Thursday, 22 March 2012

Senator Carr, meet Senator Assange

Foreign Minister Bob Carr delivers his
maiden speech in the Australian Senate.
It appears that the Australian Labor Party in government has adopted as policy the avoidance of public support for Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. I saw a photo yesterday of a letter to a constituent signed by Senator John Faulkner in which he said he would not make a media statement about Assange, but in which he reiterated that the government is providing consular assistance to Assange, as it would to any Australian citizen who found themselves in trouble overseas. This has been the government's line for some time and it looks as though it will not change.

In related news, yesterday Bob Carr, the new foreign minister, made his maiden speech in the Senate. Some of that speech has been excerpted from Hansard and published on the National Times website. It's interesting reading. Going back to first principles seems, for Carr, to be something of a standard modus operandi, and the speech is peppered with details taken from history to illustrate his main points. Carr has a Bachelor of Arts with honours in history from the University of New South Wales, after all. But he's also bookish. He reads widely and is considered something of an expert on US history.

I have been reading Christopher Hitchens' Hitch-22: A Memoir (2010), which chronicles aspects of the journalist's life such as his US naturalisation. It's not clear when Hitchens left the UK permanently to settle in the US to take up the offer of a job writing for a US magazine. But it is clear that he admired aspects of US political law and lore. Swatting for the test that all prospective US citizens must take, Hitchens went back to the bookshelves to read some of the foundational documents, including the US Constitution. This seems like something that Carr, too, would choose to do on a Saturday evening. Hitchens said he enjoyed the experience and I think it would be something that Carr would also prefer to do in place of some, more routine, passtimes.

Then there was Carr on the 7.30 Report last night going through his paces for the first time in front of the Australian public. Again, the new appointee demonstrated laudable fluency in respect of historical precedents for current politics. NSW residents would have been familiar with the former premier's easy delivery; hardly a pause between understanding the question and offering an answer. Carr is a practised performer in parliament and in the media. For bookish Australians he also promises to provide at least entertainment because of how he comes across publicly, if not satisfaction because of the matter of what he says.

One day Senator Carr may answer a speech in parliament by Senator Assange. Also bookish, if Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Biography (2011), which I have recently finished reading, is anything to go by, Assange commands a literary resource base that is possibly closer to that of Hitchens than that of Carr. But you never know. Well-read conservatives could plausibly point to the same texts as well-read radicals when making salient points during an argument with an adversary. The history of the West is replete with useful texts for those who place value on the concepts that tend to be used to define contemporary politics, such as freedom, democracy, and good government. Assange says that he is interested in improving government. I am sure that Carr would readily say the same thing, if asked.

2 comments:

Fergus Ryan said...

"I saw a photo yesterday of a letter signed by Senator John Faulkner in which he said he would not make a media statement about Assange, but in which he reiterated that the government is providing consular assistance to Assange, as it would to any Australian citizen who found themselves in trouble overseas."

Do you mean by this that every ALP parliamentarian has signed an agreement not to mention Assange? I don't get it...

Matthew said...

No, Fergus. It was a letter to a constituent who had asked Faulkner to make a public comment. It wasn't an internal undertaking. I changed the post a bit ...