Neal Blewett reviews Bob Carr

Acuity and self-indulgence from an ex-foreign minister

Neal Blewett reviews Bob Carr

Diary of a foreign minister

by Bob Carr

NewSouth Publishing, $49.99 hb, 502 pp, 9781742234175

‘Dear Dr Blewett, I am writing to you ... concerning your intention to publish the diary you kept during the first Keating Government ... Whether any legal action, criminal or civil, is initiated would be entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government and relevant authorities ... Against the background of the expectations of confidentiality with which you are familiar during your time as a minister ... I am unable to lend my support to your proposal to publish diaries recording the confidential deliberations of the Cabinet of which you were a member.’

So wrote Max Moore-Wilton (Secretary, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) on 9 June 1998, prior to the publication of this writer’s A Cabinet Diary (1999). Yet some seven years had elapsed between the events recorded in the diary and its publication. The speed of contemporary history is such that the age of Paul Keating seemed, even at the time, to belong to another world. Moreover, I had excluded from A Cabinet Diary nearly all references to foreign affairs, particularly some colourful remarks on our Pacific neighbours by the foreign minister. Contrast this with Bob Carr’s Diary of a Foreign Minister, which is all about foreign affairs and which appears within twelve months of some of the events described. This gives the book a wonderful immediacy, but does it arouse the ire of powerful bureaucrats? Did Carr too receive a threatening epistle from on high?

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Neal Blewett

Neal Blewett

Neal Blewett has had a varied career as academic, politician, and diplomat. A Tasmanian Rhodes scholar, he taught successively at the Universities of Oxford and Adelaide and became Professor of Political Theory and Institutions at Flinders University. He has written books and articles on British and Australian history and politics. As Health Minister in the Hawke government he was responsible for the introduction of Medicare and Australia’s Aids policy. His diary of the Keating government was published in 1999. From 1994 to 1998 he was Australian High Commissioner in London as well as a member of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. He now writes, gardens, and walks in the Blue Mountains.