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When Bob Carr is history, will we remember the good or the bad?

By Lee Rhiannon - posted Friday, 30 July 2004

Premier Bob Carr is a man much given to pondering history. But while the Americans and Romans are his usual pet subjects, these days he must surely be contemplating his own spot in the history books.

The rumour mill is churning with stories of the Premier's imminent retirement. Bowing out is actually the easy part: Carr's artful way with the media will ensure that his resignation, when it comes, will deliver top-class media coverage for the man and his party.

But beyond a few good headlines, Carr will be looking to his legacy. How will history treat this complex and contradictory Premier?


As a Labor man since his teens, would he like to be remembered as the Premier who delivered good public services and protected workers' rights? As an environmentalist, would he like to be revered as the State's greenest leader?

In Thoughtlines - Reflections of a Public Man, Carr highlights his proclamation of 100 national parks and his ban on canal estates as central to his legacy.

And indeed they are. These were notable achievements that have gone some way to safeguarding the integrity of much of the coastline. 

But these achievements were back in the Premier's first term. Since then, too much coastal development from the Tweed to Bega has diminished local environments and pushed out many older and more disadvantaged residents.

For nine years, the Premier has had the power to act. Yet all that has happened is that the once worthwhile Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, passed with great hope in 1979, has been watered down.

While the Premier's talk about ugly apartment blocks and shabby design might be a headline grabber, history may not be so kind.


On the issues of public services and workers' rights, the record is similarly mixed.

The problems with education, health and transport hardly need repeating. And when it comes to industrial relations, Carr's relationship with unions has been similarly troubled.

Carr did oversee the removal of the worst aspects of the previous Liberal government's industrial law, which had dismantled basic award rights and minimum labour standards.

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About the Author

Lee Rhiannon MLC is a former Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council and is running in the 2010 Federal Election as the NSW Greens Senate candidate.

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