CANBERRA OBSERVED: by NWNews Weekly
Carr for Canberra?
, September 20, 2003
The cynical way the head office of New South Wales ALP has flown the Carr-for-Canberra kite after successfully shutting it down completely as an election issue only a few months ago, is almost breathtaking.
Carr was determined to serve for a full term, even another four years after the next election so the "line" went during the campaign.
Furthermore, he wanted to beat Neville Wran's record as the longest serving Premier of the premier state.
Attempts by the Liberal Opposition to raise the Carr-for-Canberra story during the campaign were swotted like flies, and the Premier won his covetted fourth term.Brazen
But that has been junked over the past fortnight as the NSW machine has begun brazenly stepping up its Carr-for-Canberra propaganda machine.
First Carr's name was strategically dropped in some key broadsheet newspapers, followed by some up-close-and-personal reports in the Sunday papers - everything perfectly timed to coincide with the release of a new biography on the potential saviour for the Federal ALP.
The strategy orchestrated by machine men John Della Bosca and Eric Roozendale was transparent and all too obvious, but now requires follow-up decisive action by Mr Carr himself.
Having barely recovered from his bitter leadership battle with Kim Beazley, Simon Crean now faces a new assault from someone who, at the moment, says may or may not be interested in coming to Canberra.
The initial timeline was for Carr to come in 2007, but this too is clearly a ploy.
If the demands for Carr to come and save the ailing party in Canberra are loud enough, Carr will surely bring forward his plans. But the arrangements are far from clear and the path to Canberra not completely assured.
Carr will want to be guaranteed the top job.
He will not want to come to Canberra to play second fiddle on the frontbench - going from the luxury of an entire department to just one or two staff would be ignominious and impossible for Carr.
The factional chiefs will have to be locked in, including heavyweights Robert Ray and John Faulkner, who kept well out of the previous Crean/Beazley stoush.
Carr has being coming to Canberra for a couple of decades, and had originally coveted the Foreign Minister's job in a Keating Government. But the quirks of history saw his seat taken instead by the bad boy of the NSW right Laurie Brereton, and Carr going on to save the NSW party instead.
Carr enemies argue that there is no obvious seat for him - particularly with Laurie Brereton offside with head office.
But if the NSW right are serious, a seat will be found and, it is even possible the Brereton rift could be overcome.
Other options include asking up-and-coming Tony Burke, who has secured Leo McLeay's safe seat of Watson, to delay his federal ambitions for a while to allow Carr a parachute into Canberra.
But Carr will have to move quickly and clearly announce how and when he hopes to move to Canberra - or be labelled a dilettante and a wrecker.Opposition
It is worth noting that there will be considerable opposition to the Carr option from inside the party - not least of which will be from future leadership contenders such as Mark Latham and Kevin Rudd.
Would he be successful?
It is impossible to say, but certainly he would have more electoral appeal than Simon Crean, who despite having a number of qualities, simply seems unable to connect with the public through the medium of television and radio.
However, the truth is the ongoing destabilisation of another leadership challenge means the Australian public will not elect any party which is deeply divided, no matter who is enlisted to lead it.
Carr has great skills as a political salesman, and as an orator, but the deep and bitter divisions inside the federal ALP are going to take years to recover from.
Just when John Howard was showing signs of being over-complacent and running out of ideas, Labor has invited another bout of leadership speculation which will last at least until the end of the year.