He was the 39th Premier of New South Wales, preceding John Fahey and succeeded by Morris Iemma. He served the Australian Labor Party.
The son of a train driver, Carr was born in the Sydney suburb of Maroubra, and was educated at the University of New South Wales, from which he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in history. Unusually for an Australian politician, he is an intellectual and writer; in a recent example of his recognition as a writer, he appeared on stage at the 2004 Sydney Festival in conversation with Tom Stoppard.
Before entering politics, Carr was a journalist for the ABC Radio's AM current affairs program, wrote for The Bulletin and spent a period working for the Labor Council of NSW.
A member of the Australian Labor Party, Carr entered the New South Wales Legislative Assembly at a by-election as the member for Maroubra in October 1983.
In December 1984 he was appointed Minister for Planning and the Environment in the Neville Wran government. He held this position until March 1988, when the ALP lost government. In February 1986 he also took on the consumer affairs portfolio, which he held until he became Minister for Heritage in July 1986.
Carr's long-term ambition was to enter federal politics and be Minister for Foreign Affairs in a federal Labor government. But following the defeat of the New South Wales Labor government, Carr was pressured by the party organisation and his own Right faction to stand for the leadership. Carr reluctantly agreed, and became Leader of the Opposition.
His diary entries from the time reveal "I spent today like a doomed man, taking phone calls and drafting a statement, still saying to the press I wasn't shifting. I feel a jolt in my stomach about what I'm getting myself in for. I will destroy my career in four years. Everything's altered. It's my fate … So, for better or for worse, I become leader of the party next week."citation needed
Despite this reluctance, Carr's performance as opposition leader gained wide approval in the party and NSW Labor only narrowly lost a tight election to Nick Greiner's coalition government in 1991, despite the fact that no one expected Labor to come close to victory.
In 1995 he became Premier at another close election and won comfortably again in 1999 and 2003.
His centrist, cautious government has been characterised by conservative financial management and the encouragement of market forces, and latterly pursued a "tough on crime" policy. Carr occasionally ventured into national policy issues, particularly issues concerning the environment and population growth. A keen bushwalker, he created numerous national parks in NSW over his decade-long term as Premier. During his term, he worked towards improving literacy standards in NSW schools.
In August 2004, Carr faced criticism due to his alleged involvement in the Orange Grove affair, and also from the Commissioner of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, due to his remarks that a minister under investigation by the ICAC would be "vindicated" before the release of that body's findings on the matter; this resulted in an allegation of contempt, which was subsequently dropped.
After 10 years as Premier, Carr announced his resignation both as Premier and as the member for Maroubra on 27 July 2005 to be effective from 3 August. This immediately prompted speculation that the resignation was a prelude to a move into federal politics, but Carr denied this. He cited the desire to spend more time with his wife, Helena Carr, as the main motivation for his resignation. His successor as Premier is former health minister Morris Iemma. Carr's resignation triggered further resignations, namely those of Deputy Premier Andrew Refshauge and Planning Minister Craig Knowles.
Unusually for a Labor leader, Carr has opposed Australian republicanism if it entailed public election of the President (he supported a President appointed by Parliament). He also opposed a Bill of Rights, claiming it would merely lead to increased litigation.