The zombie candidacy of Kevin Rudd


Just like the man himself, Kevin Rudd’s candidacy for the United Nations’ Secretary General position refuses to die and stay buried, as it deserves to, with a stake through the heart (if you forgive mixing horror metaphors) and under a five-tonne stone slab. I blogged about it here a while back while the government was making up its mind whether to support the Ruddster and I blogged about it at the excellent new “Spectator Australia” blog Flat White just after Malcolm Turnbull broke Kevvie’s heart late last week.

But the story, like Celine Dion’s heart, goes on. And on. And on. Kevin Rudd is a gift that keeps on giving, or, in Australia’s case, that keeps on taking. The continuing outrage from the Labor Party that their own psychopath was snubbed by the government. The release by Rudd of private communications with Malcolm Turnbull in the months prior, which don’t reflect well on either of the protagonists. The leaks from inside the Cabinet about who was for and who was against supporting the nomination (Julie Bishop and George Brandis – bad judgment; Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison – good judgment). Finally, this morning, the leak regarding the Cabinet submission from the relevant department, of Foreign Affairs and Trade:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade saying Kevin Rudd was qualified for a tilt at the UN chief job.

Mr Turnbull has said the government would not back the former Labor prime minister because he didn’t believe he was suited for the role.

DFAT’s submission to cabinet said Mr Rudd was a better candidate than previous secretary generals who held the job, The Australian reports.

I forgive DFAT because, the diplomats that they are, they had to do it. To recommend otherwise would have been seen as a political act.

And Rudd does look great on paper. A former very senior state public servant, himself a DFAT diplomat, shadow minister for foreign affairs, and (twice) the Prime Minister, he is no doubt “qualified” and “a better candidate” than many of his predecessors. Even his detractors acknowledge Rudd is an extremely intelligent man.

But there is more to public life than a great CV. The truth of the matter is that Rudd has got a first-rate resume but is a third-rate human being, and everyone who knows him knows very well he is completely unsuited to exercising any degree of power and managing anything more complex than a family dinner. This is not a partisan point; as I documented in my “Spectator” blog, his closest Labor colleagues have been scathing about his personality, style and administration skills for years now.

And DFAT knows it too, having learned the hard way when Rudd was the shadow foreign affairs spokesman and then the jet-setting Prime Minister. When I was working in foreign affairs and foreign aid, I’ve come across dozens of DFAT men and women who have had the misfortune of coming into contact with him over the years, and not one of them had anything nice to say about him, with comments ranging from completely unprintable to more diplomatic ones. The storehouse of Rudd horror stories and horror anecdotes at DFAT is longer than “1001 Nights” and just as fantastic.

By contrast, everyone at DFAT who had anything to do with Julia Gillard during her Prime Ministerial travels abroad genuinely liked her. This shows yet again that this is not a partisan thing. Quite simply, most people can spot an asshole when they can see one. And assholes, no matter how intelligent and qualified, don’t deserve power.

P.S. I also see this morning that Senator Cory Bernardi will be (together with Labor’s Lisa Singh) this year’s Australian parliamentary representative to the United Nations for a three-month stint starting in September. I say, Cory for the Secretary General!