What journo would refuse an opportunity to interview former NSW Labor premier and foreign minister Bob Carr?
Mr Carr, along with celebrated author Thomas Keneally, will be in Lennox Head as part of a book tour, and thus a phone interview was arranged.
The call came through, and there were obligatory niceties. Then I asked the softest, squishiest question on how his young impressionable life was affected by Saint Gough Whitlam. ‘I was a teenage-Whitlamite,’ Bob enthused, ‘and joined the party at 15. It became rapidly clear in my view that he was the only the person who could articulate a modern vision. He was also capable of catching the swinging voter…’
But it soon became rapidly apparent too that Bob didn’t want to answer any questions unrelated to the golden Whitlam years. It was like boxing a glacier. ‘Do you think ICAC has overstepped its charter by investigating barrister Margaret Cunneen?’ He stopped me mid-sentence and said flatly he knew nothing of the case.
Okay. Then I asked, ‘Do we need a federal ICAC?’, to which he said No. ‘You would need a strong case for that, and you would have to think long and hard about it,’ he replied.
Okay – back to wonderful Gough. ‘Wow, Gough sounded like a great man,’ I said.
US intelligence hit job?
How tedious. Attempting to salvage the conversation, I asked if he thought Gough’s dismissal was in part owing to a US intelligence hit job.
Whitlam is said to have pushed the US over its spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, which is off limits to Australians. And the US are well known to overthrow leaders of other nations if they suspect it conflicts with their interests.
Journalist John Pilger even claims that the CIA officer who helped set up Pine Gap, Victor Marchetti, told him, ‘This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House… a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.’
Anyway, back to Bob:
‘I have never seen evidence of CIA involvement, and Whitlam himself said he didn’t think it was to do with the US.’
Mr Carr did go on to say that then-governor-general, John Kerr, was solely responsible for Gough’s demise and then expanded on other elements that caused him to topple: ‘The government was broken by the economic crisis in the mid 70s; the oil crisis, unemployment and inflation…’
‘He had pushed the limits of government spending, something he admitted in his memoirs.
‘There were rising prices, a wages boom. An absence of a wages policy was another.’
Alas, further attempts to tease out comment over matters of foreign or domestic policy were rebuffed.
Mr Carr and Keneally will be in conversation with Candice Baker from 5pm at the Lennox Cultural and Community Centre on Saturday, November 29.