Airing of Bob Carr's private conversations 'unfortunate'

Australia's top foreign affairs official has branded "unfortunate" former foreign minister Bob Carr's airing of private conversations with overseas politicians.

Facing a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Peter Varghese also revealed that Mr Carr had ignored the department's request to see an advance copy of the book, which was released in April.

But Mr Varghese said that to his knowledge no foreign government had lodged and complaint about the book, which included revelations about meetings and private conversations with foreign leaders, ministers and officials.

The Senate hearing also revealed that former prime minister Kevin Rudd has asked for help from Australian embassies during his overseas travel 11 times since mid-December – far more than other former prime ministers.

Mr Rudd became a senior fellow with the US-based Harvard Kennedy School of Government in February but has also reportedly been lobbying globally for a senior position at the United Nations.

On Mr Carr's book, Mr Varghese said that he had asked to see a draft of the book's manuscript after Mr Carr requested documents related to some of his trips overseas as minister.

"I did not receive a response to my request," Mr Varghese said.

Mr Varghese said that while none of the countries whose affairs Mr Carr discussed in his book - including the US, Malta and Malaysia - had complained officially, he had concerns about revealing details of private diplomatic conversations.

"I share the Foreign Minister's (Julie Bishop's) view that there is an expectation that conversations held in private will not be revealed ... and to the extent that the book does that ... I think it is unfortunate," he said.

DFAT officials and Attorney-General George Brandis also revealed that Mr Rudd had asked for help from Australian diplomats 11 times since December 17, compared with Julia Gillard's seven times, twice for Malcolm Fraser and once for John Howard.

These included help at the airport and accompanying Mr Rudd to meetings.

As a courtesy, DFAT helps former prime ministers when they are travelling if the resources of the local embassy allow it.

Most of Mr Rudd's trips were to the US but he also travelled to Britain, Russia and Europe.

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