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Bob Carr going off like a two-bob watch over the Middle East

Michael Danby, The Daily Telegraph

The biggest drawback these days of being a well-known Labor supporter of Israel is that every man and his dog wants to relay to me some story of the bizarre antics of the briefly-former foreign minister Bob Carr.

Years ago, this was a man who would discuss art, books and read the tea leaves on politics but, these days, there is only one topic — Israel.

They say “a fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”.

Friends who go to meet him in his silent office find him smelling faintly of lentils and old books, pacing alone back and forth, never sitting. No, “Hello, how are you?” Only, “Did you see my latest on ¬≠Israel and Palestine?”

Now, Carr and his offsider Shaoquett Moselmane want to stop NSW Labor members from seeing the Israeli side of the story on Jewish community-sponsored trips.

At least admitting defeat on a total ban, the goal now is to mandate those who take such trips to spend 50 per cent of their time in Gaza or the West Bank — an impractical and virtually impossible expectation, designed to prevent people from going to Israel. Virtually all these trips spend considerable time in Ramallah with the Palestinian Authority.

Carr and co are trying to force their agenda at a time when Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Gaza have descended into hellholes and women and minorities of all kinds suffer.

This focus on Israel is not what NSW voters need to switch back to Labor. These obsessive antics are at odds with virtually the entire leadership of the Labor Party. So desperate for allies, Carr now resorts to praising the work of the Greens’ ex-Stalinist senator Lee Rhiannon.

Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek trust their MPs to make their own decisions on their travel itineraries. Under the leadership of capable new NSW Labor general secretary Kaila Murnain, the conference will not distort its agenda to Carr and his plans to limit trips to Israel.

Yet as Carr denigrates the Middle East’s only democracy, he also represents the interests of a vast authoritarian state apparatus, China.

Carr is the founding director of the Australia China Relations Institute (ACRI).
Almost every time China is in the news, Carr comes up with some “nonpartisan research” defending China.

Little wonder — his centre was established and funded by “patriotic individuals” from the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (ACPPRC), closely connected to the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

His public commentary never mentions that Communist China threatens democratic Taiwan, or its treatment of seven million peaceful Tibetans. China’s threats to maritime trade in the South China Sea are scaring the peaceful states of South-East Asia. Sixty per cent of Australia’s maritime trade transits those seas.

Needless to say, there are no resolutions demanding that Labor members visiting Carr’s benefactors in China spend an equivalent amount of time in Taiwan or Tibet.

Of course, Carr is free to say what he likes. But one needs to apply a fistful of salt to every utterance he and his institute make about China.
He appears, to all intents and purposes, to be Beijing’s man in Sydney.

To give Carr due credit, he does manage to keep a straight face when defending authoritarian China on one hand, and condemning democratic Israel on the other.

Is that straight-faced or two-faced?

Michael Danby is the federal Labor MP for Melbourne Ports

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