Former NSW Premier Bob Carr’s attempt to revise recent history and air-brush his record-breaking 10 years in office has ended in a humiliating debacle.
Stung by recent criticism of the appalling neglect of public infrastructure during his era, Carr told The Sydney Morning Herald that the NSW Labor Party and the trade unions were to blame for these shortcomings.
The party conference had blocked his plan to sell the electricity industry in 1997 and the unions had forced him to deliver large public service wage increases, he complained to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Judges of the industrial relations commission put out pay increases that almost defiantly refused to take any account of the state’s capacity to pay — higher than public sector wages in other states, higher than anything from the private sector,” he blathered.
Quoting figures, presumably supplied by his accomplice, former Treasurer Michael Egan, Carr claimed employee-related costs for the state government increased from $13 billion in 1998-99 to $22.5 billion in 2007-08.
Three days later Justice Roger Boland, president of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, exploded Carr’s thesis in a devastating letter to the Herald:
Bob Carr is reported to have “watched as state industrial relations commission judges continued to give public sector wage rises of 4 per cent regardless of economic circumstances”.
This is a gross distortion of the facts.
Mr Carr was premier from 1995 to 2005. The government negotiated agreements with public sector unions that produced wage increases of up to 19 per cent between June 1996 and January 2000, and 16 per cent for most employees between January 2000 and June 2004.
A further agreement to cover July 2004 to June 2008 produced the outcome referred to by Mr Carr, namely, 4 per cent a year. One assumes the cabinet approved those outcomes.
The commission had no involvement in the negotiation of these agreements, other than making consent awards to reflect them.
As head of one of the State’s judicial jurisdictions, Boland has created something of a precedent by going public with a blistering criticism of a government leader. (Did he ask the advice of Chief Justice Jim Spigelman before writing to the Herald? If so, did Spigelman encourage him?).
Boland’s blast is even more interesting because he was a Carr Government appointment to the commission and he was the government’s choice to be chairman of the NSW Remuneration Tribunal which sets the wages of MPs, judges, senior public servants and councillors.
A former employers’ advocate, Boland is a fastidious old bird who became the commission’s president in April last year. Carr has discovered to his cost that Boland is a man with whom it is not wise to trifle.
It still leaves the question that people across NSW want answered — What happened to the billions of dollars in revenue from three windfall sources — GST, stamp duty during the property boom and the tax on the 100,000 poker machines allowed into pubs?
Don’t tell us that the money went towards protecting the State’s triple-A rating because that is economic imbecility — the cost has been to drive NSW into a state of utter disrepair.