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Leading article Australia

Dangerous amateurs

26 January 2013

9:00 AM

26 January 2013

9:00 AM

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has twice seized upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an excuse to push his own agenda, in the process dismantling 60 years of bipartisan agreement. By doing so, he has arguably put his own or his party’s interests ahead of the national interest.

Back in November, Mr Carr took it upon himself to roll the Prime Minister on her support for a ‘no’ vote in the United Nations awarding Palestine observer status. Regardless of the merits of either argument, the upshot was a Prime Minister humiliated, our major allies the US and Israel snubbed, and Australia — having made such a fuss about winning a seat on the UNSC — meekly refusing to vote one way or another.

If the reason for the abstention was to return the favour to those Arab nations who had voted for our UNSC seat, then it bodes ill for whatever difficult decisions lie ahead. If it was to provide comfort to those marginal electorates in western Sydney with a large Muslim vote (a charge Mr Carr and Labor deny), it deserves to be exposed and condemned in the harshest terms. If it was to position himself to a nervous caucus as an alternative leader to the Prime Minister, then Mr Carr presumably succeeded.

Now, in cahoots with his British counterpart William Hague, Mr Carr has again decided to bignote himself at the expense of Israeli sensitivities with his reckless branding of ‘all’ Israeli settlements as ‘illegal’ — a claim disputed by one of the world’s most eminent international lawyers, Professor James Crawford.

With al-Qa’eda’s deadly re-emergence in Mali and a long war looming throughout the Maghreb, with no end in sight for the Syrian conflict, Egypt poised precariously above a descent into civil war and Iran merrily refining its nuclear capacity, it is disturbing that Mr Carr felt it necessary to single out Israel as ‘undermining the cause of peace’. What a way to treat a friend.

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Mr Carr claimed in a letter to the Australian that he was merely ‘sending a message’ to Israel, yet it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he was yet again beating up on Israel for his own political ends.

Indeed, opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne has suggested Mr Carr is a ‘dangerous amateur’ who will ‘permanently damage Australia’s reputation in the world as a supporter of freedom and democracy’.

Hyperbole? Not when one examines our unelected Foreign Minister’s other eyebrow-raising antics during his first ten months; from threatening our closest neighbour Papua New Guinea with sanctions, to snaffling $375 million of foreign aid for domestic purposes, to offering gratuitous advice to Americans about their ‘decline’.

Still, at least as a dangerous amateur Mr Carr should feel right at home alongside an Attorney-General who wishes to destroy the presumption of innocence and a Treasurer incapable of designing a tax that raises any revenue.

Novice Peris

As a magazine that prides itself on supporting the improvement of indigenous living and working standards across Australia, we congratulate Olympian Nova Peris for being handpicked by the captain of the team, Julia Gillard, to play in the forthcoming senate elections.

It is disappointing, however, that the impression — fostered by Senator Cameron and others within Labor — will always be that Ms Peris, a political novice, was selected in a panicky move by spinmeister John McTernan in order to paint a thin, black veneer over the glaring white faces with which Labor have thus far preferred to represent themselves.

Less than a year ago, when afforded the opportunity to select the highly qualified Warren Mundine, an outstanding indigenous candidate any party would give their eye teeth for, Ms Gillard baulked and went for Bob Carr instead. So what has changed in the meantime? Quite simply, the election in the Northern Territory of not one but four indigenous members under the banner of the conservative CLP.

Not that there aren’t plenty of indigenous members of the Labor party who wouldn’t have jumped at this latest opportunity, Marion Scrymgour, former NT deputy chief minister and the first Aboriginal woman to enter cabinet in any Australian government, among them.

Still, however it is achieved, increased indigenous representation within our parliamentary system is key to addressing the hideous deprivation that decades of touchy-feely, handwringing white decision-making has wrought.

We wish Ms Peris all the best, with a word of caution. Her usefulness to the Labor machine would appear to be that she is a ‘famous face’. So too were Peter Garrett and Cheryl Kernot.

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