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Bob Carr quits as premier -

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Bob Carr quits as premier

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

KERRY O'BRIEN: Welcome to the program. It can be truly said that Bob Carr was the accidental
premier. He was drafted reluctantly to Labor leadership in NSW in 1988, when his personal sights
were set firmly on Canberra, and surprised everyone, including himself, when he became premier
seven years later. Today, he announced his retirement from State Parliament after a record 10 years
and 3 months in the job as premier, leaving behind a government with a big majority but diminished
popularity and some major infrastructure headaches. Despite Labor's federal woes, he is emphatic he
has no intention of going to Canberra. In a few moments, a revealing interview with Bob Carr, but
first, Tracy Bowden.

ANDREW WEST, BIOGRAPHER: He has made a virtue of those things that we might consider weaknesses -
being a nerd, being a bookworm disavowing any interest in sport. It leads people to think, "Well,
you wouldn't have the bloke over for a barbecue, you wouldn't invite him for a beer, but you would
trust the management of the estate to this guy."

TRACY BOWDEN: He became the longest-serving premier in NSW history, but ask the previous record
holder whether he thought the young Bob Carr would make a good leader and the answer might


REPORTER: Straight forward as that?

NEVILLE WRAN: Straight forward as that. He developed remarkably as the Leader of the Opposition to
become the formidable political leader that he has.

BRUCE HAWKER, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF: Bob Carr was a perfectionist and is a perfectionist and you
see that in everything he does. He works out his day probably about three weeks' in advance and
sticks to it. And that is the sort of discipline that makes people successful politicians or
successful leaders.

TRACY BOWDEN: As Bob Carr explained today, it was Sydney at its sparkling best that helped him to
make the decision to call it quits.

BOB CARR, NSW PREMIER: Sharing this past weekend with Helena, one of those beautiful Sydney
weekends, I and she were impressed by the notion that you could spend more of your time in a nice
way. And we've decided that time had come.

BRUCE HAWKER: Bob Carr has been in this job for 17 years - he was 7 years as Opposition Leader and
now 10 years as Premier - and all that time he's lived in a goldfish bowl. Why wouldn't he look at
the sun and look at the sea and say, "Well, I think it's time to hang up my spurs?"

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, NSW 'STATELINE' PRESENTER: I think over the last 12 months things started to
become unstuck for Bob Carr. The public started to perceive him as too smart by half.

TRACY BOWDEN: Raised in Matraville, in Sydney's south eastern suburbs, Bob Carr was a signed-up
member of the Labor Party at the tender age of 15, entering the ranks of the New South Wales
Parliament in 1983. His love of Proust and things intellectual made him an likely poster boy for
the party, but then Neville Wran must have seen something special elevating him within a year to
the industry.

BRUCE HAWKER: You've got to remember that there was a faction called the Trogs and they weren't the
brainiacs, I got to tell you, although, you know, there were some really solid people in that
group, in the Caucus. So, Bob Carr lifted the tone seriously, I think, in NSW.

TRACY BOWDEN: Bob Carr had dreams of federal politics, seeing himself as a future foreign minister.
He thought the time had come in 1988, but it turned out he wasn't going anywhere.

BOB CARR: I don't see any change in the decor. More important tasks before us than that.

NEVILLE WRAN: The power brokers of the day really don't give you much option. Either you take
what's offered or there's nothing on the plate for you. And Bob was virtually press-ganged into the
job of Leader of the Opposition. It wasn't a job people wanted because it looked so grim and grey
so far as the future was concerned. But he took it.

TRACY BOWDEN: A former journalist, Bob Carr knew how to work the media from his very first day as
NSW Opposition Leader when he made his first appearance on the ABC 7:30 Report.

BOB CARR (The 7:30 REPORT, 1988): Machine did not push me into contesting the leadership. Let me be
very, very clear about that. As far as I'm, concerned the General Secretary and the President of
the State party have get no more sway with me than the individual members of the parliamentary

BRUCE HAWKER: When I first worked for Bob, it was 1988 and it was 'Ground Zero', as he used to like
to describe it for the Labor Party. We'd lost terribly to Nick Greiner and his team and it didn't
look like we'd be back in government for a long, long time. He was a reluctant leader, it's fair to

TRACY BOWDEN: Bob Carr became Premier in 1995, winning again in 1999 and 2003. The bookish American
history buff and fitness fanatic appeared unbeatable.

ANDREW WEST: In a sense he planned his day like an American president or a British monarch. Not
only did he plan the day down to the minute, he didn't carry money with him as well.

NEVILLE WRAN: There were many great achievements, like the Olympics, the enormous expenditure on
infrastructure, the elimination of the State debt, his contribution to the National Parks and
wilderness areas, things like that. But you got up each morning and you were fairly certain that
there wasn't going to be some ratbag decision that was going to change your life, even momentarily,
coming from Bob Carr.

TRACY BOWDEN: And what of those long ago aspirations for federal politics?

BOB CARR (1988): Four years, no longer.

TRACY BOWDEN: Well there's, no doubt some powerful federal Labor figures are utterly convinced of
Bob Carr's credentials. In his own diary notes from October 2003 appearing in 'Loner', the recent
book on the Latham experiment, Carr revealed: "John Faulkner, Labor leader in the Senate, sit in our lounge room and offer me the leadership of the Federal Parliamentary Labor
Party and a fighting chance of the Prime Ministership." But despite continued pressure from
powerbrokers, self-doubt prevailed. His eventual answer - "No." Today, no change.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Would you and Helena go federal after you get bored doing nothing?

BOB CARR: No, I don't think so. No, no.

TRACY BOWDEN: Since Bob Carr's last election victory, his government has lost much of its gloss
with widespread upheaval in the hospital systems, on the trains, and lack of confidence in the
government's handling of the water shortage. When it came to the timing of his departure, the
master of spin maintained his touch to the end.

QUENTIN DEMPSTER: Bob Carr is a political animal obsessed by opinion polls. You read his diaries
and says he's suicidal if the opinion polls are not going his way, if he doesn't get the bounce
he's looking for. What's been coming up over the last 12 months is a consistent dissatisfaction
rating, so they would have had to made a midterm decision.

ANDREW WEST: And part of me thinks, that no matter what he says, he will be slightly self-satisfied
if Labor doesn't win the next election.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Tracy Bowden with that report.