“So today I announce my retirement as Premier and member for Maroubra
effective next Wednesday,” Bob Carr told the Macquarie St press pack
this morning. I do so in the spirit of Lincoln’s second inaugural
address ‘with malice for none with charity to all’. And, if anyone
thought they were going to get through this without a Lincoln
quotation, they were suffering illusions.”

Carr had to satisfy his sense of history, and stroke his ego, didn’t
he? Bob Carr made it clear today he’s not resigning – he’s retiring.
And twice, he ruled out entering federal politics. Kim Beazley
immediately issued a statement praising Carr as “a man of enormous
strength, wisdom and a forward thinking premier.” He said he
would miss him.

The Opposition leader didn’t say he was looking forward to a postcard
from Carr’s retirement castle in New Zealand – but he now knows that
the only potential threat from a Labor premier he has to worry about is
Peter Beattie. And the workload Beattie’s chosen to shoulder now he’s
decided to become a one-man Cabinet makes that prospect highly unlikely.

Bob Carr loves playing the role of Lincoln-esque statesman. And this
morning he was spinning to the end, outlining his achievements in
“cutting state debt by $10 billion”, more national parks, the Olympics
and the health system. “This has been a solid chapter in the Australian
story,” he volunteered.

He boasted he had cut death rates by cancer and heart disease – but
there was no mention of his brazen pledge – subsequently broken –
“written in blood,” to decrease hospital waiting lists, or resign.

In his final media conference, Carr played the press pack as he has
over the past decade – with insouciance, peremptorily accusing them of
not being able to comprehend his achievements: “Many in the media have
not been able to get their mind around it. The scale of it the
grandeur, our gift to the next generations…” He was waffling
about the new national parks – but he may as well have been talking
about any of his “achievements”.

In truth, his legacy is in the balance. His and his former Treasurer
Michael Egan’s obsession with cutting debt has left much of the the
state’s infrastructure a groaning rust bucket. If a terrorist
attack hit the state rail system – God forbid – it would be hard to
initially tell, such is the mess the railways have been in for years.

He noted this of his administration: “My government has not been
blemished by scandal.” The real scandal may be that given wonderful
economic conditions, and an incompetent Opposition gifting him huge
majorities, Carr failed to make use of the opportunity to grow NSW into
a regional powerhouse.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey