Bill bad for judicial powers but may please landowners
Address to the nation by the PNG prime minister

Carr's tricky transition: needs to listen more; talk less


Cartoon by Alan Moir (Sydney Morning Herald)

BEING A STATE PREMIER is certainly a demanding and rewarding job but ultimately it carries a straightforward brief, primarily because it involves only one constituency.

Drop yourself into the shoes of the foreign minister and life becomes infinitely more complicated.

This is the transition Bob Carr is making. It would be difficult for anyone but it always looked like being a riskier transition for him.

Within a couple of days [of his appointment], Carr was on television being interviewed by former Labor senator Graham Richardson on Sky News.

Asked about the possibility that Papua New Guinea would delay its elections, the new Foreign Minister raised the spectre of sanctions and threatened that Australia could be placed in a position "where we'd have no alternative but to organise the world to condemn and isolate Papua New Guinea".

This was megaphone diplomacy at its worst. It played to our own domestic preferences for PNG elections but failed to comprehend the subtleties of the relationship.

As the former colonial master and primary aid donor to PNG, Australia needs to avoid a hectoring and patriarchal tone. And recognising those sensitivities, if diplomatic pressure needed to be increased on PNG, it should happen privately, and then any public moves might first be organised through the Pacific Islands Forum.

But rather than be cowed by his mishaps, Carr blamed the media interpretation of his remarks and he kept up his appearances [until later] in [a] 7.30 interview, Carr sensibly admitted he had made a mistake on PNG and said he would learn from it. That was sensible but makes you wonder why he didn't just do that in the first place.

Still, he went on to another interview this week, with Lateline. You have to wonder why. His time would be better spent in these early days reading and discussing briefing material from his department. Again he was unimpressive.

Carr's casual interest as a well-read enthusiast, and an eloquent and confident commentator, does not necessarily add to his qualifications - but it certainly increases the risk of mistakes.

Aside from media conferences, he has conducted nine major interviews in the past 10 days. In his department, Carr is surrounded by experienced and wise diplomats and advisers. He should spend more time with them and less time in the media. More reading, more listening. Less talking.

Chris Kenny has served as chief of staff to a premier and a foreign minister. Cartoon by Alan Moir (Sydney Morning Herald)


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Laurence Quinlivan

"As Australia's new foreign affairs minister and senator, Carr outlined his priorities in his maiden speech to parliament on Wednesday. PNG did not figure even once in his speech. He has more important matters on his policy agenda..."

Peter Kranz

Carr's remarks were unfortunate to say the least, but the beat up by Graeme Richardon was far more offensive. I believe this caught Carr off-side.

Here's Richo's hostile assessment of PNG in his preamble to a question of Carr: "I look at New Guinea ... a total mess. Almost no rule of law.

"Corruption rife. Strife between the Parliament, the Chief Justice, the like of which you can't even believe, and a prime minister who's elected and won't go away, and a prime minister who's got himself the numbers in the Parliament who's retaining power.

"What can we do to try and straighten out even some of that mess?"

If foreign minister Carr could not respond to such an ignorant statement with words such as, "I strongly disagree with such a characterisation of a neighbour and friend of Australia", he's not worth a bootlace - KJ


After this weekend's Queensland electoral blood-bath, Senator Carr can only look forward to 17 months in the Foreign Minister role. The ALP will be decimated at the next Federal polls.

Enjoy it while you can, Bob. Lots more gaffes still to be made before you revert to a back-bench Senate place...and 10 years in the wilderness of Opposition.

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