It’s one of my few appearances on The Drum, but it’s got to be some of my most prescient writing – when Julia Gillard appointed Bob Carr as foreign minister, it was hailed by most commentators as a masterstroke, but I was among the few honourable dissenters.
Labor is seen as being desperately in need of reinvention. But does Labor really understand this when the best candidate that can be found for Foreign Minister is a 64-year-old former state premier who most people in his state regard as such a failure that they just turfed the last of his hapless line of successors out of office by a record margin? If he couldn’t save NSW Labor, what does he bring to federal Labor?
You really do need to regenerate when you have to reach that far outside your elected talent pool to find someone to fill a cabinet position.
At the same time they’ve forgone the opportunity to inject new young talent. While 64 is no longer old, it is fair to say that Bob Carr is on the home stretch of his career and will be unlikely to be in parliament in 10 years time.
Should Tony Abbott win the next election there is a good chance he won’t even be in parliament in two years time once the position of Foreign Minister is no longer available.
He’s a stop gap solution.
Labor should have been looking for a more durable solution. Gillard could have filled the cabinet position with an existing minister, like Stephen Smith and filled the Senate spot with someone who could look ahead 20 years or more.
They had at least one option to do that in the form of Warren Mundine. He’s nine years younger than Carr and not only would be seen as fresh blood, but would shift the public perception of Labor back towards its working class roots, as well as reaching out to Aboriginal Australians.
It would have had idealism, utility and regeneration written all over it. And he is an impressive performer who could have balanced out the strident left-wing voice of fellow New South Welshman Senator Doug Cameron.
Carr confirms the disconnect between Labor and its heartland. He is one of the Labor politicians least likely to connect with the voters Labor needs to win. He’s a bookish nerd who might be able to finesse the press gallery but holds no appeal outside elite circles.