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Top role took former foreign minister Bob Carr on journey of a lifetime

<i>Illustration: Rocco Fazzari.</i>

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari.

It reads like the bucket list of a dedicated sightseer. Except Bob Carr managed to tick off some of the world's must-see tourist and cultural destinations in just 19 months as foreign minister.

The history buff found time in a hectic schedule of official meetings to visit 67 sites in 30 separate countries.

In Turkey, for example, Mr Carr walked Istanbul's famous spice bazaar and made visits to the Byzantine-era Chora Church, the majestic New Mosque, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia (the Church of the Divine Wisdom) and Topkapi Palace. His wife Helena joined him in Turkey.

During a trip to Egypt, Mr Carr viewed the world's finest collection of antiquities of the Pharaohs at the Egyptian Museum, the Hanging Church in Old Cairo and visited the district of Islamic Cairo.

In Laos, he visited the World Heritage city Luang Prabang.

In Mr Carr's advance instructions to embassies he requested visits to ''important cultural and historical sites early in a program. Such a visit can add useful context to other parts of the program.''

Mr Carr's schedule of side visits was requested at a Senate estimates hearing in November by Liberal senator Sean Edwards. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade responded this week.

On Thursday, Mr Carr said the questions were a calculated stunt by a new government that was out of its depth on the world stage.

''This is a distraction from the government's egregious failures in foreign policy, including in Indonesia and China, and its active neglect of the Pacific,'' he said. ''Every cultural visit without exception was recommended by Australian embassies or the host government. Such visits demonstrate that Australia's interest in these countries is more than just transactional.

''Instead of attacking their predecessor, Julie Bishop and her office should spend their energy mastering their brief and fixing relations with Indonesia and China.''

A spokeswoman for Ms Bishop declined to respond, saying only: ''The Foreign Minister is in the US meeting with US business leaders and senior executive of leading companies to promote investment and trade with Australia.''

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