Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:00 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:00 | SYDNEY

Bob Carr: Funny, friendly, benign


Sam Roggeveen


27 July 2012 14:23

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has just finished his speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

During the Q&A he gave his quick description of how foreign countries ought to view Australia. 'Funny, friendly and benign' was his initial three-word attempt, which actually serves quite well as a summary of Carr's speech.

In remarks that were ostensibly about multilateralism, Carr quickly detoured from his prepared notes and delivered instead a set of anecdotes, some on diplomatic history but most about the good works Australia is doing around the world and how grateful foreign governments are for it. He promised several times to give the Lowy Institute access to his prepared speech, and we'll let you know when that's online. It will be interesting to know what's in it that he did not see fit to use.

Looking over my notes, here are a few highlights:

  • Defended multilateralism against critics such as former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and the Lowy Institute's Michael Wesley.
  • The Commonwealth is drafting a new charter which will see it grow into a 'community of democracies' committed to human rights and rule of law.
  • Adopted Kevin Rudd's line that 'we are not America, we are not Europe', in part as a cudgel against the notion of an 'Anglosphere'.
  • Spent some time attacking the 'Anglosphere' concept, which has been embraced by Tony Abbott, though Carr did not name Abbott during his criticism.
  • The Anglosphere, Carr said, is an antique concept, revives unfortunate associations with our past and confirms old stereotypes of Australia.
  • Made some very pro-Russian noises in response to a question from Tass, implying that post-Cold War NATO expansion may have gone too far, that he understood Russian anxieties about Chinese guest workers in Siberia, and that the West generally fails to see the Russian point of view.
  • Cited Richard Woolcott's advice that Australia ought to consult Jakarta the way we consult Washington. He also said we needed to move the relationship past people smuggling, cattle and drugs.
  • Carr began with a big plug for the Lowy Institute's Crisis and Confidence paper on Asian maritime security, which he said he had distributed during a recent visit to Washington. This paper is a year old now but continues to draw accolades.