BY KEITH JACKSON
It begins, in its very first paragraph, with this touch of arrogance: “Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the Australian government accepts the assurances of prime minister O'Neill and other PNG leaders that Papua New Guinea's elections will be held on time.”
“Accepts the assurances...” Are you with me? The suggestion is that Bob, deeply and properly concerned about the prospect of a delay in PNG's elections, needed to receive “assurances”.
This man did not need “assurances”; he had “assurances”. And from whom?
No less a figure than his parliamentary secretary the hapless Richard Marles who had been told a week before by prime minister Peter O’Neill that the PNG election would be held on time. Richard had either forgotten to brief Bob or Bob had forgotten to listen.
So not only can’t Carr admit he went off half cocked, ill prepared and full of the hubris of his new office, he tries to put reality aside and suggest the ‘misunderstanding’ was PNG’s fault and that he needed "assurances".
And then, in its very next (second) sentence, the press release goes on to say, “As I said to Foreign Minister Pala in my telephone conversation yesterday, my recent comments have been misunderstood and used out of context.”
“As I said” – in other words, I’m the big man around here. I say, Pala, and you listen.
And then Carr utters the weakest defence in the public relations manual, “I have been taken out of context”. Yeah, sure.
Next line is pure motherhood (read patronising): “Australia's approach to PNG as a sovereign friend and neighbour is to be supportive.”
Given that the day before he was going to draw down the world’s angst on our nearest and best neighbour, that utterance is especially sick-making.
Next in the release is a bit of an announcement about some unknown outfit called “the Australian Civilian Corps” before a final sentence in which the new foreign minister, still trying to dry out the area behind his ears, gasps: “PNG is a robust democracy with a proud history of holding elections as provided for under its constitution.”
Wouldn’t it have been terrific if Bob had gone straight there in the first place.