PROFILE: Carr manifests his destiny as Australia's foreign minister
By Sid Astbury Mar 2, 2012, 7:58 GMT
Sydney - Bob Carr, who likes reading, does not drive and loathes sport, is about as far from the archetypal Australian bloke as you can get.
But Prime Minister Julia Gillard's new foreign minister is hugely successful in getting people to vote for him.
In 2005, when he stood aside after 10 years as premier of New South Wales, Labor's electoral smarts left with him.
This week, after seeing off a leadership challenge from former foreign minister Kevin Rudd, Gillard turned to the politician who retired undefeated to breathe life back into Labor at the federal level.
The lanky Carr, a dead ringer for US President Abraham Lincoln, has always coveted the foreign affairs portfolio.
Twenty years ago he had his arm twisted to put Canberra ambitions to one side and stay in Sydney to revive the state Labor Party. He won office and was persuaded to stay on and on because of his electoral success.
'Experience, wisdom and intellect are scarce resources in politics and should not be squandered,' The Australian newspaper editorialized when it leaked out that Gillard was dithering over tapping Carr as a replacement for Rudd.
Greg Sheridan, the paper's foreign editor, also urged Gillard to stare down jealous cabinet colleagues and give the plum post to 64-year-old Carr.
'His addition to the Gillard government, mired as it is not only in internal division but the overwhelming odour of mediocrity, would have been a sign that someone of great accomplishment was willing to invest in it.'
Sheridan praised Carr's 'sparkling intellect' and his network of contacts in Asia, Europe and the United States.
A railway worker's son who studied history at university, Carr is an American Civil War buff and an enthusiast for the formal military alliance sealed between Australia, New Zealand and the US in 1951.
His wife is Malaysian-born and Carr is a close follower of the rise of China and India and economic progress in most of the rest of the region.
'These are the revolutions of our times and it makes Australia's position so rivetingly interesting,' he said in his first remarks after taking the job. 'A lot of hard policy slog lies in fine tuning Australia's response to that and remembering always the sanctity, as Australians see it, of our treaty relationship with the United States.'
Carr, a radio journalist before going into politics, has a deep, sonorous voice that commands attention and invests what he has to say with authority. It is an asset that he uses to great effect.
Unlike Rudd, who had a pathological need to be liked and to come across as the brightest in the room, Carr is more likely to try and hide his intellect.
As the top politician in New South Wales he was obliged to be in the stands at cup finals wearing the colours of the state team. Usually, he took a book along with him. Once he was caught out reading a tome by the heavyweight French writer Marcel Proust.
Fond of Teutonic philosophers, he learned German at the Goethe Institute in Sydney so he could read them in the original language.
Rudd welcomed his successor: 'I've known Bob for 20 years and regard him as a good friend. Throughout that time he's demonstrated a strong and continuing interest in international affairs.'
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