For Bob Carr all the world’s a stage, including the Senate
When Bob Carr prepared for a recent television appearance he stood in the middle of a room and loudly declaimed slabs of Shakespeare. Other guests for that evening’s edition of the ABC’s Q&A quietly continued munching their Turkish wraps and sipped drinks as the rich Carr baritone set sail on a chunk of Hamlet.
He was warming up that voice, long so distinctive in Australian politics. Bob Carr knows that drab politics, like drab TV, don’t get god ratings. He believes in theatre to sell a message and the Senate today will benefit from that.
Young Robbie, as Paul Keating used to call the man who now is an elder Labor statesman, this morning was preparing to be sworn in as a senator, and as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The key moment will be when he speaks in his new political home, a Chamber whose proceedings have failed to catch the imagination of the Australian public so far.
Its two ranking figures, Government leader Chris Evans and his Opposition counterpart Eric Abetz are diligent workers of limited pizzazz. Frankly, they send the meter in the direction of “dull”.
Bob Brown, Barnaby Joyce and Bill Heffernan add some flash and distinction, but the Upper House has lacked a serious draw card.
Bob Carr could become that draw card, and not just because of his wit and his sense of the dramatic.
He saw State Government as a limitation. Towards the end of his 10 years as Premier he took to studying German during Question Time. He won’t be allowed anything like that sort of indulgence in the Senate.
This will be a bigger stage and a nationally important one. His shadow, Liberal Julie Bishop, will be in the House of Representatives but that does not mean he will be left alone.
Carr already has had an effect.
The Newspoll published in The Australian today appeared to show that his recall to politics did not increase Labor’s primary vote. However, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s personal rating moved up slightly, perhaps related to her success getting him on board. It could be the Carr factor.
The Australian recently depicted the two as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and perhaps the same formula applies in political terms: He gives her class and she gives him sex appeal.
That has yet to be seen. Meantime, he has other duties.
Last night he dined with his ministerial predecessor Kevin Rudd, an important meeting. The fact the two sat down for a civil chat showed Carr was intent on continuing Australia’s foreign affairs strategy, not the ALP’s anti-Rudd campaign.
The Opposition will attempt to interpret his arrival as the appearance of yet another pretender for the Labor leadership, something which Carr would instantly and genuinely dismiss.
But perhaps we should keep an ear to his Shakespearean warm-ups in case he quotes those telling lines from Macbeth: “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir.”
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