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Bob Carr's first world problems


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Former foreign minister Bob Carr likes his breakfast oats steel-cut and his Wagner opera with English subtitles.

So, his latest book – Diary of a Foreign Minister – could well be subtitled First World Problems.

But he says the book is intentionally full of self-parody and irony because it’s the stuff of life – and that’s “too short to be taken seriously”.

However, it’s not all diet regimes and complaints about business class travel.

Carr also reveals a “very unhealthy level” of influence the Israeli lobby had in Canberra, saying he decided to breach cabinet confidences because the public deserved to know what went on.

NewSouth Publishing describes the book – due to hit the shelves at the end of April – as the “best picture ever published of a politician on the world stage and Australia’s changing place in the world and in our region”.

But it is also expected to reveal Carr’s multi-faceted personality – eccentric, obsessive, passionate and self-deprecating.

The faults and foibles of air travel feature heavily, according to reports.

In the book Carr publishes a letter from Singapore Airlines responding to complaints he made about inflight entertainment.

“Please accept my sincere apology if any part of our First Class inflight offering fell below your expectations,” the letter says.

“Specifically, I have taken note of the lack of English subtitles for the Wagner Opera Siegfried.”

The former minister rails against business class travel: “No edible food. No airline pyjamas. I lie in my tailored suit.”

On another flight, he blasts the airline for its “ceramic food” and seat design that “owe a lot to the trans-Atlantic slave trade”.

On his diet and exercise regime, Carr reveals his favoured breakfast is steel-cut organic oats and berries and two poached eggs.

Carr said on Wednesday night he made no apologies for wanting to arrive on missions for Australia in the best condition possible.

“It was such an inherently unhealthy lifestyle, living on planes, subsisting on that cuisine, I thought it would have knocked about two years off my life,” he told ABC TV.

But he wanted his book also to shine lights on the dark corners of politics, particularly the role of the conservative pro-Israel lobby from Melbourne.

He says its influence in then-prime minister Julia Gillard’s office reached an unhealthy level.

“I found it very frustrating that we couldn’t issue, for example, a routine expression of concern about the spread of Israeli settlements on the West Bank,” he said on Wednesday.

The matter came to a head in arguments over Australia’s position on Palestine seeking increased non-state status at the United Nations.

He thought hard about breaking cabinet confidences on this issue but said in the end the public’s right to know how foreign policy was made outweighed other considerations.

The book will retail for about $50 with proceeds going to Interplast Australia and New Zealand, a not-for-profit organisation that funds and delivers reconstructive surgery on poor children in developing countries.

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