by: Samantha Maiden
From: Sunday Herald Sun
December 09, 2012
BOB Carr is being held aloft in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, a big smile plastered on his face as ten local men carry him through the main street in a chair covered with ferns.Showered with flower petals and serenaded by a sing sing group, it's quite a welcome.
A 100kg, hairy lady pig called Tabuaka - which means toughest and most valued - has been dragged into a compound in Wapenamanda as a gift for the big man from Australia.
Carr's baritone booms with delight: "Hey, thank you for that pig.""Thank you, thank you. That's the most generous gift I've ever been given."
He's already suggested to locals, who kick the squealing lady pig in the bottom as she departs, that he is so enamoured with the tiny town of bush toilets and dirt roads that he may retire here.
"You can count on Australia," he says.
In this latest political incarnation as a Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr gives every indication of being the happiest man in Cabinet.
He's blogging, taking photos out the window of the charter plane with his iPad, raving about the quality of the PNG coffee on his Twitter account after sharing a cup with the former PM Paias Wingti and the Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato.
It's a wild place.
Expats fear carjackings in the nation's capital and the elections were briefly delayed in July when a cannibal cult, whose members believed they were killing witch doctors, was accused of murdering and eating seven people in the coastal town of Madang and making soup from their penises.
But Carr gives every impression of being thrilled to be here. Freed from the straitjacket of being "indicted for every broken pipe and train that doesn't run on time" as he puts it, as NSW Premier, the 65-year-old is getting his freak on.
All the quirk, the high-pants, the stump speech magic, the political experience and the deep love of history, books and foreign affairs is being rolled into one giant, show-stopping, international geek adventure.
The only cloud on the horizon for the fitness fanatic seems to be that wife Helena is worried he's not eating enough healthy food.
As always, his wife of nearly 40 years has packed him an organic grazing menu for his international visits.
"Some goats milk yoghurt, she buys it at a farmers' market," he enthuses before brandishing a zip lock bag of strange looking almonds.
"Muesli, 80 per cent cocoa chocolate," he says.
Carr's wiry body is a temple of super foods.
But his great love is Helena. He can name the date they were married in a heartbeat, February 24 1973.
"She was very, very pretty. And she still is," Carr says.
"So I didn't know what she was at first. She explained the Chinese mother, Indian father."
He's 65 but insists he will be saddling up to run for the Senate at the next election for a six-year term that would take him though to the age of 72.
"I think too much is made of retiring early. People are capable of being more physically and mentally active these days," he says.
"Hey, my colleague Hillary (Clinton) could well be running the presidency at 69."
During a screening of the classic First Contact documentary in bird fanciers' resort Rondon Ridge in the remote PNG highlands one night, Carr moves to the back of the room to perform elegant hamstring stretches bending his leg back into his own little yoga pose.
The last time a Foreign Minister visited these shores, Kevin Rudd did the unthinkable.
No wonder they like the Senator.
What does he believe will be Kevin Rudd's legacy ?
"Well, as Mao Tse Tung said about the French revolution it's too early to tell," he quips.
On further investigation, it would seem that the famous quote was actually uttered by Zhou Enlai, and was referring to the student uprising in Paris of May 1968, but you get Carr's gist.
Carr has made a special effort to seek Rudd's advice and counsel.
But then Carr has also been accused of doing something as unAustralian as visiting PNG on AFL grand final day.
Ten years ago, he found himself on the front page of Sydney's Daily Telegraph during an election campaign for attacking sausage rolls.
"Sausage rolls are disgusting," the Premier declared to two reporters eating their breakfast.
"They are fat encased in fat."
Ten years on, he still laughs at the controversy.
"I said, hey, hey you can do a little better than that. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," he explains.
"And then Helena and I nearly fell out of bed the next morning when we heard that the radio news broadcast some huge controversy about the Premier's unAustralian behaviour indicting the patriotic sausage roll."
Soon, his media adviser Amanda Lampe was on the phone demanding he eat a sausage roll on the campaign trail - that day.
She begged. He refused.
Then they compromised.
"The idea settled in my brain and I said: 'Look, I'll compromise. Get a meat pie with plenty of sauce, we will go to the pie shop in Maroubra.'
"The Liberals thought it had all been a cunning plan to divert the state election campaign but it was a hilarious beat up."
Carr shows a talent for local politics even here in PNG, working the crowds like a pro, praising the beauty of the nation, pushing Australia's aid commitment for scholarships for midwives.
At a Catholic school, he tells the girls he's sure the first female Prime Minister may be among their ranks, in a nation where women hold just three seats in the 111-seat Parliament.
As Foreign Minister he's chatting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, consulting his "kitchen cabinet" of British Home Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and madly texting Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.
Recently, he led a bloodless coup against the Prime Minister overruling her position of voting with the US to oppose Palestine becoming a non-member state of the United Nations.
But he can't say enough nice things about Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd.
"It would be wrong to reduce every relationship in the Government to Kevin versus Julia.
"And I haven't got that. I am loyal to her, naturally," he says.
Senator Carr seems remarkably calm, rarely ruffled.
When Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare arrive a few days later in Port Moresby for a conference, no one looks as happy as Senator Carr.
That is apart from the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles - a PNG enthusiast, who is busily organising two cartons of the local SP beer for ministers to drink on the VIP plane back to Canberra.
Also there isMelbourne-born Justin Tkatchenko - a deeply tanned, former opera singer and orchid expert who has risen from being a Port Moresby embalmer to his post as sports minister.
Also in attendance, PNG Treasurer Don Polye who survived an assassination attempt in the 2007 and is rumoured to carry a gun.
"Wayne Swan doesn't have a gun ?" Polye laughs.
"Then I don't have a gun.".