Plaudits for Labor?s theatrical marathon man

By TOBY WALKER

BOB Carr ? best Premier ever?

The judges are still out on that one, but there were plenty of plaudits for Bob Carr yesterday from both sides of the political fence in the Clarence Valley.

While recent policies and decisions of the Carr Labor Government have been met by howls of derision in the Valley, local political representatives unanimously praised Mr Carr's achievements.

Senior Labor Party policy adviser and Clarence Valley councillor Terry Flanagan said he had been proud to work under Mr Carr.

Mr Flanagan felt Mr Carr's work to progress reconciliation in NSW, his proactive stance in the fight to win compensation for asbestos victims and the Sydney Olympics were among his greatest successes.

"He's done a very, very good job for a very long time under enormous amounts of pressure," Mr Flanagan said.

"I would think anybody who couldn't find a compliment for Bob Carr given what he's done for this state would be pretty mean-spirited."

Clarence MP Steve Cansdell said he was not surprised by Mr Carr's decision and believed the former Premier's body language in recent parliamentary sessions had given some indication that he was looking for a change.

"He has been an effective Premier and to be able to stay in the position of Premier for 10 years and the leader of a state political party is a remarkable achievement," he said.

Mr Cansdell said yesterday's announcement had undoubtedly given the Nationals' election prospects a huge boost and speculated that Police Minister Carl Scully would most likely have the numbers to succeed Mr Carr.

"This has been a solid chapter in the Australian story ? the Olympics, the environment, the massive capital works, the focus on education, comforting the families of the Bali victims and to secure NSW against such an attack.

"It's been the greatest honour and privilege ... ."

Mr Carr, a keen swimmer at ocean beaches near his Maroubra home, said another fine Sydney winter weekend had helped him make up his mind to quit.

"Last weekend was a beautiful weekend and Helena and I thought we could actually enjoy a bit more of this weather, and a bit more of recreation in this weather," he said.

The next Premier would be in a good position to win the March 2007 state election, Mr Carr said.

"The government's got a big majority; the government's got a buffer in the parliament beyond that majority," he said.

"The government, even after a difficult mid-term period, is in a winning position in the polls."

Despite admitting being 'very keen to help', Mr Carr said he would not play an elder statesman role in the federal party.

Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge said Mr Carr had been the greatest premier in NSW history.

Federal Opposition leader Kim Beazley said Mr Carr had been an 'exemplary' premier and he would miss him 'terribly'.

"He's been a man of enormous wisdom, a man of enormous strength, a forward-thinking man," Mr Beazley said.



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