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Bob Carr Resigns From The Senate, Abandons Promise To Beat Strom Thurmond

Senator Bob Carr, Foreign Minister in the Gillard and Rudd governments, has announced his resignation from Parliament.


Carr’s resignation will take effect tomorrow. It allows the NSW Parliament to appoint his replacement before the Senate sits again on November 12. The defeated member for Robertson, Deb O’Neill, is likely to be appointed as his replacement. The defeated member for Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly, has also expressed interest in the position.

Carr was appointed to a casual vacancy to replace Mark Arbib on March 2 last year. He immediately entered the Cabinet, replacing Kevin Rudd as Foreign Minister in the aftermath of Rudd’s failed challenge to Julia Gillard’s leadership.

Carr’s term expires on June 30, 2014. At the election last month, he was re-elected to a further full six-year term from the number one position on the ALP’s NSW Senate ticket. He will now be required to resign twice, necessitating appointments under the casual vacancy provision of Section 15 of the Constitution.

Formerly NSW Labor Premier from 1995 until 2005, Carr led his party for seven years in opposition from 1988, forsaking a federal political career for state politics. His appointment as Foreign Minister was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Carr switched his support to Kevin Rudd at some point during his time as a Cabinet minister. At his press conference today, he said this was a “pragmatic” decision based on a recognition that the ALP was facing a defeat from which it would have been difficult to recover.

There had been “a lack of calculation and careful political instinct from 2007”, Carr said. He was “struck by a lack of canniness” in the government. He said the government often lacked “cunning” and “caution”, and cited its asylum seeker policies as an example.

The Gillard government’s media reforms was a case of “tearing up the Neville Wran playbook” in “having a row with the media in the 12-month countdown to an election”, Carr said. “A certain political direction had been cast out the window.”

Most of all, Carr said he was worried that “if people get used to voting at a rate of 25% for the ALP, how do you recover?”

Carr described as “irrational exuberance” his earlier commitments to see out his term and to stay for a second and third term. In an interview in June, he promised to seek a second and third term in the Senate. “I’m going to beat Strom Thurmond”, he said. Thurmond was an American politician who served as a senator for 48 years and died in office at the age of 100.

  • Listen to Carr’s press conference (31m)

Transcript of remarks by Bob Carr in an interview on Australian Agenda on Sky News, June 2, 2013.

  • Listen to Carr’s remarks (3m)
  • Listen to the full interview (45m)

PAUL KELLY: Can I check, Minister, will you serve out your current Senate term?

BOB CARR: I’m looking at the term after that. I’m going to beat Strom Thurmond.

KELLY: So you will seek a second term as well as completing the current term?

CARR: And a third.

KELLY: No, no, no, don’t, sorry. Will you complete the current term?

CARR: Yes.

KELLY: And will you seek another term because I think you indicated you would at the press conference with Julia Gillard when your appointment was announced.

CARR: Yes, that’s right, I did. I did it very eloquently and I’m glad you remember.

KELLY: Yes and but you didn’t answer the question. Will you seek a second term as you indicated then you would?

CARR: Yes, yes.

KELLY: You will, you will?

CARR: You mean – by second term you mean one after the – a term after the one that I’m going to be elected to, I hope, as number one on the party ticket on September 14, one after that?

KELLY: That’s right.

CARR: Six years, seven years beyond that?

KELLY: That’s right.

CARR: Yeah. And then I’m going to keep seeking them.

KELLY: So are you serious or not serious?

CARR: I’m as serious as the question warrants.

KELLY: No, no, no, well, what I’d like to ask you…

CARR: I said yes in block letters.

KELLY: Okay. But no, no, no, Minister, is there a deal that Sam Dastyari the New South Wales [ALP general] secretary takes your Senate place?

CARR: No, no, no. Emphatically not.

KELLY: There’s no deal?

CARR: There is absolutely not. Absolutely not.

KELLY: So he won’t take your Senate place?

CARR: Absolutely not, and let me say this. He is one of the most talented young leaders I’ve encountered in the Labor Party or anywhere else but I think we’re all saying to him – in the Labor Party, we want a long-term general secretary.

And by the way, there’s more clout, more power, more prestige, more influence in being a long-term authoritative general secretary of the New South Wales ALP, rebuilding the party at the state level, consolidating the upset win we’re going to enjoy in September the 14th federally. There’s more clout in doing that than being just another one of those former party secretaries, Liberal or Labor, who ends up sitting in the Senate. We’ve got to get beyond that cliché.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Can I ask you on that though, Senator? So there’s no deal emphatically. What about discussions? Have you had him…


VAN ONSELEN: … at least had informal discussions?

CARR: I saw Simon Benson’s report and Simon Benson’s a very penetrating journalist with a lot of contacts. But no, it’s simply wrong. There were no such – there have not been such discussions.

And we want Sam Dastyari, who we all see as a great asset for New South Wales Labor, to be a long-term serious contributor to state and national Labor Party politics because he’s got the talent to do it. I don’t want to see his talent wasted by him becoming another Party Secretary serving in the Senate. Because the Liberal Party and the Labor Party have been doing that to the point where it’s a bit of a political cliché, a cliché of a political career.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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