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Bob Carr: I make no apologies

He's making democracy better with his 'vivid' diary, so no need for sorry, says former Foreign Minister.

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A tosser? A prima donna? A bigot? Bob Carr has laughed off a series of attacks over his controversial memoir, saying he’s having a lot of fun seeing his critics turn him into a bestseller.

Mr Carr’s Diary of a Foreign Minister gives a frank account of his 18 months in cabinet as Labor’s foreign minister.

Bob Carr has defended his publishing of diaries from his stint as foreign minister in the Gillard/Rudd governments.

Bob Carr has defended his publishing of diaries from his stint as foreign minister in the Gillard/Rudd governments. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The book is also littered with nuggets of details about his hatred of business class travel, from the terrible food to the lack of pyjamas.

Asked on Thursday morning in Sydney about criticism that he was a "snob" or "tosser" for complaining about airline food and not being upgraded to first class, Mr Carr said: "I was born in a working-class area, I grew up in a fibro cottage on the sand hills of Maroubra [in Sydney's eastern suburbs] but I have never ceased, because of the kick-start my mum and dad gave me, to engage in life-long education. That is part of my personality and who I am.

''It is not snobbery - just a view that life is a learning experience."

Bob Carr says he is not a snob for complaining about travelling business class.

Bob Carr says he is not a snob for complaining about travelling business class. Photo: John Shakespeare

Mr Carr said he took the criticism with "good humour and if it adds to the sales of the book and raises money for my favourite charity to look after youngsters in poor countries I will wear that as a badge of honour".

Proceeds from the book will be donated to Interplast, a charity that works to improve the lives of people with medical conditions such as cleft palate or burn scar contractures.

Some of his serious political commentary, however, has also caused a stir.

His view that Melbourne’s Israeli lobby held a grip over Julia Gillard’s term as prime minister triggered a Labor frontbencher to suggest he’s a bigot.

Other interviewees have openly asked if Mr Carr had been a diva on the world stage while a front page headline labelled him a ‘‘First Class Tosser’’.

But Mr Carr  chuckled over the coverage, saying his publisher confirmed the front page headline alone guaranteed a third printing of his political memoir.

‘‘I’m having a lot of fun with the self parody and the jokes I’ve got in the book,’’ he told Fairfax Radio on Thursday.

‘‘If it’s got the effect of more people buying it, and reading the serious stuff, then I’m really happy.’’

Mr Carr’s book also records a lot of the work done behind the scenes in politics, the high-level discussions with global figures, and frank observations on Labor’s internal troubles.

He has fired back against critics who believe he should not be allowed to write such a frank memoir, which draws on private conversations.

‘‘This is a book written on the run, but a book that tells Australians how their system works in a way I think that no other book on Australian politics does,’’ he told ABC Radio on Thursday.

In an earlier ABC 7.30 interview on Wednesday, Mr Carr said the public’s right to know how foreign policy was made also outweighed any other considerations, such as confidentiality of cabinet discussions.

‘‘And the value of a diary written so close to the events is that Australians get a better idea of how government works,’’ he added.

Still, most of the attention has been on the book’s silliness and Mr Carr’s love of self-mockery.

He writes of his obsession with attaining ‘‘a concave abdomen defined by deep-cut obliques” and remarks on the “the elite of the flat-stomached” such as US President Barack Obama.

When asked on Thursday, Mr Carr said he was still hitting the gym.

‘‘I did something called body weight exercises, about 20 minutes I’ve done, very early this morning,’’ he said.

And his ego?

‘‘I think I’ve got a strong story to tell,’’ he told Fairfax Melbourne radio 3AW on Thursday.

‘‘Would you be in our business if you didn’t have a healthy ego?’’

with Matthew Knott