There was not so much as an Anzac biscuit, let alone steel-cut oats, available on Tuesday night as Bob Carr conversed with former WA premier Geoff Gallop about his memoir.
Indeed, the only refreshment apparently on offer at the University of Sydney law school was a tumbler of water for the guest of honour and his interlocutor – though whether it was carbonated, still, or distilled we were not to know.
After dismissing the criticisms that had been made of his decision to publish the revealing his Diary of a Foreign Minister (“none of the state secrets are in here, and that’s the difference”), Carr deftly chaperoned us through South East Asia, the Middle East and Washington on a tour de force (first class, naturally) of foreign policy reflection.
America is “capable of losing its judgment every now and then”, he said, particularly in reference to the Iraq war, which Carr believes Labor would not have supported.
His clash with Julia Gillard over Palestine arose because he “couldn’t even make the slightest criticism of settlement activity by Israel” without being rebuffed by her office.
Lifting Australia’s sanctions on Myanmar and realigning our relations with South East Asia were the most important achievements of his 18-term, the former foreign minister said.
Carr played down his role in Labor’s last-minute leadership change from Gillard back to Kevin Rudd, reaching for a literary reference, as is his proclivity.
“I wasn’t the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, I was the Prince,” he mused.
He employed Richard II to illustrate the foolishness of the party’s initial “murder” of Rudd.
“Not all the water in the rough rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed king,” Carr quoted – effortlessly and from memory, of course.