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Members speculate about Bob Carr's political aspirations.

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Monday 8 September 2003

Members speculate about Bob Carr's political aspirations


PETER CAVE: Speculation about Premier Bob Carr's aspirations in Canberra is again destabilising Simon Crean's leadership. But even some of the most strident of the Crean critics say that while they'd welcome Mr Carr, they're not sure that he's coming. 


The New South Wales Premier may have opened the door for himself to be drafted to the Labor leadership, but there is no apparent organised campaign to receive him. For his part, Simon Crean says that Bob Carr is a "man of his word" who said that he has no intention of doing other than leading his party to the New South Wales state election in 2007.  


But for a leader still under pressure, it's the sort of speculation Simon Crean cannot afford. And today, there was more bad news with a leaked internal ALP poll indicating Federal Labor faces electoral disintegration in Queensland.  


From Canberra Chief Political Correspondent, Catherine McGrath reports. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Will he come to Canberra or won't he? Will he be drafted or not? What is clear is that no one in the Federal Parliament is admitting to knowing the answer to that. But the door has been opened by Bob Carr and if he wants the Federal Labor leadership it may be possible, but not a certainty. 


First, a consensus would have to be reached by the Federal Caucus that he should be drafted - that point hasn't yet been reached. In Parliament, the jibes from the Coalition towards Simon Crean were coming thick and fast. 


From Alexander Downer. 


ALEXANDER DOWNER: I noticed the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Bob Carr, who Mr Speaker, we understand is going to join us here in the House of Representatives before too long, and possibly sit in your seat.  


I welcome the fact that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Carr, has said that… is quoted as saying in a newspaper headline, "PM has not hurt Asia ties, says Carr" and I couldn't agree more. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And from Peter Costello. 


PETER COSTELLO: And Mr Speaker, somebody did say to me what will happen if the leader of the Opposition were run over by truck. To which I said, he will not be run over by a truck, Mr Speaker. If he's run over, it will be by a Carr, I can assure you of that. 


(Laughter from the House) 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: But Simon Crean is continuing to play down the Carr for Canberra speculation. He told John Laws Bob Carr rang him last week before this story broke. 


SIMON CREAN: Well, I listened with interest. I must say I'd been hearing rumours for a couple of weeks that something like this was going to emerge - it hadn't. But Bob and I had a very good conversation, very good as we always do. I find him a man of his word, John. 


JOHN LAWS: Yeah, he's a very good man. 


SIMON CREAN: And I believe that. And he said to me, look, he has no intention of doing other than leading his Party, his Government to the next state election in 2007. Now, I accept him as a man of his word but he's also a person committed to New South Wales.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: One the ALP's side, Julia Irwin went public on AM , saying that Bob Carr would win seats for Federal Labor in New South Wales and some others agree he'd be an asset. 


Stephen Smith quit the Crean frontbench after the June leadership contest. 


STEPHEN SMITH: There's no doubt that as a well-regarded Premier of New South Wales he would help us politically in New South Wales, I think that's obvious. I think, that's part of the reason - in addition to his well-known personal attributes - the people are welcoming the notion.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: And another from the anti-Crean camp, Leo McLeay, would like to see Bob Carr in Canberra. 


LEO MCLEAY: I think Bob Carr coming in Canberra would be a very positive thing for the Labor Party. 


REPORTER: Would you give up your seat for him to get down there? 


LEO MCLEAY: Well, I've said I'd do that before, but they've now pre-selected another candidate for my seat so that's for someone else to make that decision. 


REPORTER: Laurie Brereton, should he go? 


LEO MCLEAY: That's for someone else to make that decision. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: But Crean supporter Laurie Ferguson dismissed it.  


LAURIE FERGUSON: I don't think he's serious about coming over. It'll sell a few hundred more books for Andrew West, that's about the end of it. 


CATHERINE MCGRATH: It's just a bit of strategising to sell more books? 


LAURIE FERGUSON: It's just Andrew West selling a few more books.  


CATHERINE MCGRATH: Even the anti-Crean camp aren't sure how a Bob Carr-for-Canberra move could be pulled off. One says it would just be "too hard" to orchestrate a smooth leadership transition.  


Another said that the so-called 'ABC group' (the MP's who believe that anyone but Crean should lead Labor) would welcome Carr with open arms. But the source says it's not clear that Bob Carr would want to lead Federal Labor now.  


The other fact is that while Bob Carr may be raising this to see how it's received, it does not appear to be an organised putsch to put the New South Wales Premier in Canberra. Or if it is organised, then the Federal politicians aren't involved yet. 


Either way, the story now has a life of its own. Bob Carr declined to be interviewed on this program. His Spokeswoman said that the Premier will remain in New South Wales politics and lead Labor in the 2007 election. 


Meantime, for Simon Crean, the internal divisions continue. Leaked ALP polling published in The Australian newspaper today, shows the Party is set to lose all seven Labor-held seats in Queensland in the next federal election. 


Simon Crean was also playing down that this morning. 


SIMON CREAN: I said - when I went through this issue three months ago, John - that I was interested in policy not polls. And I put that policy out and overwhelmingly the Caucus voted for me. I don't need the polls to tell me, quite frankly, what is hurting people out there in the electorate. 


PETER CAVE: Simon Crean.