Bob Carr opens cabinet door at Newcastle Writers Festival

Newcastle writer Philip Ashley-Brown, left, and Bob Carr tread the festival boards. Picture: Ryan OslandIT was political, but not partisan, as Bob Carr took centre stage at the Newcastle Writers Festival on Friday.
Shanghai night field

The former NSW Labor premier who became the country’s foreign minister spoke about the rough and tumble of public office and the highlights of a political career spanning four decades.

And the author of Diary of a Foreign Minister had kind words, not only for the late Malcolm Fraser but for another Liberal prime minister, Tony Abbott.

Mr Carr surprised the City Hall crowd with praise for Mr Abbott, saying reports Australia would join the China-led $US100-billion ($130-billion) Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank were positive.

“I was very heartened when I heard the Abbott government took the decision that Australia should join the bank,” he said.

“I thought it was a very bad look for Australia that we were staying out of the bank, only because [US President] Barack Obama had phoned Tony Abbott and said, ‘We don’t want you to join it.’

“That wasn’t a good enough reason. There’s a strong case for us being a part of this bank, shaping the rules, shaping the governments.

“Americans are so anxious about what is an inevitable phenomenon – the rise of China. This sends a very important signal … we’re capable of thinking for ourselves.”

Mr Carr also paid tribute to Mr Fraser, who died on Friday.

“I think we’ve got to give him credit for being a thoughtful political leader whose view evolved,” he said.

“He took a very considered position in his last book in warning Australians about the dangers of our treaty relationship with America.”

Mr Carr also weighed in on recent events at ICAC, after one Hunter resident declared he was fed up with state politics and had thought about casting an informal vote.

“I think the shocks out of the ICAC revelations for both sides of politics have been enormous,” Mr Carr said.

“But you’ve got leaders on both sides resolved to get their parties beyond a very unfortunate period.’’

The three-day Newcastle Writers Festival will continue over the weekend.

SATURDAY

■ Wesley Enoch talks about his life, career and Black Diggers. 10am-11am, City Hall Hunter Room. Tickets $22.

■ Blanche d’Alpuget talks about her colourful writing career. 11.30am-12.30pm, City Hall’s Hunter Room. Tickets $22.

■ Bob Brown, Claire Dunn and Favel Parrett talk about the significance of connecting with wild places. 4.30pm-5.30pm, City Hall Concert Hall. Tickets $22.

SUNDAY

■ Les Murray reads from his new volume of poems. 10am-11am, City Hall Concert Hall. Tickets $22.

■ Erik Jensen and David Leser set out to write about key figures, but found themselves entwined in the story. 1.30pm-2.30pm. Tickets $22.