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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.


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.


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

  1. Itsarort

    The real question here is whether there’s any substance to Carr’s remarks. Julie Bishop’s comments in February that received grand accolades from right-wing pro-Israeli writers like Daniel Mendel, inferring that settlements on the West Bank are not illegal, strongly suggests that Mark Leibler and others ARE expecting some serious bang for their bucks.

  2. Elvis

    You can accuse Carr of many things, but I really don’t think the charge of bigotry holds water.

  3. klewso

    Is nothing sacred? …..Then again he was a journalist?

  4. DiddyWrote

    Carr always struck me as a pompous, braying ass and with these memoirs he has removed all doubt.
    What I have never understood however is why it was deemed so important to parachute the retired Carr into the position of Foreign Minister. It didn’t appear to improve Labor’s standing in the polls and Carr didn’t appear to bring any great talent to the position.
    Can anybody explain?

  5. laughlovenjoy

    Bernard’s spot on again. National interest my bottom. Self-interest all the way.

  6. prodigy

    Carr left NSW in a mess. As a stop-gap Foreign Minister he achieved nothing of note.

  7. Dez Paul

    Thanks, Bernard. I hope Carr reads this article and cringes, if not weeps. If he loves the good ol’ US&A so much he can migrate there.

    100% agree with you, DiddyWrote, except to add that he was, is and always will be a self serving, pompous, braying ass. He should’ve remained a valet with Macquarie Inc.

    Maybe Julia’s memoirs will shed some light on why he became FM. Stephen Smith, much more deserving, had to eat the bog baguette on that one.

  8. j.oneill

    The reactions to Carr’s comments on the Zionist influence on Labour 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. We have only to see how rapidly, and utterly with our fanfare, explanation or even mention in its election manifesto, the Coalition reversed the modest improvements in Australia’s voting pattern in the UN on Palestine-Israel issues that Carr promoted.

    Australia is once again in the select company of 5 or 6 nations who vote in support of Israel. It is an enduring disgrace.

  9. Pedantic, Balwyn

    Carr was pretty hopeless as NSW Premier, leaving it in a financially parlous state, though he wouldn’t be alone in that regard. He appeared to have few qualifications to be Foreign Minister, though again that hasn’t stopped a whole host of predecessors or even successors.
    However, in one area he is unique. His inability to understand that Israel feels threatened by its neighbours, as would any sovereign state surrounded by countries that are dedicated to its overthrow, is cause for some measured response from most non-Muslims, who are charged by their country with Foreign Affairs, but not our Bob.
    He has adopted a one eyed view that Israel is all bad and anyone opposing them is all good. Obviously it’s not so, there rights and wrongs on both sides. However it is wise to spend time in Israel and surrounding countries to gain an understanding of the conflict between them and not rely on “lunatic left” attitudes from Sydney’s inner suburbs to condemn the Jewish lobby out of hand.
    Encroachment of the Left Bank, displacing Palestinians, is abhorrent. But so is shooting missiles into homes and school yards from Gaza, South Lebanon and the West bank. Two wrongs do not make a right, and if the Jewish lobby work effectively and assiduously to win support for their country who can blame them. After all the Arabs States, particularly from the Gulf spend copious amounts for the same purpose.

  10. CML

    So…let me get this straight, only those you all agree with should be allowed freedom of speech. Got it!!

    Who are the hypocrites again? Do tell.

  11. Lachlan Robbins


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

  12. Hoojakafoopy

    Hey CML, not sure you have “got it”. No one is advocating censorship of Carr’s irrelevant memoirs.

  13. AR

    The Member for Haifa Ports also referred to usedCarr being “plucked from obscurity, having been a provincial premier to be Foreign Minister”.
    “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?”” … certainly NOT – they wouldn’t have an eye of history and the post career sinecures.
    As for the habit of (all) governments to leak as suits them, who will forget Kevin “Andrews” Android leaking, not facts buit LIES to blacken Dr Haneef’s name.
    The noted intelligence analyst Andrew Bolt wrote hubristically and without fear “I have read the only secret report Wilkie ever wrote for ONA and it is worthless..” – only after much arm twisting from Labor did Keelty’s Keystone Kops investigate and more than 12 months later proclaimed that they couldn’t find how Blot had obtained the report as the only copy at the time prior to his article was signed out to Lord Bunter the Downer.
    Surely Carr is breaching s 70 (i) & (ii) of the Crimes Act, the clause used to convict Kessing over the Sydney airport security scandals?

  14. CML

    @ Hooj… If you want to know how important Carr’s book is, on just one issue, perhaps you should read the article on the Independent Australia website – “The Progressive Except on Palestine Phenomenon”, by Kate Johnston. Take particular notice of the series of maps displayed.
    Then you can come back and tell me why you think Carr, at least on our Israel position, is ‘irrelevant’. All Australian citizens should be aware of the Jewish lobby’s influence at the highest levels of our federal government.

  15. CML

    Hooj… I have replied – now MY free speech is being withdrawn! Go figure!!

  16. Itsarort

    Hey Hoojakafoopy, the Foreign Affairs office being gagged by a lobby group is hardly irrelevant; especially if it’s related to the threat of withdrawal of political donations. And while Carr may come across as a bit of a Sir Percy aristocratic bungler type, why shoot the messenger in this case? C’mon Bernard, is Carr telling the truth or is it just not kosher…?

  17. zut alors

    Of course he’s self serving, he’s a politician. Carr’s provided a few laughs with this latest effort which is far better value than we’re used to getting from other MPs.

    Incidentally, I assumed federal ministers automatically fly first class internationally & am stunned to learn they haven’t yet stitched up that perk.

  18. Damon

    So Bernard, are you part of the “gullible self-loathing left” or the “anarcho-libertarian right”?


  19. fractious

    Bernard – well said, sir.

  20. JayDee

    Hey Bernard you’re spot on about what the Chelsea Manning leaks showed “how banal foreign policy actually is”. But prior to Manning, the Wikileaks diplomatic cables proved that diplomacy is based on nothing more than gossip. The US spends $$ billions on supposed security, and now we know that it just amounts to eavesdropping and keeping gossip dossiers. Gossip has always been collected for power, it’s been going on for centuries. So when the PM tells us he didn’t know about Sinodinos as he doesn’t “comment on gossip and scuttlebutt” then he is really having us on.

  21. CML

    @ zut alors – How is Carr being ‘self serving’? I understand ALL proceeds of his book are going to his favourite charity. Something to do with disadvantaged children and health.

  22. klewso

    On the bright side – he isn’t slugging we tax-payers for the personal expenses incurred in promoting his book – like Abbott tried, and got away with for a while?

  23. Venise Alstergren

    Bob Carr certainly comes across as no one’s bowl of flowers. However, no one seems to be worried about the Israeli lobby Group. Yes it has been around for a long time, but hey, how precious are the talons of our übermeister America that our governments have to hate what she hates.

    Mark Liebler is a thug who plays a thug’s game. This is the lobby group that justifies helping itself to land the Palestinians rightfully own. What does Israel have that Australia needs so badly that we are forced to be in lockstep with? Hell, Israel has no qualms about spying on Australia, or is it a case of America telling us to jump and we ask ‘How high sir.’

  24. Henry

    It takes a Hermes tie and a suit to turn a frog into a Punce.

  25. Henry

    It takes a Kissinger to turn a frog into a Prince.

  26. Henry

    Carr is annoying because his high sense of self-worth is inversely-proportionate to his achievements as NSW Premier and as foreign minister.

  27. Kevin Herbert

    Pedantic Balwyn: you say –

    ” But so is shooting missiles into homes and school yards from Gaza, South Lebanon and the West bank. Two wrongs do not make a right, and if the Jewish lobby work effectively and assiduously to win support for their country who can blame them.”

    In case you hadn’t noticed Israel is an international pariah State based on its ethnic cleansing & apartheid policies, not to mention its use of State sanctioned murder aka extra judicial killing, on a grand scale.
    Jews around the globe have risen up against Zionism, whose end is now in sight, as the US loses interest in funding Israel’s military.

  28. 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.

  29. Ken Lambert

    Steel cut rolled oats and lots of American Civil War – the guy is simply a five star ponce.

  30. Dan B

    This article highlights the disaster Australia just went through under a Labor Government. Carr was a rat for the US years ago and Gillard made him our Foreign Minister? The entire Labor Cabinet was incompetent, is still incompetent and looks to be for a long while to come. Nothing new learned here.
    Oh, but you did regularly remind us that Bradley Manning is now called Chelsea..

  31. 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.

  32. Rob TwoEyeHead

    Bob’s petulant egotistical behaviour could have cost him very dearly indeed (Dr Who fans only)

  33. Venise Alstergren

    It may be irrelevant in the great goings on of our various planets, galaxies, black holes and stars of our universe. But FFS Why Did BOB CARR complain about a lack of subtitles for his favorite operas? I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense.

    In order to decide how much one likes an Opera you have to have listened to it many times. Certainly enough times to know what the story line is. It just doesn’t make any sense.

  34. Dogs breakfast

    “his boyish delight at an invitation from war criminal Henry Kissinger, ”

    I liked that.

    War criminal, eh! I am not going to argue, it may or may not accord with my personal views, but I am very interested to see it in print, in a journal that would have lawyer’s vetting their every word.

    So has it been made official?

    Not that is matters much whether it was official or not.

    As for Bob, what a disappointment he was, for NSW that is. As FM he was neither here nor there.

    A man who exudes gravitas, while having none. Quite the individual.

    And yes, the jewish lobby, along with all other lobby groups, worries me much.

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