There has been much criticism about Latham's inability to take responsibility for his own failings, and his role in his party's failure in the 2004 election. Whilst this perception is largely true, it is worth noting that Latham does accept some responsibility for his actions (though it does include the significant caveat 'by the conventional performance measures'):
My aim is not to rewrite my place in Australian political history. This is not possible. I never became a minister in a Labor Government. Under my leadership, the ALP lost seats at the 2004 Federal election. This disappointed many of my supporters, dashing their expectations of what I could achieve in public life. I failed in my mission to advance the cause of Labor, to make Australia a social democracy. By the conventional performance measures of Australian politics, my parliamentary career was unsuccessful. - Page 4
The introduction does serve as an interesting political essay with genuine merit. Latham focuses on the disconnection between ordinary people and their elected representatives, and the seeming inverse relationship between wealth and strong communities:
Escapism is the new religion of middle Australia. This is the sorry state of advanced capitalism: the ruling culture encourages people to reach for four-wheel drives, double-storey homes, reality television and gossip magazines to find meaning and satisfaction in their lives. All of which offer false hope. Marx was wrong in prediction the alientation of labour from the economy as the catalyst of social discontent. It is the alienation of the individual from community life that is the cause of so many social problems. - Page 16
And just who was the Liberal front bencher who was playing nice with Latham earlier this year (my hunch is Brendon Nelson, or perhaps Gary Hargraves... no evidence on my part, but they seem like the kind of ministers with a softer side):
- Page 21
And the last word on my time in politics? I am happy to leave it to my Liberal opponents. One of the nice rituals of Australian politics is that, after you retire, the other side starts telling the truth about you. In February I received the following note form a senior minister in the Howard Governement:Whilst there will always be some things you and I wil disagree on, I admire the contribution that you have made the public life. At Liverpool Council you changed the Old Guard and put in place a dynamic infrastructure. In Federal Parliament you took risks that gave you opportunities to change the nation from Opposition. I admire that.
Now is the time for you and your family. I genuinely wish you a good life ahead. Enjoy the time you have with family. In a number of ways you have made Australia better.