To quote the ruddy dumpling former Australian PM himself, “they’re ratfucking us!”
He was talking about China in the 2009 Copenhagen climate-change summit, but the statement can be appropriated to the contest for UN Secretary General.
Just who the receiving party is in this scenario is not yet clear. What is clear is who the right person for the job is.
Helen Clark led the Labour government for three terms 1999-2008; bringing in paid parental leave, interest-free student loans, signing the worlds first free trade agreement with China, started the Kiwisaver retirement scheme, and many other achievements. Since 2008 she has led the United Nations Development Programme and supported many countries around the world to decrease poverty and increase prosperity. At her worst she’s a micro-manager. At her best she is a decisive and positive leader, who inspires hard work and develops key relationships which prove critical to handling crisis.
Kevin Rudd led the Australian Labor Government for almost a term before being deposed for gross incompetence. Adept at crisis management because of his agile mind and temperament he was awful at every day governing. Quick to anger, impatient, mistrustful; Rudd alienated everyone in his government and left Julia Gillard no option but to remove him from office. Not content to ruin his own government, he set himself up as foreign minister and within three years had ruined hers. Back as PM just in time to be beaten soundly by the second worst PM in living memory — Tony Abbott. Oh, he has achievements, like saying sorry to the Aborigines for the stolen generations, signing the Kyoto protocol, and navigating the Global Financial Crisis. But the man is awful to work with, and despite his speaking of mandarin, he was a disaster for Australia-China relations.
I am open to being proved wrong on this point, but it seems quite clear to me that the job of UN Secretary General requires sound relationship building. Whoever is in the role needs to have relationships with leaders of all types, some democratic, some authoritarian, some downright dystopian. The Secretary General needs to be able to play the part of a trustworthy go-between. Especially when conflict prevents leaders from directly contacting each other. It is a serious role, requiring a person to be pragmatic, and able to uphold the ideals of the UN while dealing with the stark realities.
It is obvious to me that Kevin Rudd is not capable of this. Yes, he was a diplomat in the past, and yes he was foreign minister. But he used the latter position to undermine the Prime Minister, whereas Helen Clark stepped in to act as Foreign Affairs Minister when Winston Peters was engulfed in scandal. No one faulted her for doing so because she was undoubtedly the best person to do it. In doing that she demonstrated her faith in Peters by not replacing him. It was an excellent piece of face-saving. That relationship building is precisely what is needed.
Australia has wavered in their initial promise to support Clark because of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. She came to government with complete indifference to the UN, and changed her position as she tended to her ignorance. Bishop now supports Australia taking a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, and she understands how having an Australian at the top of the organisation would benefit her country and government. But Rudd isn’t just an Australian. He’s a puffed up, angry little man, in whose hands the political integrity of Australia was ruined. For ego he was willing to destroy a government. You don’t risk the world on such people.
It should be remembered that Julie Bishop supported the most misogynist leader in a generation so she could go into cabinet. She is pro-women only as far as she is concerned. No wonder she doesn’t like Helen Clark.
Perhaps it will be all for naught, since Eastern Europe maintains it’s their turn for the role. With the problems in Ukrane and Russia’s involvement in Syria, I think that would be unwise. Let Aunty Helen put sense back in to the world.