By JR on Sunday, December 11, 2011
MARK Latham has been reported to the Department of Education for intimidating the mother of former star cricketers Steve and Mark Waugh over a children's swimming class.
The 50-year-old former Labor leader angrily claimed his two children had learned nothing after less than half an hour in the pool at the free government swim program that Bev Waugh was running.
Witnesses told The Sunday Telegraph that Mrs Waugh, 65, was shocked when Mr Latham approached her from behind as she was teaching at the pool edge.
"What actually are you teaching?" he demanded. "I have been watching the lesson and I have been listening to the parents and I am speaking on behalf of other parents and what I am hearing parents say. "As far as I can see, they are not learning anything."
The outburst occurred on Tuesday at Camden pool, on the second day of a 10-day learn-to-swim program. The children were in the pool for the first time.
Mrs Waugh attempted to explain that the program aimed to teach a broad range of skills and emphasised water safety.
But Mr Latham, towering over her slight frame, interrupted her to threaten to withdraw the children.
"I am just letting you know that a lot of parents are going to be pulling their children out of the scheme," he said, then turned his back and stomped away.
Mrs Waugh, a qualified teacher who has been working for the Department of Education's School Swim Scheme since the 1970s, was visibly shaken. Mrs Waugh's only comment to The Sunday Telegraph was: "I wish I had said to him: Would you speak to your mother the way you have spoken to me?"
Her supervisor has subsequently reported to the department that Mr Latham was "rude" and "intimidating" and was "flexing his muscle".
A Department of Education spokeswoman issued a statement to The Sunday Telegraph: "We have been made aware of the situation and we are now making enquires." She added it was "not appropriate" for a parent to approach a teacher and make claims or threats.
Mr Latham came with his children to their lesson the day after the incident but spent most of that lesson reading the paper by the babies' pool. He was one of the parents from Mount Hunter primary school who volunteered to drive the children to the lessons.
When The Sunday Telegraph approached him on Friday outside the pool he said the matter was private. "I just find it absolutely wacky that you would regard this as a matter of public interest and concern and spend your day here in Camden on a matter that has absolutely nothing to do with you," he said.
Mr Latham had a tilt at being prime minister, but suffered a wounding defeat to John Howard in 2004. He was Labor leader from December 2003 to January 2005, when he fell out with his party and contracted an illness.
The Education Department has offered the free Swim Scheme since 1954.