Elite crowd: A Bohemian Grove program. Photo: New York Times
In his column on Tuesday, Peter Hartcher referred to my attendance at the Bohemian Club's annual gathering near Monte Rio in Northern California.
Any observer of American politics understands the annual Bohemian Grove gathering - in a camp ground north of San Francisco - is dominated by Republicans. I even joked it was possible to hear the banknotes rustling in the air above the campfires on their way to Mitt Romney's campaign war chest. But that is precisely why the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade enthusiastically endorsed my attendance. It was an opportunity to talk to one side of US politics. In that spirit, ambassador Kim Beazley, who received a separate invitation, unhesitatingly accepted it, again on department advice.
And why wouldn't I? I had been invited by one former US secretary of state and had the opportunity to speak to three others, each of them still with influence on policy. Each gave me a chance to explain and argue an Australian perspective: on Asia, on China, on our nearest neighbour Indonesia.
American diplomats routinely talk to opposition as well as government. They would have regarded my meeting with Romney, the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party at that time, as routine but a bit of smart diplomacy on Australia's part. Indeed, no foreign minister in the world would have said no to an opportunity to press their perspective on someone then polling 50-50.
''The US is one budget deal away from reversing American decline''. When I first used that expression it struck me as unremarkable but Bob Zoellick, former head of the World Bank, went on to quote it to American audiences on countless occasions, graciously attributing it to me. Other Americans (to my surprise, I might say) took it up. And it's not a bad thing for Australia to be associated with an optimistic - even flattering - view of America's potential.
That Romney twisted the comment was understood immediately by the White House as a bit of opportunism from its opponent. The US government had heard my line. It understood it. It knew precisely what the Republican candidate had done with it.
As for my achievements over 18 months, I rest on what I said in Canberra last week. Our relationships with both the US and China have been strengthened, although the initiative that resulted in guaranteed annual meetings with China's leadership wrapped up in ''a strategic partnership'' was very much Julia Gillard's initiative.
I'm proud of a stronger alignment of Australian foreign policy with that of 10 Association of South-East Asian Nations states, particularly Indonesia, which I visited on five occasions.
I'm particularly happy with the work on that bilateral relationship and I'm confident the Abbott government will entrench it, especially with a change of president next year. I committed Australia to support Myanmar's transition - lifting, and not leaving suspended, the sanctions we'd applied to that country - and to be a champion of Myanmar in the United Nations with European Union foreign ministers who we helped persuade to lift sanctions.
When I persuaded the government not to vote against enhanced Palestinian status in the UN, I recall Peter Hartcher supporting it as the more intelligent diplomatic course. One performance indicator for diplomacy (not the most important) is to win a ballot of your peers in the UN General Assembly. On October 18 last year, we secured election to the Security Council by 140 votes out of 193. As I explained last week I would not claim this as my own work: I had responsibility only for the last six months of the campaign. But if we'd gone down for defeat, I think I know who would have been blamed.
A very senior American diplomat said to me, Australia runs a successful foreign policy. By which he meant, we run a foreign policy that serves our interests and values. I am proud to have made my contribution.
Bob Carr is former foreign minister and NSW premier.