Anti-Bush Politician Accused of Stealing Ideas from Clinton

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:30 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - Australia's opposition Labor Party leader, Mark Latham, has denied accusations of plagiarism after the government pointed out similarities between a speech he made this week and one by former President Clinton seven years ago.

Prime Minister John Howard, who faces a strong election challenge from Latham later this year, said the Labor leader owes Australians an explanation.

In a speech in Sydney Tuesday, Latham said: "Every child must be the beneficiary of reading programs. Every 10-year-old must be able to log onto the Internet."

The government noted that, in his 1997 State of the Union address, Clinton had said: "Every eight-year-old must be able to read. Every 12-year-old must be able to log onto the Internet."

Elsewhere in his speech, Latham said: "Every 17-year-old must be ready to extend their education." In his address, Clinton said: "Every 18-year-old must be able to go to college."

"It's an astonishing coincidence, isn't it, and I think that Mr. Latham has a lot of explaining to do for the Australian people," Howard said.

Tony Abbott, a senior lawmaker in Howard's coalition, told Australian radio Latham had been "caught red-handed."

"What's happened is Mr. Latham or his researcher has gone to the Clinton speech and lifted - with one or two cosmetic alterations."

Another top government figure, Treasurer Peter Costello, said Latham was getting his ideas from the Internet.

"I think what's happened here is somebody's gone to the Internet and they've typed in the words 'good speeches' and up has come the Clinton State of the Union speech, and Mr. Latham has essentially delivered these lines," he said.

Latham denied stealing ideas from Clinton and described the comparison between the two speeches as ludicrous.

Latham, who last year called President Bush "the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory," took over the Labor leadership last December.

Labor has since then enjoyed stronger poll figures, although Latham's personal poll ratings dropped recently after he announced that a Labor government would withdraw Australia's troops from Iraq by Christmas.

In the latest Newspoll survey, conducted this week for The Australian newspaper, 48 percent of respondents said Howard would make a better prime minister, while 37 percent favored Latham.

In a separate question, Howard's coalition scored 43 points to Labor's 42. A Newspoll one month ago put the coalition at 41 to Labor's 46.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow