Australia’s foreign policy, according to Foreign Minister Bob Carr in a piece published the day after Australia’s UN Security Council win, is not only about protecting our national interest, it is “about doing the right thing”. If so, we should have expected more from the most significant work on Australian foreign policy for many years.
As an advocate for human rights and democratic freedoms in Tibet, I was encouraged when the Gillard government announced its plan for a white paper on Australia in the Asian Century. Our understanding of Asia, and China in particular, was in dire need of updating. When it came to Tibet, Chinese propagandists had spent years happily filling the vacuum left by the dearth of information escaping the Great Firewall and waning government interest in the region.
During the consultation phase, several Australian NGOs provided thoughtful input on how Australia’s deepening economic relationships with Asia might also support the wellbeing of disadvantaged or marginalised groups, particularly those paying for China’s “economic miracle”.
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I’ll never forget trecking out to the old RAAF base in Canberra to watch Airforce One deliver George W Bush to Canberra the first time he visited Australia. What happened that day was a priceless illustration of what’s great about Australia’s political system.
There are actually two identical planes that travel together, one kitted out with a five-star interior to carry the President and his entourage, and one with a more standard fit-out to carry the hundreds of staff that travel with him. As the President’s plane pulled up to the red carpet John and Janette Howard boarded to welcome the President and his wife, before the four of them waved to the (non existant) crowds and came down the stairs together.
The Bushes then stepped staight into the stretch limo, which was part of a motorcade totalling approximately 42 vehicles (outriders included), and shot off across the closed runway of Canberra airport to drive to the US Embassy traffic light-free.
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The government has actually borrowed billions to buy a vanity pulpit for Kevin Rudd.
But it’s not going to be occupied by him – unless of course there is another coup by the faceless men and the ALP decides after all the nasty things they said they want him back.
Until then Julia Gillard and Bob Carr will use their very expensive new toy, the vanity pulpit, to bore us with endless “initiatives” on world issues. The fact is the Russians and Chinese who actually run the Security Council will ignore each of them.
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Bob Carr is as good as threatening to lead a conga line Gangnam Style down George Street this morning after our bid for a two-year spot on the UN Security Council worked.
“It’s the world saying ‘we see Australia as a good country, a fine global citizen’,” said the beaming Foreign Minister. He just Tweeted: “Victory for Australia! Aus wins Security Council seat - big, decisive win with 140 votes in first round of voting.”
He also said on radio: “It’s always a thrill to see Australia win in an international forum where the competition’s intense.” A bit like the Olympics really.
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Bob Carr is a keen diarist. He kept a lively and detailed diary during his time in NSW politics, including his years as Premier.
Extracts from it provided the basis for a revealing biography described by one reviewer as “a grand disrobing”.
As Foreign Minister, Carr is believed still to jot down every day a record of his personal thoughts on events and discussions he is involved in.
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Julia Gillard once said she would rather be at home watching children learning in a classroom than roaming the international diplomatic stage. This week she’d probably rather be anywhere than the bathroom of her suite at the Waldorf Astoria.
The PM has been struck down with a stomach bug right when she really didn’t need one. She’s just had to cancel dinner with Barack Obama.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr was sent in her place overnight to deliver a speech Gillard was too sick to give. Did you hear the introduction he got at the business lunch where Gillard was supposed to give a glowing report on our economy? The fellow doing the welcome didn’t even know how to say her name.
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When it comes to combating and preventing genocide, more can and should be done.
Last week, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr today announced Australia would provide $1.4 million to help finance the trials of three Khmer Rouge leaders accused of involvement in the deaths of more than 1.7 million people in the 1970s.
All of whom were closely associated with Pol Pot whose regime tortured and murdered more than a quarter of the Cambodian population in the late 1970’s.
Back in early June deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop was pumping up the troops at a Coalition meeting by portraying Foreign Minister Bob Carr as the Government clown.
Ms Bishop, shadow foreign affairs minister, likened him to the character played by Peter Sellers in “The Party”, a 1968 film about an actor who bumbles and stumbles around a social event.
So like Carr, Ms Bishop said. She saw him as an accidental arrival in foreign affairs, who doesn’t know his way around the place, and keeps putting a less-than-diplomatic foot into affairs best left to the professionals.
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The statement by Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Bob Carr, that the public execution of an Afghan woman by the Taliban is why Australia should continue to commit troops is symptomatic of the confusing strategic policy on Afghanistan.
Our original mission was to destroy al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban regime that harboured them. This was completed at the end of 2001. Minister Carr’s statement indicates a war on cultural and religious barbarism that would take generations of troops to defeat.
While the video posted around the world is horrific, Minister Carr should be more concerned with the potential that the war in Afghanistan will morph into internal bloodshed once the US and Coalition forces have withdrawn by 2014, and that Pakistan will escalate its strategy of keeping Afghanistan weak through the use of the Taliban forces and the Haqqani Network.
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It’s not the first thing you’d expect to hear from a woman who’s endured three weeks under arrest in Libya, but Melinda Taylor’s mother this morning said her “foodie” daughter had enjoyed the meals provided by her jailers.
Libyan delights like chipotle, olives and hummus might seem like a strange thing to be so front-of-mind when you’re stuck in the middle of a full-blown crisis, but at least Taylor was looking on the bright side of life.
It’s also a heartening, practical and sensible reaction to what’s been an incredible situation for the Australian lawyer and her family, and they should be commended for the way they’ve dealt with everything.
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It was organised as a celebration of Australian car makers but the 250 people in the Great Hall of Parliament House found themselves witnessing a reunion of Veterans of Labor Leadership Wars.
A big chunk of the event became what one attendee called “a festival of Kevin”. Kevin Rudd that is, of course.
What was designed as a rousing salute to the automotive industry had to share the focus with anti-Gillard comrades-in-arms uniting on a stage, and in videos.
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The Australian aid sector’s fury at the aid budget cuts announced on Tuesday has been focused on the dollar figure that the Government has (or rather, hasn’t) allocated to foreign aid.
But there’s another reason to be angry.
Alongside its much-smaller-that-promised aid budget, the Gillard government delivered another announcement. “Australia is deepening its engagement with effective multilateral organisations including the Development Banks,” Foreign Minister Carr blogged proudly on Wednesday.
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People looking for reasons for the ongoing implosion of the federal government are, it is fair to say, spoiled for choice. There is a phalanx of reasons lined up ready to drag Labor into electoral and political oblivion.
These include the assassination of Kevin Rudd, the carbon tax, the mining tax, the pokies cap, the second Rudd showdown and subsequent recruitment of Bob Carr and the Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper scandals.
However at the core of them all is one common element. One fundamental characteristic of the current Labor leadership which will prevent it ever again winning government in this country until it is expunged.
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As the Arab Spring continues its momentum throughout the Middle East engulfing Syria, and with it the hope of greater democracy, it’s also worth reflecting on the consequences such as the ancient Christian communities which are becoming a disappearing minority.
Syria’s Christians, represent no more than ten per cent of the country’s 22 million people, tracing their origins two millennia to the beginnings of the faith. Apostle Paul is said to have converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus, from which he went on to spread the religion across the Roman Empire.
Christianity has its origin in the Middle East from the fourth century. Covering communities speaking Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, and Arabic.
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Australians do not need to be told that today is World Water Day to remember that water is both a giver and taker of life. This is the driest populated continent and we know well the impact of both floods and droughts.
But how many people are aware that billions of people across the world still lack access to a hygienic toilet, a tap and soap? Or that the failure to provide sanitation and safe drinking water causes about 4000 children to die every day?
The preventable diseases caused by poor sanitation cause more child deaths than malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS combined. Almost one in three people live in unsanitary conditions.
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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.
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It might be one of those urban myths which take hold in politics and follow their subjects to the grave. Legend has it that, during the Sydney Olympics, Bob Carr was caught reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment at the beach volleyball finals. Or it might have been Tolstoy at an NRL match.
He certainly did predict, during a motivational pep-talk to the NSW Blues at Origin Camp where he quoted from Marcus Aurelius, that they would triumph over Victoria in their Origin clash. Carr was also busted teaching himself German during Question Time, mouthing verbs to himself from a textbook called Die Stufen as an indignant Opposition demanded answers about the neglect of Sydney’s trains.
That episode was held up as an example of Carr’s disengagement in the job of premier and his indifference to the parlous state of Sydney’s infrastructure. Conversely, it was hailed as an indictment of the hapless NSW Liberals that the Premier was under such little pressure that he could use the peak forum for executive accountability as a chance for quiet self-improvement.
There has been much fun for many going through Bob Carr’s writings to embarrass the incoming Foreign Minister by highlighting his private citizen notions about Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama and others.
But so far no one has pointed to the passionate campaign which gave Mr Carr when NSW Premier the nickname of The Malthus of Macquarie Street.
Bob Carr is against a big Australia. He wants a national population smaller - much smaller - than some projections indicate it will be by 2050.
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At 12.10pm last Friday Julia Gillard strode into the Blue Room in Parliament House with Bob Carr in tow and knocked everyone’s socks off. In the hubbub one of the journos even called Carr “Senator-elect Carr”.
Then at 2pm on the same day NSW Labor emailed its members saying this:
Due to the resignation of Senator Mark Arbib, a vacancy has arisen in the Australian Senate. Under Rule N.4, the NSW Labor Party Officers have called for nominations for this position to be determined by a ballot of the NSW ALP Administrative Committee, according to the following timetable:
Nominations open: 1pm, Friday 2 March 2012
Nominations close: 5pm, Monday 5 March 2012
Nomination fee: $750
The rest of Gillard’s Cabinet movers were sworn in this morning without Carr, who is waiting for this ALP process to pan out and then a joint sitting of the NSW Parliament before being sworn in as both a Senator and the Foreign Minister. It’s all a bit weird.
Bob Carr, along with Steve Bracks and John Faulkner, authored an extensive review into the Labor Party last year, which had many, many recommendations including: “Community engagement with primaries, introducing primaries for preselections in nonheld and open seats so that Labor’s supporters have a say in their local representatives.”
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It’s not often in Australian politics when a Prime Minister can go beyond Parliament, and select the best possible candidate in Australia for a Ministerial position.
Not so in the United States, where the President selects his Cabinet Secretaries not on the premise whether they are in Congress or Senate, but whether they are the best possible candidate for high office.
Prime Minister Gillard selected one of Australia’s best candidates to the Ministry, not the best candidate in Parliament (at the time of the appointment). Let me clear, Australia is the beneficiary by having Bob Carr installed as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
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That’s one for the books. Julia Gillard unbotches something. Turns failure into success instead of the other way around.
Bob Carr’s appearance at her side as the new Foreign Minister yesterday - after the apparent collapse of the deal earlier in the week - was a breathtaking political development.
For days the prime minister had been lambasted in parliament and in the media for weakness because she had allegedly allowed a few senior ministers - particularly Defence Minister Stephen Smith - to veto the recruitment of Carr to the post.
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Julia Gillard says her Government colleagues will be delighted to learn Bob Carr is Foreign Minister, presumably after they get up from the floor.
It was a surprise, so stunning that it would have amounted to a shock for many players and observers.
The Prime Minister today sent a “don’t mess with me” message to critics within and outside the ALP by parading her star recruit.
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The Gillard prime ministership is like a badly scalded arm. The mildest touch can cause pain way out of proportion to the force behind the blow. Even when she does nothing unusual, remarkable or even particularly clumsy, the Government ends up screaming in agony.
So when Julia Gillard followed standard procedure by canvassing possible candidates for a Senate vacancy and for the post of Foreign Minister, there was an outcry over what was actually a light brush.
In broad terms, the suggestion is that Julia Gillard had decided former NSW Premier Bob Carr would fill the Senate slot and become Foreign Minister replacing Kevin Rudd, but was rolled by furious ministers led by Defence Minister Stephen Smith who wanted the job for himself.
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Our society puts great stock in the merits of hard work. You know how it goes. If you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.
Fail to achieve a goal? If only you’d worked harder. For an upcoming Lateline interview, I’ve read a book called Bounce by Mathew Syed.
His theory is that God-given talent is a myth and that the key to achieving greatness lies in how hard you’re prepared to work. I’m not sure I buy all of that.
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Our supposedly classless society is showing signs of being divided into two camps where people’s private choices as individuals and their behaviour as families are regulated on the basis of their affluence.
And it’s in the area of nutrition, preventative health and exercise where the working class, for want of a better term, is increasingly being treated like a bunch of babies, while the more affluent members of society continue to live as they please.
It’s only a small thing but it’s a signifier for the times, a demonstration of a mindset which holds that working class people are unable to modify their behaviour, while the gentry can be trusted to keep its conduct in check. But get along to the SCG, that great people’s arena, where our knockabout, egalitarian society lets the members drink as much full-strength beer as they want and limits the great unwashed to light beer.
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