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Federal

Apr 10, 2014

Bob Carr the 'authorised leaker' and hypocrite

Bob Carr thinks it's in the national interest to reveal the inner workings of diplomacy. Too bad he did nothing to help others seeking to do the same, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

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An insider decides to break confidence and reveal the inner workings of a country’s foreign policy, including the malign influence of special interests, combined with tittle-tattle from the diplomatic cocktail circuit on the foibles of statesmen and women around the globe — all to the fury of a later government.

Step forward Chelsea Manning? Not at all, it’s former foreign minister Bob Carr.

The evidence Carr presents in his memoirs this week about the influence of the Israel lobby, and in particular the most extreme sections of it, over the Gillard government is indeed in the national interest — as Carr says. This is a movement that prefers to operate out of sight: several different Israel lobby groups are constantly busy behind the scenes in Canberra, bombarding ministers and backbenchers with requests for meetings and urging MPs to take a sponsored study trip to Israel. And the wild overreaction from arch-Zionist Labor MP Michael Danby, who labelled Carr a “bigot”, has done more to demonstrate the way the lobby works than anything else in recent memory.

But better yet the memoir illustrates what a hypocrite Carr is, and the hypocrisy of the entire political establishment toward transparency.

As foreign minister, Carr was dismissive of WikiLeaks and its Australian editor-in-chief Julian Assange, and did nothing to raise concerns about the US government’s pursuit of Assange via the grand jury investigation that, for a long time, Carr refused to even admit existed. He habitually got basic facts wrong about Assange’s case, like how it would be easier for the US to extradite him from the UK than from Sweden. He displayed a bizarre, near-total lack of curiosity about what the US Department of Justice was doing regarding Assange. He rejected comparisons between WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning and Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers, despite Ellsberg himself outlining how they were extraordinarily similar. He tied himself in knots as he tried desperately to avoid saying anything about the case, telling estimates hearings the government had “no interest” in the US pursuit of Assange and then saying seconds later “we have an interest in the case”. As both an obsessive Americaphile and as a former US intelligence source in the 1970s, Carr stuck doggedly to the US line on WikiLeaks and Assange.

And he’s still at it, explicitly contrasting his own memoirs with WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. “The Australian people are entitled to know these things,” he said by way of justification for publishing material such as texts between himself and then-PM Julia Gillard — without her approval. “And by the way: isn’t it better to have a discussion led through the diary or memoir of a foreign minister of Australia, and not through revelations from WikiLeaks or from Edward Snowden?”

This is the core of the hypocrisy of the political establishment. Governments, it must be endlessly repeated, aren’t in the business of secrecy when it comes to national security, but in the business of information management. For governments, there are two kinds of national security leaks (just as there are two kinds of leaks of any kind). Those that are authorised by governments themselves for what they construe as the national interest — which is usually their own political interest — and those that occur without authorisation.

The former are rarely, if ever, investigated, even if they cause damage; usually they are handed to favoured, state-aligned journalists as background, or sourced anonymously. The latter are relentlessly pursued at whatever cost, with the AFP using its telecommunications interception powers to find out who journalists and even non-government politicians have been calling, and ASIO poised to launch a raid on the whistleblower on — of course — national security grounds.

Plainly Carr sees himself as an authorised leaker, breaching confidences because of their value to the national interest — not at all like Manning and Snowden. His successor, Julie Bishop, disagrees, castigating Carr for shedding light on what happens in foreign policy, using the same argument the US government used about Manning’s revelations; that they would inflict damage on future relationships because diplomatic interlocutors would be less candid.

“… foreign policy is ordinary, banal bureaucratic life, but with canapes and bigger egos.”

The problem is that Carr’s assessment of the national interest is his own, and it’s self-aggrandising. He’s happy to portray himself as the hero trying to hurl back the forces of Zionism. But what other vested interests, with which Carr has more sympathy, does he analyse in such forensic detail? Carr’s assessment of what is in the national interest is unlikely to be shared by the rest of us.

Oh, and by the way, Bob — if you want to boast of revelations about the national interest, then you’ll have to do better. Chelsea Manning revealed war crimes and murder by the US military, the remarkable and malign influence of corporate interests over the practice of US foreign policy, and how Australian politicians routinely provided greater candour in their comments on public policy issues to US diplomats than to Australian voters.

Edward Snowden revealed an industrial-scale surveillance state that breached the US constitution and which extended globally, including spying on close allies of the US, and economic espionage. Bob only revealed what we already knew, that pro-Israel lobbyists wield disproportionate power over western governments.

There’s also been considerable focus on the minutiae of life on the wing for Carr, his lamentations about the lack of airline pyjamas; poor business-class service, no subtitles on in-flight operas. Carr perhaps is engaging in some mild self-mockery in his long litany of complaints. It’s not overly important, except for this: one of the most important revelations of the diplomatic cables released by Chelsea Manning is how banal foreign policy actually is. Foreign policy is purported by its practitioners and the priesthood that attends it — at institutions like the Lowy Institute — to be a kind of super statecraft that ordinary mortals cannot be allowed to witness.

What Manning showed is that foreign policy is like bureaucracy anywhere else domestically — a clutch of special interests trying to get their way via government (and the bureaucrats that are employed by that government). Carr’s gnashing of teeth and rending of his tailored suit about business-class travel or, conversely, his boyish delight at an invitation from war criminal Henry Kissinger, simply demonstrate how correct this impression is: foreign policy is ordinary, banal bureaucratic life, but with canapes and bigger egos.

Carr is right to seek to shed some light on the conduct of foreign policy and the inner workings of government. But while he was in government, he had a chance to support those who were seeking to do the same, not out of a sense of self-aggrandisement or to sell books, but because there is too little transparency about foreign policy and national security. Not merely did Carr fail to provide them with support, he attacked them and left them at the mercy of the world’s most powerful government.

Carr’s certainly no bigot. But he’s a colossal hypocrite.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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34 comments

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34 thoughts on “Bob Carr the ‘authorised leaker’ and hypocrite

  1. Lachlan Robbins

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REdxS1rbsmk

    It’s corporations, not Israel lobby that have the real influence.

  2. Kevin Herbert

    j.oneill – you say:

    “The reactions to Carr’s comments on the Zionist influence on Labor during his term as FM have been unduly narrow in their focus. The fact of the matter is that the Israel lobby is extraordinarily powerful in Australia as it is in the US. That hold true irrespective of which of Tweedledee or Tweedledum currently occupy the Treasury benches”.

    Let me say once & for all that the the Jewish lobby in Oz are a bunch of willing amateurs, clearly with huge egos to feed. Messrs Dadon, Liebler, Wertheim, Goot et al have NIL influence on Australian foreign policy re Israel. The Zionist message is delivered to DFAT directly via the US State Department,whose Israel policy is generated by the powerful US Zionist lobby group AIPAC – one of the five (5) DC lobby groups that run/own the US Congress & the Executive arm. The 4 others, who act jointly and severally to shore up each others positions, are lobby groups for the health, transport, banking & military industrial complex.

    Of course there’s the on-going Sydney/Melbourne Zionist divide for the mantle of “I’m a bigger/better Zionist that you”, but Australia’s position on Israel is set in stone by the US, for its own strategic geopolitical reasons.

    For as long as Australia’s biggest foreign investor is the US (in 2014 $600 billion compared to China’s $20 billion, Japan’s $120 billion and the UK’s $500 billion), and more than 30% of Australia’s GDP goes to the US, we are a client State of the US i.e. do as you’re told, or there’ll be economic penalties. The oft repeated need for US armed defence is a sideshow.

    The only question that Bob C raised of interest was his claim that 20% of the ALP’s election funding came from Oz Zionists…time for some maths research I feel.

    Nice article by BK, who is regretably, right about Bob’s hypocrisy.

  3. Mike R

    I notice from the above contributions from my favourite piñata that he seems unworried by the amateur lobbyists from Melbourne. This is reassuring and he may well be correct, as Carr and the majority of Labor caucus voted against Gillard’s position on the Mideast.

    Amongst his ramblings he attributes the ALP’s previous support for Israel as being due to the close US economic relationship with Australia. I may have missed it, but US business does not seem to have withdrawn capital from Australia when the news broke of Carr’s rolling of Gillard on the Palestine vote . There does not seem to have been a massive outflow of US funds. The Aussie dollar didn’t collapse (it was $1.04 US at the time). No trade embargoes were announced etc..

    Despite this, I personally have concerns regarding the imbalance between the lobbyists for Israel and the lobbyists for the opposing Arab view. The junkets to Israel for our pollies need to be balanced by similar trips to the mid-East so opposing views can be presented.

    I am aware that there are trips that organized by the Friends of Palestine and presumably there is no shortage of funds that could be tapped for such a trip. The wealthy Gulf Emirate States or the Saudis could be approached to fund an all expenses paid trip for the entire Australian parliament. The Saudis may have to either forgo some of the more elaborate palatial plumbing fixtures or withhold an arms shipment to the Syrian rebels, if they are interested.

    It could be quite expensive, as the entire fleet of A380s may have to be fitted out as first class only as no one would want the dignitaries exposed to the indignity of cashmere pajamas. The entertainment could be provided by the entire cast of Wagner’s Ring Cycle (much classier than a performance of the Lion King that would only satisfy the plebeians in economy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgSLxl1oAwA ).

    Most of the opera could be performed on the trip to Dubai but Götterdämmerung might have to be postponed for the final leg. Translations, of course, would be available on the standard entertainment screen.

    What is it about Australian Foreign ministers? After Carr’s kiss and tell memoirs, does his encore involve fishnet stockings? Acute Chronic Irrelevance Syndrome (ACIS) has been known to make a man do the strangest things.

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