Carr resigns

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[1] 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.

30 thoughts on “Carr resigns

  1. Have been wondering for quite some time just what it is that someone has to do in NSW to be voted out. The voters of NSW have been getting the disastrous health & law & order services they deserve for continually voting in a supremely incompetent twit.

  2. John Quiggin wrote “Overall, his career looks pretty successful…”

    What does this mean? His record as premier was appalling in almost every regard. As just one of many, many examples, he came to power in 1995 promising to terminate a contract, entrered in to by the previous Liberal government, to build a tollway. He immedately broke that promise, and in fact embraced tollways and spending on road works whilst running down the railways and public transport.

    The supposedly pro-environment Bob Carr has done more than any other Premier to make Sydney dependent upon the private car and consequently the import of nonrenewable petroleum at a time when the global demand for oil is likely to outstrip supply. (see

  3. There are many in NSW who are glad that eFonwit is eFon off. It is nearly as good as when Egan went.

  4. In keeping with the Profs line about the “Sussex Street machine” is this about the time that the 2nd law of thermodynamics will kick in?

  5. The problem with your blog is that the comments rarely live up to the original posts. I won’t react to any reaction to this comment.

  6. At least Carr is not the only one to take his toys out of the sandbox today…

  7. Politically, he was very successful. But he will probably be remembered as the premier whose government destroyed the public sector in NSW, running transport and public hospitals in to the ground. For this reason I doubt he’ll have a go at the federal level (he is too smart to know that he won’t get too many votes in this state).

    As a resident of NSW I can only hope that a half-decent candidate is chosen, but I’m afraid there isn’t much to choose from, evidence of the state of the Labor Party in NSW. Refshauge is a Left-winger, and so isn’t a chance under the factional system. Others former contenders like Knowles (Minister for ICAC!) and Costa (whose admirers you can count on one hand) seem to be out of the picture. Iemma is a chance, bringing no obvious baggage to the job like Knowles or Costa, while Scully is at least partly responsible for the transport crisis, having been Transport Minister for some time.

  8. Cranky Franky has done it his way and looks good enough.
    If you are going to go for a lefty at least go for a cokmpetent one and that would be Watkins.

  9. Sartor would be a disaster, he could just as easily be a minister in a liberal government. He doesn’t have a labor bone in his body. The two most competent choices would be Watkins (wrong faction) or Carmel Tebbutt (wrong faction, wrong gender and wrong house). Of the viable contenders I think Scully would be the best of a bad lot, at least he consults with the community. Most of the transport problems were caused by Michael Egan’s refusal to invest in infrastructure due to his debt obsession. Costa is insane and would be a disaster, Knowles has no chance and Iemma is just a puppet of Sussex street and is a charisma free zone.

  10. The ambiguities of Bob Carr

    A guest post from historian Christopher Sheil (still on sabbatical from his own blog, Backpages ) looks at the Carr premiership.
    Some years ago, Bob Carr wrote a critical review of Conor Cruise O’Brien’s book on Thomas Jeff…

  11. As a Victorian, its hard to rate Carr on his day to day performance.
    However, as State premiers go, he was probably worth a 7 out of ten.

    Good on most things, awkward, if not disjointed on other political issues such as the trains and health (which is always sticky whichever party is in power).

    But what I found interesting is that he is often painted as an ‘intellectual’. He only has a single undergraduate degree! Imagine what they (the media) would have called him had he received a grad dip!

  12. I would support Refshauge because he is probably the best person for the job. Shame the factional nonsense will prevent that from happening. It seems as though Scully (damaged goods) or Iemma (media non-entity) will get the job instead.

    Best week in the life of Broggers in quite a while.

  13. Iemma will get it because the railway will be one of the biggest issues at the next election and Scully has a lot of resposibility for it.

    Refshauge should think about getting out too. a typical no-thinking leftie who unlike Watkins is barely competent.

    This shows up the scarcity of talent in the party and yet another reason why I will be voting liberal next time.

  14. There is no “spoils” system that says that Treasury goes to the left. It was quite irregular for Refshauge to get it.

  15. Kenny booth had it under Nifty and you can bet your lucky bippy it would have never gone to Jack Ferguson even though he was the senior lefty and deputy premier to boot!

  16. Firstly, Good riddance!

    ALP= Another Liberal Party?

    but if I was a betting man I’d go for Guy’s choices: Scully or Iemma.
    Best week in the life of Broggers in quite a while.But he’s being sabotaged by his own fanatical christian fundamentalists.

  17. Good riddance!: A machine man, master spinner, former journo, former media staffer and chief masturbator/manipulator/businessman.

    Will his next job be the PM’s office!? at the very least the rumours are close.
    From :
    Hawker Brittain, Sydney’s fastest growing PR firm, may be changing its name for the first time in five years to HBC… Hawker-Brittain-Carr. Ex Carr chief-of-staff Bruce Hawker remains the closest friend and confidant of the old boss. HB has some pretty hot relationships, large enough to support the expanded shareholders register and pay a few bob. Look for it around January 06.

    Greiner’s loaded epitaph is spot on even if I disagree with more than half of it (his solution to everything: PRIVATISE EVERYTHING), but surprisingly he is spot on in his conclusion:
    Premier skills, ordinary premier opini…2143905016.html
    “In summary, Carr’s term will be seen as an outstanding example of modern politics, of the supremacy of perception over performance and spin over substance. Equally it will be seen as a missed opportunity to put NSW far ahead of the rest of the states in terms of the quality of public sector outcomes…”

  18. As they said on triple J yesterday: “at least he didn’t cut his hair and hold a press conference in a suburban park…”

    But let’s not bag Latham, for his best move was a truly a glorious service to his country: stopping CaCarr going Federal!

    Check the Australian’s wishful thinking:
    Long ago, Mr Carr aspired to the federal seat of Kingsford Smith, in which he still lives, now held by Peter Garrett. Mr Garrett could certainly demonstrate his recently announced allegiance to Labor by yielding his seat to Mr Carr. http://…55E7583,00.html FAT CHANCE!

  19. I don’t have an opinion about the leadership, but what’s all this crap about Morris Iemma being ‘more popular’? If you had rounded up 100 people on the streets of Sydney two days ago, how many would have even known who he was? Not more than five, I’ll bet. His only saving grace is that he hasn’t been transport minister and therefore not many people actually hate him, yet. No one who lives outside Sydney can realise the rage inspired by the state of the trains here. If the Liberals had a credible plan to fix it, they’d get their nine percent swing.

  20. Iemma learnt his politics sitting at the feet of Graeme Richardson.

    That says it all, AFAIC.

  21. Pat: You make it sound as if Sartor being eligible to be a Liberal pary man is a mark against him. Considering Labour in Australia since 1970 is yet to prove it can run a chook raffle, I’d say you have just given Sartor the best reference he could possibly get.

    Anthony Lowenstein: (even considered shortening that name?) Increasing the prison population is a bad thing because……?

    Elizabeth: I have met people who have been to university, so can say there is little guarantee that contact with a university will confer: common sense, employability, earning capacity, knowledge, ability, usefulness. Yet you infer that “intellectual” should only apply to those who have passed university exams. You make “intellectual” seem like an insult?

    Carr will not be an unemployable as Keating or Whitlam, but he certainly has made a stuff-up of NSW. Just imagine how much better things would be in NSW if he had never been premier?

  22. Considering Labour in Australia since 1970 is yet to prove it can run a chook raffle

    Have the Young Liberals taken over this blog?

  23. “Carr will not be an unemployable as Keating or Whitlam”

    Whitlam, at 89, is retired.

    Keating is making a fortune advising companies doing business in China. His speaking fee for conferences is $50000 and he gets more invitations than he has time to accept.

  24. Iemma who? Oh, that’s right, the man that about ten people have heard of, who therefore can have a media image pasted onto him. A ‘blank page’ I think someone called him. Unfortunately it looks like the the NSW ALP has done it again, and the 2005 version of the ‘killer in a cardigan’ has just been annointed, by the likes of Tripodi, Obeid and Arbib. What a farce.

    Carr had a sound understanding of the sources of power in NSW and used that understanding to ensure labour governed for ten years. A bad government? Not really. But Egan’s embrace of the dogma concerning public debt is what will in the end end it for the NSW ALP. A decade of underinvestment can’t be turned around in 20 months. It just can’t And that I am afraid is the reason that the NSW ALP will take a bollocking at the polls in 2007. as for why a burgeoning prison population is a bad idea, steveinthepub, it is a bad idea because it costs a motza, is a waste of human and capital resources, and is the result (largely) of underinvestment in policies and programs that would divert many of the poeple who are in prison into jobs that actually produce things and from which tax can be raised. That’s why a growing prison population is usually considered as a mark of policy failure, rather than success.

  25. Bob Carr revealed his ignorance today (whether wilful or not) of the Vietnam War when on Radio National’s ‘The National Interest’ he questioned why Jim Cairns did not condemn the ‘Marxist Leninists’ from the North who were trying to take over the South.

    This is straight from the official US propaganda of the time and ignores the fact that the division between “North Vietnam” and “South Vietnam” was artificial and created only in 1954.

    The peace broke down when the unelected Southern regime broke its promise to cooperate in nationwide elections and, in stead, began jailing and killing Viet Minh supporters in the South. Even Australian foreign minister Casey acknowledged that the Viet Minh would have easily won the elections in Saigon.

    Of course the ‘North’ Vietnamese political leadership was very far from perfect, but they should be praised and not condemned for having stood up to the United States and for having sent personnel and material to the south rather than having left their Southern compatriots completely in the lurch.

    Carr claimed to be against US policy in Vietnam, but his regurgitation of deceitful US propoganda, as well as his friendship with Henry Kissinger speak much more loudly.

    For this and so many other reasons (some alluded to earlier), Carr is an Australian political figure I have little admiration for.

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