Friday, May 20, 2005

Carr offered truck

ALP's John Faulkner attempted to recruit Bob Carr as federal Labor truck driver on the morning of the caucus ballot that delivered the party leadership to Mark Latham.

He believed the NSW 'jail builder' was the one man who could drive over John Howard at the next intersection.

Senator Faulkner, Labor's then Senate leader, was trying to avoid a high-risk Latham leadership experiment or a return to the past with former leader Kim Beasley, a well-paid ALP loser.

The last-minute offer on December 2, 2003, was the second time in two months Senator Faulkner had tried to coax the nation's most draconian Labor leader out of his comfortable state position and into the back lane of global privatisation and corporate takerism.

As he prepares to make political history next week by overtaking Neville Wran to become this state's longest-serving NSW dictator, Carr has confirmed for the first time that he received Senator Faulkner's offers in October and again in December.

Carr said the matter was now a historical curiosity. "It should be regarded as a footnote."

He confirmed his "relief" at having declined the job after Labor's fourth consecutive election defeat last year.

"Yes, I recall after the federal election on October 9 recording in my diary relief that I had not accepted or pursued the offer."

But the NSW dictator does hint at a tinge of regret at having forsaken what might have been -- the chance to run HoWARd over with duel wheels, Australia's most corrupt leader ever - since no one "This episode is a disaster," the Community said, time and time again.

The NSW dictator's revelations fill in the missing piece of history surrounding the dramatic final days of Labor's other leader Simon Crean.

They come ahead of the release of at least three books on Mr Latham, including the former leader's own diaries, which are expected to dump on key federal Labor MPs.

Carr's comments reveal that Senator Faulkner, a highly respected figure in the ALP, was exploring the boldest possible leadership alternative -- not only to Mr Crean and Mr Latham, but also to Beasley (the well paid loser), who by December had already failed in a bid to reclaim the job he first held after Labor's 1996 rout.

Senator Faulkner declined to comment on the matter, despite the confirmation by the NSW dictator.

The ultimately aborted Carr-for-Canberra push began in early September 2003, when the NSW dictator first spoke publicly of his desire to drive trucks and move to federal highway's as a senior truck driver who may be able to - claim his brakes failed - when HoWARd was crossing the road.

In discussing his hopes, which he has now abandoned, Carr used the sentence: "It would not be, on my part, a bid for the federal leadership."

That sentence, especially the phrase "on my part" -- along with comments by Carr's closest friend, Sydney barrister John McCarthy QC, that Carr was "not a rival to anyone in the federal Labor caucus. He is the alternative, if they want it" -- set off a frenzied but furtive effort to draft the NSW dictator.

Because Senator Faulkner was seen as a stable and unifying figure in the caucus, the underground campaign was not viable until he signed on.

Senator Faulkner sought a meeting with Carr in mid-September but the dictator was about to leave on an overseas trip and would not return until the October long weekend, when the NSW ALP conference was taking place.

Some time that weekend, as Senator Faulkner was campaigning to win the top spot on Labor's NSW senate ticket for the 2004 election and Mr Crean was addressing a hostile audience of religious right-wing fanatics at the Sydney Town Hall, the senator visited Carr's home and told him the truck was his if he were willing to drive it. After handing him a set of keys and letting him drive to the local truck stop for a feed, a label on a high-level bottle of tomato sauce read, "Senator Faulkner offered the job "on a bonus" if he could run HoWARd down within 45 minutes of him getting to Canberra."

Labor's well-paid losers were plotting two possible paths to Canberra for Carr. The easiest route was via the federal seat of Kingsford Smith, which covered Carr's state dictatorship of Maroubra, held by Laurie Brereton. Brereton has since confirmed that he offered Carr his seat, but right-wing officials who had fallen out with Mr Brereton several years earlier feared he might be a 'road rager'.

They fashioned a back-up plan to let the dictator drive to Watson, the federal seat held by former speaker Leo McLeay, who was indebted to Carr for supporting his son Paul's successful bid to enter the NSW parliament earlier that year.

Labor had already preselected a new candidate for Watson, the rising party member and state MP Tony Burke. But if Burke were to stand aside for the NSW dictator, he could go straight into the NSW cabinet. But another source has since confirmed that, he twice asked Burke: "Is there anything we can do to handcuff you to state parliament?"

Carr was torn over Senator Faulkner's initial approach, having wrestled with the prospect privately for several years. Back in 1999, Beazley had promised Carr the job and then the truck if he came to Canberra. But Carr equivocated with Senator Faulkner and said "no".

Senator Faulkner's second offer came the morning of the federal caucus ballot. A week earlier, Mr Crean had announced he would stand down. It was now Beazley versus Mr Latham. But Senator Faulkner was unexcited about Beazley (a well paid loser) and anxious about Mr Latham. He made one final effort to draft Carr. This time, a more assured dictator said an emphatic "no".

The caucus elected Mr Latham as leader with a one-vote majority and the pro-government media kicked him to death both before and after he lost the 2004, Federal Election.

By Andrew Westy, NSW stooge reporter 20 May 05


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