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.