Latham, Mark

Latham, Mark
▪ 2005

      The opposition Labor Party (ALP) emerged from the October 2004 election in Australia weaker than it had entered it, as Labor's outspoken leader, Mark Latham, was routed by the conservative coalition led by Prime Minister John Howard on his way to a fourth term. In a tough campaign Howard battered Latham on what he described as his weak economic credentials, warning that as prime minister Latham would allow interest rates to rise. In an attempt to learn from one of the worst Labor defeats in history, Latham responded by bolstering his party's economic credentials with new appointments to his shadow ministry. Latham, who focused his campaign on education and health care reform, enjoyed a high rate of support in the spring, but throughout the summer his standing in opinion polls fluctuated. In what became a pivotal issue, he adopted a hard-line stance against Australia's involvement in the U.S.-led war in Iraq, pledging to remove Australian troops from the conflict, which even prompted a rejoinder from U.S. Pres. George W. Bush.

      Latham was born on Feb. 28, 1961, in Sydney. He graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Sydney in 1982. Entering politics, he worked in the office of former ALP prime minister Gough Whitlam. In 1987 Latham was elected to the city council in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, and he became mayor there in 1991. He later sought federal office and in 1994 was elected to represent Werriwa in the House of Representatives; it was the former seat (1952–78) of his mentor, Whitlam. When the ALP went into opposition following the 1996 elections, Latham became shadow minister of education with a seat on the front bench, but he resigned from his position after disagreements with opposition leader Kim Beazley during the 1998 elections. After Simon Crean replaced Beazley following the 2001 elections, Latham was brought back to the front bench, this time as shadow minister for economic ownership. In 2003 Crean rewarded him with the posts of shadow treasurer and manager of opposition business. Later that year, when Crean lost the confidence of his party and resigned, he threw his support to Latham. At age 42 Latham was confirmed by his party in December 2003 to become the youngest ALP leader in 100 years. Latham was sometimes criticized as having a brash, divisive demeanour, which others saw as the strength of individualism. The author of several books on policy, he looked to develop a new strategy for the ALP in order to deal with the challenges facing the party and his leadership.

Tom Michael

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▪ Australian politician
in full  Mark William Latham 
born Feb. 28, 1961, Sydney, Austl.

      Australian politician, who served as leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 2003 to 2005.

      Latham graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Sydney in 1982. Entering politics, he worked in the office of former ALP prime minister Gough Whitlam (Whitlam, Gough). In 1987 Latham was elected to the city council in the Sydney suburb of Liverpool, and he became mayor there in 1991. He later sought federal office and in 1994 was elected to the House of Representatives representing Werriwa, the seat formerly held (1952–78) by his mentor, Whitlam. When the ALP went into opposition following the 1996 elections, Latham became shadow minister of education with a seat on the front bench, but he resigned from his position after disagreements with opposition leader Kim Beazley during the 1998 elections.

      After Simon Crean replaced Beazley following the 2001 elections, Latham was brought back to the front bench, this time as shadow minister for economic ownership. In 2003 Crean named him shadow treasurer and manager of opposition business. Later that year, when Crean lost the confidence of his party and resigned, he threw his support to Latham, who was confirmed by his party in December 2003 and became, at age 42, the youngest ALP leader in 100 years.

      In 2004 Latham challanged conservative coalition leader John Howard (Howard, John) for the position of prime minister. Howard, who had already served three terms in that office, attacked Latham's economic credentials, warning that as prime minister Latham would allow interest rates to rise. Latham focused his campaign on education and health care reform, and he adopted a hard-line stance against Australia's involvement in the U.S.-led Iraq War, pledging to remove Australian troops from the conflict, which even prompted a rejoinder from U.S. Pres. George W. Bush (Bush, George W.). Though Latham enjoyed a high rate of success early on in the campaign, he was routed in the October election.

      Latham's defeat in 2004 weakened the ALP, and in January 2005 he announced his resignation from both Parliament and party leadership because of concerns over his health. Throughout his tenure, Latham was criticised for what some called his brash, divisive demeanor—which others saw as the strength of individualism. Latham was the author of several books on policy for the ALP leadership, and in 2005 he published The Latham Diaries, a political memoir.

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Universalium. 2010.

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