Bob Carr has resigned as Premier of NSW. Overall, his career looks pretty successful, but it would have looked much better if he’d quit a couple of years ago.
As always in NSW, the choice of successor is in the gift of the Right faction. The big decision they have to make is whether to give it to one of their own or to an outsider. It seems obvious they will go for one of their own, but all the historical evidence suggests they should not. The favorite sons (and they’re nearly all sons) of the Right have been almost uniformly disastrous at the ballot box. Back in the 70s, Pat Hills couldn’t take a trick against the corrupt and not particularly competent Askin government, so they brought in the leftish Neville Wran and enjoyed a decade or more of electoral success. When Wran left, they put up their long-time leader Barrie Unsworth, who lost immediately to Nick Greiner. Carr, his replacement, was aligned with the Right, but was far too bookish and intellectual to be a real part of the Sussex Street machine.
In the decade or so since Carr took over, a string of rightwing apparatchiks has been put up as potential successors: Scully, Costa, Della Bosca and so on. Michael Lee’s failed run for Mayor of Sydney was most probably grooming for a run at State office. As far as I can see, all that is required of these candidates is that they should look OK in a suit and (optionally) be able to string together a coherent sentence together.
It seems to me the obvious choice for Carr’s replacement is his deputy Andrew Refshauge (who is, under the spoils system, necessarily a member of the Left). He’s held a fair number of portfolios, including hot potatoes like health, without incurring fatal damage, and comes across reasonably well on TV. If it weren’t for the absurd and anachronistic factional system, he’d probably be elected unopposed in circumstances like this.
But if elevating a hereditary enemy like Refshauge is too much, how about Frank Sartor? I haven’t liked everything he’s done since entering Parliament, but he’s tough, able and a good campaigner, which is more than you can say for anyone who’s come out of Sussex Street in the last fifty years or so.
fn1. This term once referred to political alignment, along with other equally obsolete factional identifiers like “socialist left”. Now I think it means that they have the “right” to run the party.