The strange case of Australia’s Foreign Minister

On March 23rd 2012, the then United States Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, dispatched her Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell to meet with the newly appointed Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, to raise American concerns about Carr’s overtly pro-China public views and positions.

Carr had been sworn in as FM only 10 days before and the Americans were clearly spooked by the Australian decision to appoint Carr, especially as the clash of US-China interests in the South China Sea was growing hotter, and Carr had publicly been backing China’s position.

Carr’s own record of his time within the crucible of international diplomacy, Diary of a Foreign Minister, discusses at length his bringing a more openly pro-China position to Australia’s foreign policy. And since leaving office, Carr works for a University-based Australia China Research Institute, funded by the same figures who appear to have given large amounts of money to both Australia’s political parties over many years.

Most recently, the same shadowy figures have been discovered to pay the legal bills of Australian Senator Sam Dastyari, who was forced to resign from his Opposition Minister portfolio. It should come as no surprise that Dastyari used to work for….that’s right, Bob Carr.

These Chinese figures are “close” to their Government. Given that China is centrally and ruthlessly controlled, and that there is no free market of ideas, it means that if there is ‘closeness’ to Beijing, then it is likely to be Beijing calling the shots.

Because Dastyari was caught red-handed in the pockets of the Chinese, the Australian media has put the microscope on Carr’s closeness to the Chinese Government too. It has left many people asking the disturbing question -of just how much Carr, while serving as Foreign Minister, changed policy towards a pro-China position because of his associations, and if so, what impact this has had on Australia’s national interests?

In Australia, the Foreign Minister sits atop a Department that includes the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), which is responsible for overseas intelligence gathering. Australia is also a primary member of the Five Eyes Agreement – a multinational signals intelligence arrangement between the USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. This arrangement apparently contains some of the West’s most closely guarded secrets.

No wonder then Clinton sent her most loyal lieutenant to take Carr to task.

But it is not only a policy shift away from the US to China that Carr has championed. He has become the champion of the Australian anti-Israel caucus, stridently attacking Israel and becoming the Patron of the notoriously pro-BDS Australian Palestine Advocacy Network. While Foreign Minister he boasted about bringing a more pro-Palestinian position to Australia’s Cabinet and engaged in an extraordinary fight with the pro-US and pro-Israel Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, over the 2013 United Nations vote to recognise Palestine.

Carr has gone further than this though. In a 2015 address, Carr spent a significant amount of time scoffing at members of the Jewish community (according to Prof Kim Rubenstein who attended the speech). Carr said that pro-Israel activity by members of the Australian Jewish community was “disproportionate” and improper. This “Israel lobby” of Jews was, in Carr’s view, undermining Australia’s interests.

This from a man who is a lobbyist for China. Chutzpah.

Australia’s Jewish community has been one of the most successful ethnic communities in this country’s 200 year history. Anyone with a modicum of reason would acknowledge the contribution our community has made to every facet of Australian life, especially to the law and the correction to the wrongs done to our Indigenous nation. Criticising Israel is one thing but criticising the Australian Jewish community through using anti-semitic canards of disproportionate power and influence, and charges of dual loyalty are disgusting.

Australia, a solid middle ranking Western power, allied to the US and Israel was seemingly undermined by its own Foreign Minister.  In 1994 a 31 year counter-intelligence veteran of the CIA, Aldrich Ames, was discovered to have sold military and intelligence data to the Russian Government. Ames was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

About the Author
Co-convenor of the Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue. Director of Blended Learning Group (Emotional Intelligence and Leadership training) Director of Bowerbase (IT start-up) Director of Soldales Pacific (Water technology start-up linking Israel and Australia).
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