With several troublesome issues out of the way, NSW Premier Bob Carr was able to go out for the night and enjoy the opera.

NSW Premier, Bob Carr had a big smile on his face at the Sydney Opera House Tuesday night.

It was as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders as he worked the room at half-time in the premiere of the light Prokofiev opera, The Love of Three Oranges.

There wasn’t a hint or an echo of that nasty Orange Grove Shopping Centre debacle that gripped his government off and on for the last half of the year and which is now before the NSW Independent Commission Again Corruption.

Bobbie’s testified to those nosy pests at ICAC. Did so before his holidays.

It’s an Opera about a fat prince who is cursed to fall in love with three oranges after being bored witless for years. That does sound a bit like our Premier at times, except his great passion is American history?

Anyway, the second half of the opera sees the baddies gain and then, with a dusting of magic, the Prince and his girl are re-united and all’s right and everyone’s in love. Much like the ALP today, isn’t it?

Did anyone say Mark Latham? That was probably the main reason for Carr’s sense of relief. No bed-ridden bears down Campbelltown way, growling and grunting and undermining a struggling ALP in the polls in NSW.

A quick, clean break, almost Operatic in fact!

With the handsome Prince, Prince Kim of Perth re-appearing to be re-united with his long lost love, the leadership of the Federal parliamentary ALP.

And our Bobbie chuffed that he fired some early shots at his former researcher to go and go quickly and end the party’s agony.

Then again it could have been a sense of relief that the “will I or won’t I?” retire antics of his long serving Treasurer, Michael Egan had finally ended with the latter’s surprise announcement of his departure only minutes before Mark Latham quit.

But I reckon there was a heads-up from Latham to Carr’s mob about the decision (it was postponed half an hour or so in the early afternoon on Tuesday) to allow Egan’s announcement to be rushed out and a press conference held while the main media chased Latham and Beazley.

The timing led to lots of speculation in the redesigned Utzon function Room at the Opera House about whether there was a ‘scandal’ involving the Treasurer that was just waiting to explode.

Carr’s Cabinet chief, Roger Wilkins, himself a big player in the Sydney arts industries from his time overseeing the Culture side of the Premier Office, was looking relaxed, like his boss.

Perhaps it was ‘grin and the world grins with you’ for both men, but Carr’s wife Helena was also looking comfortable as she chatted to friends while hubby worked the room in his cultured manner.

Carr’s appearance as the guest of Opera Australia was something of a surprise as he’s not a noted Opera first nighter, or Opera lover like, say Bronnie Bishop or the Minister for Hairdos, Senator Helen Coonan, who was strangely absent, or was keeping a very low profile.

At the end of the short opera (it went a touch over two hours) the favoured ones headed for a black tie/formal dress reception in the northern foyer of the Opera House where they would have continued discussing those things that make Sydney great: politics, lovers, property, shares, deals, deals and deals, and who was playing up.

And the Opera itself? Entertaining. Despite being premiered in Chicago in 1923 (and failing) The Love of Three Oranges has taken a long time to reach these shores.

The singing was good, the cast vast and the costumery and sets expensive and expansive. We’ll be seeing those several times more in the future as the Opera seeks to reduce the losses it can expect on this splashy affair.

The Premier is expected to announce Eagan’s replacement today and it is expected to be his deputy, Andrew Refshauge. That will be underwhelming and could be the kiss of death with a deficit expected this year and probably next in 2005-2006. The budget year after that, 2006-2007 is election year and financial rectitude will go out the window.

Perhaps that’s why the Premier was happy. He’s been relieved of having to battle with Eagan for more spending in the next two budgets to try to stay in office.

Meanwhile Eagan indicated in the Sydney media this morning that he had been planning to quit for four months and had been to-ing and fro-ing on a final decision.

Peter Fray

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