In defence of Bob Carr

I did not expect to enjoy Bob Carr’s Diary of a Foreign Minister.
I do not know him personally and my impressions of him from a distance were not very posititive.
I was wrong. And I finished the book with a grudging respect.
 
All the pull quotes we have seen are there – the discomfort of flying business class, the dietary oddities – but in context they are said in that self-mocking tone that Carr enjoys.
Same with the name-dropping – “as Henry (Kissinger) said to me” – but he convincingly argues that personal relationships are important in getting people to pick up the phone when you want help. He gives several examples of how this works.
 
I had thought that Carr had spent 18 months swanning around the would enjoying himself. The book shows how very hard he worked. Flying direct to Paris, arriving in the morning for three meetings then to Geneva in the evening.Home for a few days then off again. I spent several years of my career doing this kind of travel and I expected to fly first class. It isn’t fun, nor is perpetual jet lag.
 
He did some useful consulate stuff – rescuing Australians in jail and such – though he had no time for Assange. 
The biggest part of the job was getting Australia elected to the Security Council. I’ve never seen the point of this and I suspect Carr would have been happier if Rudd had not started it. But, as with the Sydney Olympics when he was premier, he inherited the job and got it done.
 
The book shows that he  pretty well stayed away from domestic politics and rarely consulted cabinet or the prime minister. He seems not to have taken much interest in the Carr/Gillard fight until right at the end.
 
Now, I am still not sure what value a foreign minister adds to our lives. I suspect they encourage national delusions of grandeur. (Whoever invented the expression “punching above our weight” deserves to be punched). But, as the job exists, Carr seems to have done it pretty well.
 
So, I’d recommend reading the book. It’s also fun and well written.

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45 Responses to In defence of Bob Carr

  1. Blogstrop

    Carr’s poor record of management in his NSW terms, his sudden opting out to Macquarie Bank, and his unexpected ring-in return to the front line for a stint as Foreign Minister all suggest that he’s better employed writing lightweight memoirs than actually achieveing worthy things for the people.

  2. Baldrick

    He seems not to have taken much interest in the Carr/Gillard fight until right at the end.

    Shouldn’t that be the Rudd/Gillard fight?

  3. I assumed the reference was to the Kim Carr/Gillard squabble. There was one, I seem to remember.

    Two or three mentions in the Easter Speccy of Carr’s self-mocking and the book does seem to get some positive reviews. So it might be worth buying.

  4. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    Carr was a mere worker drone in the NSW right, an office assistant to the powerful and capable Brereton, Keating, Richo cadre, yet he was the last man standing after Greiner belted Labor to leg in the late ’80s election and that is the only reason he was thrust forward to lead the Opposition. There was no-one else left.

    He did have designs on higher office then but he was a long way short of qualified as to competence, politically and intellectually. Walker from the Left, for example, ran rings around him with ease.

    “as with the Sydney Olympics when he was premier, he inherited the job and got it done.”

    No he didn’t. That was the work of John Fahey, Michael Knight, Coates, Gosper and a coterie of consultants charging rack rates, while Carr swanned around locking up land as national parks, to give the paspalum and lantana a chance, offering Macquarie Bank Millionaire’s Factory a leg up, making land grants to Harry Triguboff and doing what he was told by head office.

    Carr was the worst NSW Premier in living memory, an utter failure by any measure, who is now allowed to stride about polishing up his undeserving ego making sure that is not the case,

    “in that self-mocking tone that Carr enjoys”

    Yeah sure. He’s as awkward socially as you’ll encounter, about as relaxed, natural and sincere in company as Comrade Dear Leader (deposed, re-throned, beheaded).

  5. Des Deskperson

    ‘All the pull quotes we have seen are there – the discomfort of flying business class, the dietary oddities – but in context they are said in that self-mocking tone that Carr enjoys’

    I was chatting with one of my ‘WASaid’ sources over Easter who told me that when Carr visited Papua New Guinea, he had to be accompanied at all times by a junior officer whose only role was to tote the designer pack that contained Bob’s special yoghurt that apparently gave him his unique mental edge. There may well have been self mockery in this ritual, but I doubt if the lackey saw or appreciated it.

    As for being Foreign Minister, well, anyone could do it. Compared to domestic portfolios like agriculture, health or social services, where there are huge budgets, competing interests groups and complex decisions have to be made that affect the lives of ordinary Australians, Foreign Minister is doddle. Outside our region, no-one gives a stuff about Australia and the role is mainly about sucking up to people more powerful than us. Tony Street did it, Bill Haydon did it, neither of them foreign policy geniuses.

  6. JohnA


    The biggest part of the job was getting Australia elected to the Security Council. I’ve never seen the point of this and I suspect Carr would have been happier if Rudd had not started it. But, as with the Sydney Olympics when he was premier, he inherited the job and got it done.”

    Balderdash! He could have abandoned the project and worked to salvage some dignity, to see that the “foreign aid” was used well, and so on. Australia might have been a lot less “on the nose” in various foreign aid quarters as a result.

    He chose to go on with it. I doubt if it had been a Cabinet decision, given the history of the self-indulgent PM / FM who started the ball rolling, anyway.

    If a Foreign Minister really wants to make a mark in the history books how about resigning from the UN, and merely retaining membership of useful bodies like WMO, ICAO, ITU and UPU – those international bodies which were alive and working before the UN was, and then was captured by the totalitarian haters of this world.

  7. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Wot Mick said. I was at a dinner table with Carr once, a while ago I’ll admit, so I’m not completely uninformed as to Carr’s capacities and charms. He may have gone to a lot of meetings, but I won’t be buying the book.

    ps. I’ve only done a long-haul in First Class once in my life. It’s not all that different to Business Class and the same goes for the First Class Lounge. As Da Hairy Ape says, with heavy irony, ya just meet a better class of person, Lizzie. Well, you don’t actually.

  8. john constantine

    so the corrupt process, of australia using the foreign aid budget to bribe the worlds most corrupt and bribable regimes into selling their votes–that is something to be proud of?.

    how many people in countries without corrupt and bribe taking monsters in charge missed out on aid, because australia chose to divert funding and reward corruption.

    any idea of the exact cost of the lefties united nations fantasy? what opportunity cost? how much of the money australia borrowed and squandered on leftie whim ended up in good works, and how much australian debt vanished into corrupt pockets, or united nations pay packets [or is that a redundant finish to a sentance?.]

  9. Up The Workers!

    The Australian Carr Industry will never be dead while that freeloading parasite has both of his hands in the taxpayers’ pocket.

    It might have been cheaper if he’d never crawled out of “Honest Eddie”s fob-pocket in the first place.

  10. Andrew

    Agree with that Lizzie. I once got upgraded on an empty plane to 1C. It was no different to Biz. Nothing to justify the price difference if you can get long haul Biz for under $500. (Although AirAsia didn’t give me PJs for the flat bed trip.)

  11. Bruce

    You seem to have forgotten to append the sarc. tag Ken. Pity,it would have saved your post from looking like a load of cocky shit.

  12. john constantine

    so the great abbottbeast ends up with the temporary seat, but the whole point seems to have been to use borrowed australian debt to buy access into the united nations inner circle for australias right sort of lefties.

    “remember me-i signed australia up into donating ten percent of our carbon tax straight to the united nations,no questions asked”

    remember me mate, your country went to the top of the funding queue when we rolled over for you blokes. Did that project your cousin was building for the poor ever get finished?

    lucky rudd is so squeaky clean, otherwise a man with a massive family fortune that knows who sells votes, and how much a vote costs might be tempted to buy a high status position in the united nations, instead of worrying about doing a straight bill gates /warren buffet straight donation to charity.

  13. The book shows how very hard he worked. Flying direct to Paris, arriving in the morning for three meetings then to Geneva in the evening.

    Indeed, one’s heart bleeds for the poor man; I take back every harsh thing I ever said about the Honourable Bob Carr. The pain, the exhaustion, the misery of sitting in a luxurious seat for several hours and then getting into a comfortable car and sitting for several minutes, and then attending a meeting which involved the back-breaking, mind-numbing, strenuous, fatiguing labour of sitting or standing whilst conversing—not to forget the wearying, preparatory travail of reading a few documents beforehand—must have been excruciatingly torturous. He surely earned those big bucks and, at the same time, our deepest admiration and heartfelt sympathy.

  14. ken n

    Thank you all for your comments. The heading is not accurate. It’s not a defence of Carr, certainly not as Premier, but a surprised reaction to his book.
    The book is (in my opinion) good, well written and enjoyable.
    These days I don’t read much that I know I’ll agree with. My neck gets sore from all that nodding.
    I read stuff that might make me think and might get me to modify my attitude to something or someone.
    Anyway, read the book.

  15. Bruce

    First up he has to front the Insulation Batts Royal Commission.He’ll have the opportunity to give evidence under oath ,that could be an interesting experience for the little grub. He should constantly remind himself that offering anything other than the truth could lead to a charge of perjury.

  16. Peter

    “Self mockery”… Or spin to render self-absorption more palatable?

  17. Jock

    Ken. His about face on Israel was a disgusting act of betrayal, just to suck up to the “muslim” vote at home. Its always been said that the British civil service was anti Israel and Anti semetic. Perhaps Bob was following their advice?

  18. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    From Deadman at 9:08 am:

    ” The book shows how very hard he worked. Flying direct to Paris, arriving in the morning for three meetings then to Geneva in the evening.”

    It really is the done thing in polite society, isn’t it, to sigh resignedly and reluctantly admit how wearing it is to travel overseas with 72 or 7 other paxes.

    I noticed recently that people become “paxes” when one enters the aeroplane upper class conversation, it reinforces one’s intimate knowledge of these earned privilege things. I’m amused that, down the other end of the class scale, bogans don’t share similar yarns about the cubic capacity and torque of the diesel engine in the local bus they catch to the railway station to go to work, or to the airport; the comfort level of the seat fabric or luggage rack and such. They don’t include jargon such as “pass’s” or “mugs” or whatever name passengers go by amongst the drivers.

    One wearily mounts the wide seat up front, separated from the peasants and serviced well by the airline’s coolies (why wouldn’t they – the profit margin makes it well worth their staff showing a little sycophancy to the egos that fall for it) and eagerly awaits the next opportunity to properly inform those they must impress.

    It is so amusing – head office was in Texas and there was no-one to whom one could boast, because they were doing the same thing as part of the job we all enjoyed so. Sometimes the chairman’s driver his very self would deliver or collect one at Kingsford Smith, not because of one’s might and import but because Bob was jack of sitting around in the car park all day with Jack from security, waiting to collect the boss when he flew in later from Melbourne or Woy Woy. I see now these were lost opportunities to self embiggen.

  19. Grigory M

    It’s not a defence of Carr

    Of course not, Ken. It’s more like this:

    ´*•.¸´*•.¸(*•.¸♥¸.•*´)¸.•*´¸.•*´
    ♥«´¨`•°KEN + BOOB°•´¨`»♥
    ¸.•*¸.•*(¸.•*´♥`*•.¸)`*•.¸`*•.¸

  20. wal1957

    Carr was, and is an arrogant snob!
    As for OZ being elected to the security council, what you really mean is that OZ paid to be elcted to the security council.
    What a bloody joke!

  21. H B Bear

    Like Carr’s book – I don’t buy any of it. Carr was the politician’s politician.

    He set NSW back at least a decade or more.

  22. Senile Old Guy

    There are thousands of good books I have yet to read.

    Carr’s is not among them.

  23. Ant

    Is business class such a chore? Even when it’s paid for by somebody else?

    Poor poopie.

    I’ve never travelled 1st class for business or pleasure but it seems I’m paying for others to enjoy the privilege for free.

    Fly business!

    And heres something novel for you: If you want to perk up pay for it yourself.

    Oh, and if that’s not good enough, find another job.

  24. Combine_Dave

    There are thousands of good books I have yet to read.

    Carr’s is not among them.

    Add ‘Ender’s Game’ to your list. A cracker of a book.

  25. ProEng

    Liz and Andrew-Showing my age but at one time many years ago first class had a benefit. I was upgraded coming back from Hong Kong I think. Anyway from the time the door on the plane was opened in Sydney, through customs, picked up baggage (first one out of the chute), walk ed through customs and out front to be picked up was 10 minutes, yes 10 minutes. Also, in those early days the Qantas lounge had merit because you could book in there and they called you ten minutes before departure and one of the hostesses escorted you on. Those Muslim, terrorists and potential terrorists, have made life more difficult for everyone but I suppose that was one of their aims.
    Now for Carr, agree he was one of the worst premiers from a) doing nothing to advance NSW b) locking large areas of NSW in parks c) passing useless environmental laws such as restrictions on dams on your own property, and generally putting restrictions on how you managed your own land d) allowing corruption to flourish in public service and the government.

  26. stackja

    NSW Premier Bob Carr retires
    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2005/s1424031.htm

    REPORTER: Would you and Helena go federal after you get bored doing nothing?
    BOB CARR: No, I don’t think so, no.

    JOHN BROGDEN, NSW OPPOSITION LEADER: No stamp duty for Bob’s farm in New Zealand, hey? You were happy to take off to New Zealand and buy your farm, weren’t you? Happy to leave the state for your investment property, but happy to slug the investors of NSW.

  27. Squirrel

    Carr’s “My Reading Life” published in 2008 and thus written at a stage when he presumably had no serious thoughts or hopes of being parachuted into the Federal Parliament and the Foreign Affairs portfolio, includes some startlingly frank comments about George W. Bush – how fortunate for Mr Carr that there was a Democrat in the White House during his tenure as Foreign Minister.

  28. Michel Lasouris

    Oh? A mention of Asange eh? One hears so little these days. I wonder if he’s still holed up in the Embassy. If so, he should be quietly going insane….. that’d be fun to watch

  29. stackja

    Julian Assange Punches Out Priest On Easter Sunday
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/julian-assange-punches-out-priest_n_5196551.html?utm_hp_ref=politics
    Julian Assange went mano-a-mano with a man of god at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Easter Sunday.
    The WikiLeaks founder met with boxing champion Solomon Egberime, then had a sparring match with Father David Smith (a.k.a. ‘Fighting’ Father Dave), his team tells The Huffington Post. Smith describes himself on Twitter as a professional boxer, 6th degree black belt and social activist (as well as an Anglican parish priest).

  30. ar

    Yeah, Carr’s travel regimen was so brutal his wife tagged along for the ride…

  31. James B

    Bob Carr was the one who drove up NSW real estate prices with his “urban consolidation” policies.

    Fuck him.

  32. egg_

    while Carr swanned around locking up land as national parks, to give the paspalum and lantana a chance

    That was his Green cred that he espoused on the recent Q&A…&B-Listers.
    More unmanaged undergrowth to burn out nearby residences, too?
    His specialty seemed to be that of rearranging the furniture (read: a manager with no people management skills) – oil refineries out of Kurnell, jet skis out of the harbour &c.

  33. The book shows that he pretty well stayed away from domestic politics and rarely consulted cabinet or the prime minister.

    Erm – the man was meant to be representing the elected government of Australia as an appointed minister, appointed by the Prime Minister, and a member of Cabinet.

    The least he should have been doing was consulting Cabinet and the PM.

    The fact that he hardly ever did so is simply further condemnation of his irresponsibility and arrogance, not a reason for praise.

  34. I suspect they encourage national delusions of grandeur. (Whoever invented the expression “punching above our weight” deserves to be punched). But, as the job exists, Carr seems to have done it pretty well.

    FIFY

  35. Ken N

    So, can I take it that the consensus here is that you don’t like the man?

  36. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    you don’t like the man?

    Loathe, detest and despise are words that spring readily to mind.

  37. Tintarella di Luna

    Bob Carr was the one who drove up NSW real estate prices with his “urban consolidation” policies.

    Fuck him.

    Anyone remember when he introduced the Vendor’s Tax because he’d rightly royally rogered the state and stamp duty paid by the purchaser wasn’t enough, he needed more of the taxpayers’ dough to piss up against a wall. Carr was totally Carrcinogenic like a melanoma with the edges unwatched. He deserves to look as he does, it’s his punishment.

  38. ar

    Anyone remember when he introduced the Vendor’s Tax

    One of the justifications was that property investors were making too much money and the state was missing out when CGT was paid to Feds. Tax was a disaster and Iemma made a big deal about repealing it… repealing their own tax, that is…

    NSW govts are still addicted to meddling with property and now impose a development tax of 1% on any development on brownfield land.

  39. blogstrop

    National Parks. Never forget.

  40. blogstrop

    Native Vegetation Laws. Never Forget.

  41. blogstrop

    Now it’s about Gas.

  42. Ainsley H.

    On an earlier note, Owen Harries’ Boyer lecture is here. I always found it disturbing that Rudd wanted a middle power like us to be ‘activist’ in the world. Not expeditionary mind, except in global wealth redistribution and lawfare. All go and no show, in other words. It’s not a Turkish peninsula anymore but the Crimean that now unsettles and yet what dog do we have in that fight. I haven’t re-read Harries yet, interesting to see how it stands up.

  43. GerardB

    Ken, Carr’s diary may be well written but his claim that his writing style was self-mocking was a retrospective response to the media’s cherry picking of his outlandish statements.

    Carr is not a humorist, he was and is a dangerous socialist glove puppet who stuffed up NSW and was an embarrassment as foreign minister. His anti-Israel stance and bigoted attack on our Jewish friends shows what a danger he his to Australia.

  44. Silke B. V.

    I remember several years ago the husband of a good friend was working for NZ government and had to fly to Europe a lot. So he was saying to be able to work when arriving he needs to fly business class otherwise he cannot sleep. So true I am not able to sleep when flying economy and I only ever had the comfort of flying about business class twice on a shorter 4 hour trip. So when we asked him what the difference is to first class he replied that he thinks in 1st class they get a free pyjama…….
    I thought that was so ridiculous and said that Helen Clark who was the PM at the time must be pilling up Pyjamas at home
    So I have not read Bob Carr’s book and I think it is disgusting considering the debt that the ALP left Australia with and we all (except for all those pollies left or right , including Carr)have to pay for it now
    While those in power still travelling on the gravy ‘plane’ what a shame!

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