9. When he said in 2004 that we should withdraw from Iraq by Christmas and was crucified for it.

    He was right.

    He asked Howard if the children could be released from prison by Christmas - Gillard has never uttered a word about jailing thousands of children.

    He actually is the only pollie to ever apologise to the Iraqis demonised by Ruddock for throwing their kids overboard.

    His plan for the Tasmanian forests was great, now we are short thousands more acres of old growth forest and a mickey mouse deal to protect a lot less.

    But I think that is about it.

  10. I’ll have a crack at where Mark Latham is right.

    Above comments are bloody good, must say.

    While Latham’s public persona is out of fashion - it wasn’t as much, at one stage, when he injected a special something into a seemingly never-ending barren, inhumane and self-serving political landscape, which was the word “real”, at that time - and that I don’t understand global economics to any meaningful extent, Latham was and remains right in that he chooses, or seems to, to be free of the machine/polls/advisers/sloganeering/politick-contempt(of the public)/and other power and would-be power constructs - not ordained by the people nor representative of them - which drain our system.

    We all know he’s not PM material, or even somewhat or much less.

    But he’s right in doing that, trying that, being that, keeping that.

    It’s easy to knee-jerk Latham.

    For mine, I’m glad he’s there and still at it.

    He represents a freer speaking country, and while we may not like his genuineness as it comes, in content or style or whatnot, or even its extent as it might be perceived, it’s a hell of a lot better than the current lot of processed fodder.

    He’s right to maintain that about himself, and to make it public, wherein those two have prostituted otherwise, slowly or quickly but surely all too often, to our nation’s lessening.

  11. Whether the ABC is right or left depends upon the view from where you’re standing. There are plenty who think, eg, that public libraries are a step too close to Stalin.
    I’m surprised at the grip that inner-city lefties have on programming. I have them to thank (ugh) for 13 1/2 hours of Grandstand on radio this weekend? And of course those notoriously leftist farmers are responsible for The Country Hour and Landline.
    Has any sale of public assets ever advantaged the public? Just asking.

  12. The commercial interests hate the ABC.

    There it is, with its wonderful demographic of all those baby boomers and builders (or whatever else the 1930-45 generation is called) watching TV and listening to radio and almost impervious to commercials!

    Even SBS is carrying ads these days, and the advertising companies are greedily eying off the ABC.

    Think of all the money they can make!

    Talk about a gnashing of teeth!

  13. Latham could be of more help to low income earners if he encouraged them to let their preschoolers and olders watch some of the excellent ABC children’s programs.
    It just might help to break the unpleasant nexus between low icsea and low Naplan results.

  14. Latham was right about:
    1. School funding, as Gonski has now confirmed;
    2. Tasmanian forests, as the debacle with Labor now shows, his scheme alone would have saved enormous sections of pristine wilderness.
    3. Rudd, he nailed that bloke before anyone else woke up;
    4. Childcare - first leader to get that issue right;
    5. Aspirational society, he understood suburban Australia better than the Labor children of Labor MPs (Beazley and Crean) and better than the millionaire Rudd;

    Go back and look at the policies Latham took to the 2004 election and see how many of them Labor voters can only wish were still party policy.

    • Terrance, it is with great humility and a little pang of regret, that I nod a respectful acknowledgement of your point 5 and conclusion.

  15. So much have we lived. Crean. Beazley. We lived this. The name Howard.

    Passage of time; the word which must also be mentioned in this Mark Latham thread is “inclusive”. How we forget.

    Mad bastard, to stand against those spiritually barren forces upon forces forged in our lives incrementally, badly, daily, and then speak of that word.

    Latham was right to want “inclusive”.

  16. Mark Latham was one of the last cohort advantaged by the old idea that an education was of more benefit to the individual than the “universal community services and infrastructure” that he now champions.
    “Of course the kids at the Grammar School are smarter than the kids at the public,” I heard a senior Labor pol say. This patronising and dismissive attitude seems to have become commonplace. And it is wrong.

    • It is certainly wrong if you factor in the selective high schools in the Sydney region.

      Those at Sydney Grammar, Knox and the like may have wealthy parents and every tuition assistance money can buy, but intelligence is only slightly linked to parental wealth.

      Indications are that once at university the elite private schools students’ slight advantage evaporates.

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