AUSTRALIAN Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been revealed as a long-term source of intelligence to the United States of America in previously secret diplomatic reports released by WikiLeaks today.
The reports show Senator Carr began communicating with American diplomats over forty years ago when he was still a rising star in the New South Wales Labor Party. It is understood that American officials approached Carr to gather information regarding internal Labor politics during the mid-1970s, at a time when the left-wing Whitlam government threatened to undermine the US-Australian alliance.
One of the reports, dated August 1974, relates Carr’s criticism of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s ability to manage Australia’s economy and his “tendency to delegate practically everything.” Carr, along with NSW Labor president John Ducker, told US officials that “economic policy has never been Whitlam’s bag” and that the government had “struggle(d) in a disorganised fashion to stem growing inflation.”
Senator Carr is a vocal supporter of the Australian-American alliance and is a charter member of the Chester A. Arthur Society, a group for individuals with a keen interest in American political trivia. When asked about his contact with American diplomats during the 1970s yesterday, Carr said: “I was in my 20s. I could have said anything.”
American involvement in Australia’s domestic politics during the Whitlam era has been of interest to historians and commentators for several decades. Many critics theorise that elements within the American government covertly campaigned for the dismissal of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister as a result of his withdrawal of troops from the Vietnam War in 1972.
The communications released this week by WikiLeaks are part of 1.7 million electronic documents that were transferred to the US National Archives and Records Administration in 2006. Over 11 000 of those documents relate specifically to communication between Washington D.C. and the US Embassy in Canberra during the period between 1973 and 1976.
These records have technically been available to the public since their transfer to the National Archives seven years ago, however they have been underutilised by historians due to the fact that it was impossible to search the documents electronically. The importation of these documents into the WikiLeaks search engine has revealed a number of insights into the relationship between the US and Australia that were otherwise buried within comprehensive diplomatic documents.
An unrelated group of American government documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed Labor’s right-wing powerbroker Mark Arbib as a more recent source of intelligence for American diplomats. The cables listed Arbib as a “protected” source that provided the US government with inside information regarding the internal politics within the Labor Party.
Carr served as Premier of New South Wales for over a decade between 1995 and 2005, holding the record for the longest continuous tenure as premier of the state. He was appointed as a Senator, and subsequently as the country’s Foreign Minister, after Kevin Rudd’s resignation from the post during his failed leadership challenge in early 2012.