The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

GOLD COAST BUL­LETIN Sat­ur­day Jan­uary 15, 2005

A CON­FI­DANT of ail­ing and em­bat­tled Op­po­si­tion Leader Mark Latham con­firmed La­bor MPs were plot­ting his down­fall.

Front­bencher Joel Fitzgib­bon, who spent most of the week de­fend­ing Mr Latham, said there was no doubt some num­ber count­ing was go­ing on to find a re­place­ment for him.

The Op­po­si­tion Leader, who on Thurs­day re­leased a short state­ment that failed to ex­plain the se­ri­ous­ness of his lat­est bout of pan­cre­ati­tis, was ly­ing low.

In­stead, Mr Fitzgib­bon hit the na­tional air­waves to de­fend his leader and Mr Latham’s fail­ure to ex­plain why he did not quickly com­ment on the tsunami dis­as­ter, other than to say he had been told to rest.

Spec­u­la­tion mounted through­out the day about po­ten­tial re­place­ments for Mr Latham, in­clud­ing for­mer La­bor leader Kim Bea­z­ley who ruled out mak­ing a di­rect chal­lenge for the job.

Oth­ers men­tioned as pos­si­ble lead­ers in­cluded for­eign af­fairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, fel­low front­bencher Stephen Smith and Ju­lia Gil­lard.

Mr Fitzgib­bon con­ceded there were party mem­bers dis­cussing how and when to dump Mr Latham: “There’ll al­ways be those who will seek to take op­por­tu­nity with the dif­fi­cul­ties be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced by oth­ers.

“They’ve ob­vi­ously still got some doubt about Mark’s longterm health. And I sup­pose it’s re­spon­si­ble to start talk­ing about who would be next in the event that Mark wasn’t able to con­tinue on.”

Mr Fitzgib­bon said that, just be­cause Mr Latham was bat­tling pan­cre­ati­tis, the party would not aban­don its leader.

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