Former Australian minister criticised for indiscreet diaries
Carr’s diaries carry ‘real risk of damaging Australia’s standing’
Australia’s then foreign minister Bob Carr talking to reporters after a news conference in Jakarta on April 3rd, 2013. In his just-launched book, “Diary of a Foreign Minister”, Carr says he had “more energy than 16 gladiators”. Photograph: Reuters
It’s not often that a former foreign minister gets called a “tosser” in a newspaper headline, but not many former foreign ministers publish diaries where they compare flying business class to the “transatlantic slave trade”.
Bob Carr was premier of New South Wales for a decade until 2005. But in March 2012 the Labor Party coaxed him out of retirement, parachuted him into the Australian senate and immediately appointed him foreign minister.
In his just-launched book, Diary of a Foreign Minister , Carr writes that he could not feel humble after attending a G20 meeting with US president Barack Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin last September. “Interested, curious, of course. Just not humble,” he writes.
Carr also ponders whether US secretary of state John Kerry has had some cosmetic work done. “The surgical scars under his eyes I noticed in April have faded in a triumph of American cosmetic surgery,” he writes.
Australia’s foreign minister, the Liberal Party’s Julie Bishop, called Carr an “egotistical self-promoter” and said his book carried “a real risk of damaging Australia’s standing among currently serving world leaders”. It is grist to the mill.
“Any insights I share are relatively modest . . . The Australian people are entitled to know how foreign policy is made, how it’s shaped at all levels,” Carr told The Irish Times .
But surely he had an eye on headlines with entries such as the one saying he had “more energy than 16 gladiators”?
“You don’t become a political leader by being shy. I was happy with what I could do on such little sleep, hopping from time zone to time zone, and keeping fit and sober,” he said.
“It’s vital for a book such as this to include colourful descriptions. The worst thing anyone could say about a book I wrote would be that it was drab and dry.
“My book . . . canvasses important matters of foreign policy – our upturn in relations with Beijing, securing a seat on the [UN] Security Council, attempting to bed down a medical aid pact for Syria, our alliance with the US, opening to Myanmar, closeness with Indonesia.”
Carr welcomes the vehemence of the response to his book. “Love, it, laugh at it. All proceeds go to my favourite charity, Interplast. Coverage means more money for them to send Aussie surgeons to poor countries to work on kids with burns scars and cleft palates.”
Long known as a fussy eater and fitness fanatic, Carr has 58 index entries under diet and exercise in his book, including: “I did two hours of Pilates, then to . . . my third meditation lesson; then to the office to read cables; [then] to the gym.”
“It’s no secret that looking after your physical and mental health enhances performance. Putting a little time aside every now and then to train in the gym let me perform better in top-level meetings and better represent Australia. [I’m] still working on meditation,” he said.
The book details the “extraordinary” level of influence the pro-Israel lobby had on former prime minister Julia Gillard’s office, and refers to what he calls Labor’s “falafel faction” that includes Jewish MPs Mark Dreyfus and Michael Danby.
“Bob Carr is not a bigot . . . not an anti-Semite . . . No doubt he will sell books,” said Mark Leibler of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.
As for complaining the “transatlantic slave trade” business class? “It’s called humour,” said Carr.