BOB Carr knows the majesty of his voice and the guile of his words ...
Welcomed by many as a masterstroke, Carr's appointment as foreign minister was always going to cost Julia Gillard more than she gained.
Under siege in 2012, Gillard wanted a foreign minister who might have the gravitas to withstand covert assaults from Kevin Rudd. She got that, but it came with a soaring ego, diplomatic inexperience, personal indulgence and a lack of loyalty.
For Carr it was an irresistible gift, an autumnal star turn on a global stage. Soon after he took the job Carr invited me to dinner to pick my brains. (I worked more than five years as media adviser and chief of staff to the nation's longest serving foreign minister, Alexander Downer.)
I was hoping to discern a sense of Carr's foreign policy priorities. Carr ...conveyed no sense of how he wanted to shape our international relations. He struck me as a dilettante and this impression was reinforced by indiscreet snippets from diplomats in subsequent months.
Carr wasn't in the job long enough to make the crucial transition from speaking as a commentator to messaging as a practitioner.
He often attended interviews with large bundles of notes to guide his answers. Perhaps his attitude wasn't at all surprising; he realised the government was terminal and he had barely 18 months to sample global diplomacy rather than shape it.
His diaries reflect a good deal of this realism (although surprisingly he seems to have become convinced Labor could win once Rudd returned).
...Those things Carr claims as achievements — such as the small arms treaty, deepening relations with China and India — were set in train long before he landed the job, as was the crowning glory of Australia's election to a temporary seat at the UN Security Council.
Carr will cherish this slice of history but it belongs to Rudd and owes much to the prostitution of our aid budget and capitulation on Israel (the one policy on which Carr had a strong impact).
His thinking was guided by what was acceptable in Europe and what was politically saleable in the Muslim-influenced electorates of Sydney. It is disturbing to read Carr describe Australia’s position as “shameful” and describe his efforts to undermine Gillard on the issue.
He bristles at aligning with the Likud ruling party in Israel and saw no folly in rewarding the Palestinians even before a return to the negotiating table without preconditions.
Carr makes much of the Israel lobby, which is active, but to suggest it has undue influence is somewhat misleading.
Australia's position on Israel has tended towards a bipartisan consensus on a continuum that Carr broke and Julie Bishop has corrected.
Remember Carr was crass enough to denounce Israeli settlements as illegal when speaking from the steps of the Lakemba mosque.
And he sent senior diplomats to Tehran to join a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.
As foreign minister he was pained by being out of step with the overwhelming majority of UN nations — something he shouldn't have given a moment's thought.
It is illuminating that Carr was motivated to act on Israel while issues more vital to our national interest went begging.
...Carr travelled much more extensively than was required, tweeting selfies with his interlocutors. He had the perfect pretext, with the UNSC bid making a visit to any country or forum justifiable in the quest for votes. But it often looked like tourism.
Carr's diary inexplicably reveals his peccadillos, as well as gripes about his jetsetting lifestyle.
He can't expect anything but mockery and resentment from voters — which won't trouble him now — and reflected harm for the same ALP that gave him this privilege.
In recent decades Australia has been well served in the foreign ministry by Bill Hayden, Gareth Evans, Downer, Stephen Smith and even Rudd.
...We are left with the inescapable conclusion that Carr realised he would be the least consequential of these figures.
His ...diary is a transparent attempt to exult himself into the company of world leaders and claim his place in diplomatic history ... [but] diminishing his reputation and the fortunes of his party ....