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Robert John Carr (born 28 September 1947), Australian politician, was Premier of New South Walesmarker from 4 April 1995 to 3 August 2005. He holds the record for the longest continuous service as Premier of New South Wales. Only Sir Henry Parkes has served longer, but he held the office on five separate occasions.

Early life and career

Bob Carr was born in the Sydneymarker suburb of Matravillemarker, to Edward and Phyllis Carr. He was educated at Matraville High School from which he graduated as dux in 1964. He was the first person in his family to finish high school, and became interested in a career in politics in his teenage years. While still a 15-year-old student at school, he joined the local branch of the Australian Labor Party. He would go on to become the President of the New South Wales branch and then the national President of Young Labor in 1970 and 1972 respectively. He completed his tertiary education at the University of New South Walesmarker, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with honours in history.

After graduation, Carr worked as a journalist for the ABCmarker Radio's AM and PM current affair programs from 1969 to 1971. He was also a reporter on industrial relations and politics for The Bulletin magazine from 1978 to 1983. He later recalled that his work as a journalist provided good preparation for his political career. He also spent a period working as an education officer for the Labor Council of New South Wales (1972-78).

In 1972, Carr met the Malaysianmarker economics student, Anne Helena John on a vacation in Tahitimarker, and they married on 24 February 1973. Helena Carr became a successful businesswoman; while she did provide strong personal support, Helena largely remained out of the political spotlight during her husband's career.

Entry into politics

Carr entered the New South Wales Legislative Assembly at a by-election in October 1983 as the member for Maroubra, representing the Australian Labor Party. In December 1984 he was appointed Minister for Planning and the Environment in the Neville Wran government. In February 1986 he also took on the Consumer Affairs portfolio, which he held until he became Minister for Heritage in July 1986 when Barrie Unsworth became premier.

Leader of the opposition

The Unsworth Labor government was defeated in a landslide in March 1988, amid revelations of corruption by the corrections minister Rex Jackson. Carr was interested in international relations, and his long-term ambition was to enter federal politics and become Minister for Foreign Affairs. However, following the election Carr was pressured by his own Right faction to stand for the leadership. Further, the party organisation did not want Laurie Brereton as leader; he would go on to represent the federal seat of Kingsford Smith, which Carr viewed as his path to federal politics. Thus Carr reluctantly agreed to become Leader of the Opposition. His diary entries from the time reveal his thoughts.
I spent today like a doomed man, taking phone calls and drafting a statement, still saying to the press I wasn't shifting.
I feel a jolt in my stomach about what I'm getting myself in for.
I will destroy my career in four years.
Everything's altered.
It's my fate ...
So, for better or for worse, I become leader of the party next week.


Despite his misgivings, Carr's performance as Opposition Leader gained approval in the party as he approached his task seriously. He maintained a disciplined message, attacking Nick Greiner's coalition government for waste and mismanagement while releasing his own costed policies to present Labor as an alternative government. Polling in the lead-up to the 1991 election suggested another heavy defeat, yet Labor performed strongly and won back all but one of the seats lost at the previous election, and Greiner was forced to lead a minority government with the support of independents.

In 1992 Greiner resigned following adverse findings against him from the Independent Commission Against Corruption. John Fahey replaced him as premier, but was hampered by his need to negotiate with independents. Carr ran a focused campaign in the 1995 election and won government with a majority of one seat.

Premier of New South Wales

In 1995 he became Premier at another close election and won comfortably again in 1999 and 2003.

His centrist, cautious government has been characterised by conservative financial management Clune, David (2005). "Bob Carr: The Unexpected Colossus". In Wanna, John; & Williams, Paul (Eds.), Yes, Premier - Labor Leadership in Australia's States and Territories, p. 53. UNSW Press and the encouragement of market forces, and latterly pursued a "tough on crime" policy. Carr occasionally ventured into national policy issues, particularly issues concerning the environment and population growth. A keen bushwalker, he created numerous national parks in NSW during his decade-long term as Premier.A year after his appointment as premier, Carr caused controversy when he recommended that the newly appointed New South Wales Governor, Gordon Samuels, not live at Government Housemarker, which would become a museum open to the public; the Governor would instead "work from home" as essentially a part-time governor. This decision was seen by monarchists as an attempt by Carr, a republican, to downgrade the importance of the office of Governor; to substantiate this, they claimed that during the announcement of the move Carr stated: "That's one for Jack Lang" - a former Premier who was dismissed by the Governor for acting illegally. However, when Samuels ended his tenure as Governor, Carr praised him for his work, and it was mentioned that Samuels had no issue with abandoning Government House. The cost savings, stated to be over $2 million a year, never materialised; the Auditor-General reported that costs to maintain the house and the office of the Governor had actually increased by $600,000. Initially it was also suggested that Samuels would retain his various chairmanships and committee memberships while serving as Governor, but after protests from some sections of the media this suggestion was dropped.

Carr was premier when Sydneymarker hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics.Carr's government was responsible for the building of the facilities that were utilized by the games.

In August 2004, Carr faced criticism due to his alleged involvement in the Orange Grove affair, and also from the Commissioner of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, due to his remarks that a minister under investigation by the ICAC would be "vindicated" before the release of that body's findings on the matter; this resulted in an allegation of contempt, which was subsequently dropped.

After ten years as Premier, Carr announced his resignation both as Premier and as the Member for Maroubra on 27 July 2005 to be effective from 3 August. This immediately prompted speculation that the resignation was a prelude to a move into federal politics, but Carr denied this. His successor as Premier was former Health Minister Morris Iemma. Carr's resignation triggered the resignations of Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge and Planning Minister Craig Knowles.

Carr has opposed Australian republicanism if it entails public election of the President (he supported a President appointed by Parliament). He also strongly opposed a Bill of Rights, claiming it would merely lead to increased litigation.

Legacy

Retired Premier Neville Wran described Carr as "the very model of a modern Labor premier, an articulate and powerful public performer who identified himself with the contemporary policy issues of education and the environment." Wran noted that the Carr model became a template for other Australian Labor Party leaders, with some regarding him as a mentor.

Media commentary following Carr's retirement noted that his achievements included improvements to education standards and literacy rates, as well as an increase in the number and size of the State's national parks. Less positive legacies were the effects on transport, water and power supplies as a result of limited investment in infrastructure, poor long-term planning and slowing economic growth in NSW compared to other States.

Literature

Bob Carr is the author of several books, including Thoughtlines (Viking, 2002) and My Reading Life (Penguin, 2008). He is a charter member of the Chester A. Arthur Society, a U.S. political trivia group named after an obscure U.S. president.

In May 2003, a biography by Marilyn Dodkin, Bob Carr: The Reluctant Leader, was published. It was partly based on Carr's private diaries and included his often uncomplimentary thoughts on various political personalities. A second biography, Bob Carr: A Self-Made Man, by Andrew West and Rachel Morris, was published in September 2003 by Harper Collins.

Carr appeared on stage at the 2004 Sydney Festival in conversation with Sir Tom Stoppard.

After politics

In October 2005 Carr became a part-time consultant for Macquarie Bank, Australia's largest investment bank, advising the company on policy and strategic issues with a focus on the United Statesmarker, the People's Republic of Chinamarker, and Europe. Media reports suggested he would be paid $500,000, and there was criticism over possible conflicts of interest given Macquarie's involvement in infrastructure projects in New South Wales.

Carr continued pursuing his literary interests, interviewing authors and lecturing regularly at the Sydney Writers' Festival. He appeared as a guest reporter for the ABC television show Foreign Correspondent, conducting an interview with long-time friend Gore Vidal. Bob Carr is the Vice-Chairman of Global Panel Australasia, a partner of the Berlin-based Global Panel Foundation. In 2008 he attended the Australia 2020 Summit as part of the economy panel, and raised the issues of an Australian Republic and childhood obesity.

He has been serving on the board of book retailer Dymocks since July, 2007.

Notes

Further reading




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