Carr and Greiner rise from the grave
13 March 2012
I’d slept in after working half-way through the night on a case, and when I woke and went down to the café for breakfast the sun was already poking into Werrong Lane. Bicycles littered the lane and a clutch of the regular cycle commuters from the offices along Sydney Street were tucking into Joadja’s celebrated breakfast menu.
“Hey Nick, you scruffy old gumshoe, you look like you slept in your clothes. Come and join us”. It was Tarkis from the advertising agency. He was right. I had. He was looking very natty in a multi-coloured lycra skin graft. I ordered the vegetarian breakfast and a long black.
“Will you look at this”, Tarkis went on, waving the local paper. “Barry O’Farrell’s bashing Clover Moore over her cycleways again. Boy, is he dancing to the Murdoch tune. Didn’t take long, did it?”
“Yeah, but does he really believe a word of the nonsense he’s spouting?” said old Stanley, the retired colonel, who usually stopped by for breakfast after his morning ride around Centennial Park. “Of course he doesn’t. And the proof is that his own transport master plan is sure to enshrine the importance of cycling”.
He pulled a wad of A4 printout from his daypack and flipped through the pages.
“Here it is, right here in the government’s discussion paper: ‘5.2.6 How can cycling be encouraged?’ And it’s pretty good stuff too: ‘Cycling and walking have become more popular in recent years. There are opportunities to maintain this trend by improving, connecting and expanding cycling and walking networks …’. And this, ‘In the Sydney city centre, cycling has increased in peak periods’ and here, ‘… an opportunity for Transport for NSW and councils to work together to increase the use of bicycles…’ And they say they want to double the bicycle mode share for trips of less than 10 kilometres by 2016. Wonderful! But 2016 is only four years away. If they’re going to achieve that, they’d better start peddling”.
Tarkis wiped the mushroom juice off his plate with his last bit of toast. “It does sound very Clover Moore. So why does O’Farrell bullshit like he does? And why has he saddled himself with a political corpse like ‘Nicotine Nick’ Greiner and this silly Infrastructure NSW mob who are working at cross-purposes with Gladys Berejiklian? She seems to me to be doing things that needed to be done for public transport”.
“Well, on one reading, he has to. The evil Murdoch press demands it. Day in and day out they bash Clover over her cycleways. What’s a conservative politician supposed to do? All we can hope for is that he says one thing and does the opposite.
“Speaking of grubby two-facedness and corpses rising”, I said. “What about Gillard resurrecting Bob Carr? This is the bloke who gave us spin-cycle managerialism and the shambolic government that led the NSW ALP to disaster; the bloke who gave us Obeid, Tripodi, Costa and Roozendaal, to name but a few. When he got himself into the media saying good things, you knew he was about to do the opposite”.
“Yeah. It’s really weird”, said Joadja, who had bought out my order. “I saw him the other night on TV. He looked like some character from a Medieval woodcut – like a danse macabre corpse, rising from his political grave”. She shuddered involuntarily.
Maybe Carr’s appointment could be explained by the ALP’s decaying talent pool. It certainly seemed ‘unsafe’. I had the feeling that maybe the circumstances surrounding Carr’s surprise resignation, right after the Cross-City Tunnel debacle, in July 2005, might come back to haunt Gillard.
Carr passed off his resignation as a decision to “move on” after 10 years in the job, but I wasn’t the only one to wonder about the timing. Nor about the fact that Carr was immediately followed by his deputy, Andrew Refshauge, and treasurer, Mike Egan.
At the time, there was speculation that Sir Li Ka-shing, Asia’s richest man, might sue the government over the incredibly dodgy traffic figures backing the tollway he’d been sold. He might have lost, but the sordid details, trotted out in court, would have brought down the Carr government.