As I Please: Carr And The Hamlet Stratagem

Bob Carr has been a Minister for two days, and has already displayed a quality long absent from our politics.

This is intelligence.

I do not mean to say that others in parliament are stupid. But the quality they have mostly shown was not intelligence, but cunning. And it is not the same thing.

Intelligence such as Carr showed in his Local Radio interview yesterday, roving through our policy options in China and Afghanistan and the US, displayed a lively mind at work and as yet undecided on a number of matters he was deeply informed on and angel-wrestling with.

We have not seen a Minister so engaged with international arrangements and obligations since Beazley, a man of comparable intellect and copious learning.

He essayed what might be called the Hamlet Stratagem.  This is when, like the Prince of Denmark, a Minister comes to the forestage and in shared soliloquy admits to doubts. In their portfolios Combet, Shorten, Roxon and Plibersek do this also. It was common in Labor leaders for a long time. Faulkner, Crean, Keating, Hawke, Hayden did it likewise, with varying success.

It was the breezy, chirpy, self-confident Rudd who added an air of decidedness, authority and ease to our foreign arrangements, emphasised by his lofty use of Mandarin. It was not a wise thing to do. Certitude in uncertain times bespeaks implausibility, even foolishness, some might say fuckwittedness, like the certitude of Rumsfeld, Bush, Blair and Howard on the WMD and Saddam’s authorship of 9/11. Gillard’s unyielding certitude that we must ‘stay the course’ in Afghanistan and ‘complete our mission’ and ‘deny the terrorists a safe haven for their training camps’ (when it is we who are training the terrorists now, in our training camps, to shoot us in our beds with weapons we have given them and run away) is one of the reasons why she is so disliked by what might be called the Green Middle, and why Obama, who shapes and crafts and sculpts his doubts into immortal oratory, is so respected world-wide.

Doubt is a great public weapon. It is saying ‘come let us reason together’ not ‘follow me, peasants, over this cliff.’

Carr has thus far done doubt well, in a voice Keating once said ‘I would kill for.’ He has made the twerpy assertiveness of Rudd seem very old-fashioned; Rudd who seventeen days ago was our Foreign Minister. Imagine that.

It is probably right to say that only Carr could manage the shoals and reefs and waterfalls of policy ahead, as the Taliban demand their imprisoned ‘terrorists’ back and propose to behead last Sunday’s addled serial killer in a roaring soccer stadium and Israel nukes Iran a month before the US election. No other Australian politician — Beazley perhaps — could manage the subtleties of language, the careful cadences required, to get us through the next eighteen months of difficult world history.

As a travelling companion through some of his Wilderness Years (he asked me to go to England with him and Helena last Christmas and I was prevented by, mostly, poverty from doing so) I will watch with fond interest his joust with, at last, world fame, and the sculpting in the next few months of his legend.

Leave a comment ?


  1. The true joy for Carr is that unlike all the ministers you name he has no need to ponder his own future ambitions, no need to do anything other than what his heart’s desire and his intellect jointly dictate.

    Of course, he will be subject to Cabinet solidarity and to the Prime Minister’s general overview, but it is hard to imagine any severe disjunction there.

    Australia’s national interest is and will be the determining factor, as it should be.

  2. Speaking of Iran, Ellis, have you seen The Separation? If not, make haste. It is an engrossing and important film in times like these. Devoid of American sentimentality, it instead examines the Zoroastrian obessesion with Truth as it manifests in Islamic Iran. A wildly important film. I was transported.

    • I have seen it and in these columns predicted, accurately, its Oscar. I reviewed it awestruck for Encore in April last year but I think they were restructuring their operation and did not print it.

      I will find it if it still exists and reprint it here.

      • I’ve just come back from seeing “A Separation”. in recent weeks I have seen the Thatcher film, TTSP, J.Edgar, The Artist, and they could have all been destroyed in a studio fire and we would be none the worse for it.

        But “A Separation” if lost, we would all be the poorer for it. That this won best foreign film, is a tragedy, because hands down it should have won Best Film full stop.

        I cannot find a fault in it, in any of the performances, and I strongly recommend that you see this film.

  3. Poor little Papua.
    Or should I call it “Laertes”?

    Early days Bob. Carr might be turn out to be a King Henry V. Or he might just be a Yorick.

    I’ll wait and see.
    You keep digging the hole though. It might come in handy.

  4. Hm. Please say who you work for.

    I worked for Carr for ten years.

    Who do you work for?

    I ask because you are showing early, very early, bias.

    • Not bias Bob. That’s too fucking pedestrian even for you.
      I’m happy that you worked for Carr for ten years. Well, not happy actually, indifferent. It means nothing to me. Should it? Are you covering yourself in the festy cloak of association for some other reason? Is there another reason? Tell us. Or are you just proud, like a brother, who basks in the accompanying glory? Some might call that being an appendage. If i were ungenerous I’d call it being an escort. But I’m not. The drink has left my body and my mind is sharpening.
      Who do I work for you ask. Does it matter? I mean really matter? You worked for Carr you said, should I deduce from that an equal unoriginality on Proust or White? That would be unfair. It would be like me saying that because I worked for Rann I knew of the deal to pinch the Independent vote, or that when I supported Giles I knew all about the Bill.
      See what I mean?

      Ask me another question. If you’ve got one. But make it a good one and keep these shit questions and foul judgements away from me.

      They’re indolent.

      • It matters. If you work for a Liberal shadow minister it matters.

        This is the case, isn’t it. A shadow minister in a snit because the Coalition is now comprehensively outclassed in foreign affairs.

        You don’t have to say which minister.

        Just own up, as I have.

  5. You ‘worked’ for Bob Carr for ten years and yet you refused to spend $90 to join the Labor Party? Can I ask why not? Do you not believe in the ALP, did you think you owed them, even though you benefitted from Labor?

    Most Labor staffers ar party members, but you’re not. I find this perverse but am sure there must be a good reason.

    • I never got round to it. And after I and my wife ran against the Labor Party three times in Mackellar it seemed hypocritical to do so.

      • Not good enough, Bob.

        You are a passionate Labor supporter and the excuse that you didn’t get around to it is a bit lame. Maybe you could have spent one less night at the movies with Bob Carr and arranged your membership instead.

        As for hypocrisy, I do not believe that to be a bar to joining any Australian political party. Indeed, it may even be a pre-requisite.

        (Sigh! Waits for abusive response.)

        • Quote one sentence of mine that is hypocritical. One in three million published words.

          Just one.

          Or withdraw your libel.


          Make my day.

          • Where did I suggest in my post that you were guilty of hypocrisy? I merely suggested that your excuse for not joining the ALP was a bit weak.

            You raised the issue of hypocrisy by saying that it would be hypocritical for you to join the ALP after standing against them in an election. All I did was suggest that all Australian political parties are hypocritical and that if you, repeat you, felt it was hypocritical, a political party would be unlikely to deem you unworthy of membership.

            But thank you for cheapening your argument by resorting to insults. Did I at any point in that post resort to personal abuse?

      • “I never got round to it”
        You must be fucking kidding me!

        “And after I and my wife ran against the Labor Party”
        Labor didn’t have a candidate, did they? ’94?

        “seemed hypocritical”
        now when has that ever stopped you, or stopped anyone?

        Your first sentence I’m going to print as an election t-shirt. What size do you take, XX, XXL ?

        • No, not 1994. They did in 1996 and 1998.

          I was asked by Beazley not to run in 1996 when I was working for him. And my wife ran instead.

          Had I been a party member I could not have written what I did, for and against Labor policy, and Labor dills like Latham.

          I chose, perhaps wrongly, freedom of speech.

          All clear now?

          Quote one sentence of mine that is/was hypocritical.

          Just do it.

          • I like you too much to do that.
            There are plenty of others here that will oblige you though.

            • Do it, you arsehole.

              One sentence.

              • “I never got round to it”

                Do you want another one? Just from today or is your entire output open for business?

                Let me tell you what that looks like to all those that despise you and your politics. You already know but give me the bittersweet pleasure of writing the words.
                Bob Ellis: every fucking waking moment of imaginative thought conscripted into the service of the Left, every utterance, every word, honed for the sole purpose of defining the Left agenda and determining the Left narrative; every sinew, every fucking cognition, call in and pressed to go “Over the Trenches” for the Left.
                This man, defined by his politics as if he were a politician, now tells us that he “never got round to it”.

                Well, yep, I believe him!
                Don’t you?

                It’s a sad fucking sight to see someone deny their life. It’s even sadder for admirers to see it.

              • Bob, The Cat is a flame troll of the worst kind.

                A man does good business when he rids himself of a turd.

                You know what you need to do.

                • Ellis asked the question. I replied.
                  This isn’t even your conversation Unicorn Boy!
                  So piss off.

                  Will someone get this 10 second Google Scholar away from me!!

              • Still waiting on you Bobby. Its been a few days now. What’s it to be?
                You want another sentence?
                Or has this one stung those Dimple eyes of yours??

                I’ll wait.

  6. You did not work for Beazley in 1996.

    Prove me wrong.

    Produce a payslip from DoFA. Show me your Beazley staff pass. Tell me the hours you were on the payroll.

    I accuse you of mistruth here Mr Ellis. I know more than you, and you were not an employee of Mr Beazley’s, you were not on his staff. Writing lines or adding to speeches is not the same as ‘working for’

    Not a party member and never been a staff member.

    Tell the truth please.

    • I was, I think, a consultant with speechwriting duties from, I think, July 1995 to late March 1996.

      Your point being?

      • So you were a consultant to Beazley as Defence Minister then, given that he became leader of the Opposition in March 2006. Interesting that your field is Defence, given your (righful) opposition to Labor’s support in Afghanistan.

        It must hurt you that having been Beazley’s consultant in Defence, that he advocates our presence alongside the Americans.

        • No, Beazley was Finance when I was with him. He had not been Defence for, I think, six years. I never had anything to do with Defence, nor have I ever discussed Afghanistan with Beazley.

          Why do you keep telling lies about me?

  7. They’re developing an IPA elite squad and where better to test their chops than here. Gain the lefties’ trust and penetrate the inner sanctum before letting off a propoganda bomb.

    Amateurs. You should have held off for longer, elite squad. You’ve blown your cover and for what? Let Bob keep his $90. We all contribute in our own way.

    • You guys really flatter yourselves with your beliefs that the IPA/Libs/shadow ministerial staff would bother hanging round to read this stuff, can’t you see how ridiculous it sounds.

      • Wherever people swing wildly between incongruous political positions and simpering flattery, there lies conspiracy. And astroturfing. And unpaid, plain-minded contributions from people who use phrases such as “can’t you see how ridiculous it sounds”.

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