On Bob Carr, Foreign Minister

I bet Julia Gillard is really good at organising surprise parties. By all accounts, at a personal level she's a really friendly sort of one, and her friends would never see it coming; even if they got a hint at what was going on, PM Gillard would so successfully convince them that there was not going to be a party as to make the occasion all the more unexpected. And I bet they'd feel the way we all feel after learning today that former NSW Premier Bob Carr has been named as Foreign Minister after days of Ms Gillard convincing us it wouldn't be so. I just hope her friends wouldn't feel so dismayed.

First though we need to abandon the idea that this is somehow a crisis of democracy. In Federal elections, as outlined in the constitution, we can vote below the line for individual senators, which given that the thing is the size of a table cloth and contains hundreds of names, takes bloody ages. So most of us vote above the line, requiring us to number just one box for the party of our choice, who are then free to nominate whoever they like to fill the Senate seat if they win. How many people, after all, would have personally voted for Mark Arbib, whom Carr replaces? Getting all of NSW out to vote for a single senate seat would be a massively expensive exercise with no constitutional basis.

So whilst it may not be an undemocratic decision, it is an alarming one. Bob Carr was premier of NSW for ten years, and in that time, had the state firmly in the pocket of big business. Transport was a shambolic disaster - the Glenbrook and Waterfall train crashes happened on his watch, killing a total of 14 people, and pretty much none of the proposed railway line's from the 1998 Action for Transport 2010 plan went ahead (although funnily enough the metroad links, Eastern distributor, Cross City Tunnel and others all were actually constructed). Delays and derailments on the rails were so frequent that fare-free days were a common occurrence to keep commuters appeased. Despite pre-election promises, hospital waiting lists blew out, schools closed or had their funding slashed, and the state's finances were sold up the creek through crippling Public-Private partnerships (PPPs) that ensured the public would lose money whilst the private sector made profited. But hey - the Sydney Olympics were great, right?

Since leaving office in 2005, Carr has enjoyed a cushy consultancy role with Macquarie Bank, the "private" partner in many of the PPPs his government developed; he's also dabbled in writing and public speaking. I'm wondering what's in this for him, other than upping his speaker's engagement fees when his ministry is done - boredom maybe? What is harder to understand is why on Earth Gillard thought this was a good idea. Maybe she's hoping NSW has forgotten, and the rest of Australia doesn't know, what Carr's reign was like. People don't understand the electoral system though, and it's easy for Labor's enemies to portray this as Labor acting without electoral approval to get a job for one of their own. Gillard can hardly expect either that Carr's performance will dazzle us all so as to reverse Labor's electoral fortunes, judging by his past record. Carr meanwhile is being called Labor's elder statesman, one of the party's leading lights. I guess he is. They are more screwed than you can ever imagine.

Comments

  1. Tablecloth wrestling every four years requires more than a deft pair of hands, it also requires a lot more attention than many voters are willing to commit. Above the line helps make it easier. Nice easy democracy like team sports. Go the Blues! Go the Reds!

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  2. Nothing more to add, just random approval seeking.

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