THE CABINET BRAWL over Kevin Rudd’s pitch as Secretary-General of the UN was grotesque; but it fades to irrelevance beside the embarrassment this narcissistic megalomaniac might cause if merrily sent on a global “look at me” tour with official sanction. Treacherous, psychotic lunatics are not export goods Australia should cultivate. By instructing Rudd to tell his story walking, Malcolm Turnbull was right: whatever criticism ensues.
If corrupt, disgraced former WA Premier Brian Burke had got it into his head, perhaps on account of his stint as an ambassador to Ireland and the Holy See, to seek the role of Secretary-General of the United Nations, would there be any kind of clamour — from anywhere — for the Australian government to “back the Australian candidate?”
Of course there wouldn’t be, and whilst I note that unlike Burke Kevin Rudd has never been charged with or convicted of official misconduct, in some respects Burke might make the more suitable candidate: and that is a judgement that takes some considerable lowering of comparative standards to be able to arrive at.
A judgement that should have been immediately rendered, however — rather than squibbed by a brawling federal Cabinet and handballed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for a “captain’s pick” — was belatedly delivered yesterday afternoon, with the announcement that the federal government would not formally endorse (and thus support) Rudd’s maniacal quest to take charge of the United Nations; better late than never.
But the only argument of any logical soundness at all for the Turnbull government to do so (and it’s a very poor one at that) was that he’s “the Australian candidate;” even a cursory glance at his alleged diplomatic achievements, and his malodorous record over decades in personnel “management,” is sufficient to conclusively judge Rudd an advertisement for Australia that should never be aired at all, let alone permitted to grace the widescreen of the global stage.
By contrast — as has been noted in the mainstream press over the past day — had it been a question of an ALP-aligned nominee such as Kim Beazley, the current conservative government would in probability have (rightly) endorsed him without reserve. It’s a very salient point.
There has been an orgy of comment erupting in the mainstream press since the announcement of Turnbull’s decision to let Rudd twist and dangle in the wind — from both the usual anti-Coalition suspects (the ABC, Crikey, Fairfax) as well as those organs of the press that are usually friendlier to the Coalition from the Murdoch stable — that, distilled to its essence, suggests Turnbull has been petty, biased, vindictive, and just plain nasty.
On the face of it, perhaps he has. But a decision of the kind Rudd has attempted to manipulate Turnbull into is not one to be determined on the basis of trivialities, and whether any or all of the puerile insults being flung at Turnbull ring true or not, the decision he has ultimately made is unquestionably correct.
Has Turnbull been “rolled” by conservative MPs within his party room and/or Cabinet? I doubt it. Are those conservatives able to claim a very big triumph in the washout from this, given their near-complete hatred of the man they have just seen nobbled? You bet your life they are.
And stories about the diminished authority Turnbull now possesses — like today’s Editorial in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail, which fatuously asserts the decision to veto Rudd delivered a “brutal blow” to Turnbull’s leadership — will, by virtue of the abjectly pathetic Coalition election campaign and the correspondingly pathetic result it produced, burst forth on every conceivable issue until either a further electoral pronouncement is made on Turnbull in three years’ time or he leaves his post in the interim.
But the simple truth is that Cabinet was asked to consider on its merits a request from Rudd for Commonwealth sanction and resources to pursue the Secretary-Generalship of the United Nations as an official Australian candidate, and in this sense, nobody could argue the outcome ignored considerations of merit.
It couldn’t have ignored Rudd’s idea of international diplomacy, most infamously encapsulated by his outburst against the Chinese some years ago as “rat fuckers.”
It couldn’t have ignored Rudd’s idea of personnel management, which over decades of involvement in Australian governance — openly or behind the scenes — has been manifest in a scorched Earth policy with a trail of broken careers in its wake, from seasoned senior Queensland bureaucrats in the early 1990s to an endless procession of burnt-out staff through his Prime Ministerial office, and right down to his abuse of a junior female RAAF aide that reduced her to tears for no better reason than he objected to the refreshments available on a short VIP flight.
It couldn’t have ignored the volumes of evidence of his methods in dealing with those with he is charged with working most closely; a little trip down memory lane appears below for those interested in such tawdry details.
And it surely couldn’t have ignored the fact that if Rudd were to become Secretary-General of the United Nations, that body — supposedly the peak forum of the international system — would have at its head an individual once thrown out of a venue in New York that provided sexually explicit entertainment, heavily inebriated, for “inappropriate conduct.”
The reality, as difficult as it might be for Rudd and those voices in the press who deign to continue to root for him, is that there is nothing to recommend the former Prime Minister for such a plum posting, and with the imprimatur of the Commonwealth to boot.
Anyone who knows — directly or second-hand — exactly what Rudd is like knows, deeply, how flawed and irretrievably unsuitable he is for the United Nations post; those of us who have variously characterised him as psychotic, psychopathic, narcissistic, cretinous, egomaniacal and/or a pathology case do so not to be petty, or nasty, or any of the insults now being flung at Turnbull, but because it is in fact true.
Just in case there is any doubt on this point, Rudd, chillingly, saw fit yesterday to validate virtually every criticism his detractors have ever levelled at him, releasing private correspondence dating back almost a year between himself and Turnbull that purported to show Turnbull had reneged on a deal to support him.
The Rudd release of private communications is, in itself, an appalling act of poor faith and a breach of trust, which is only worsened by the fact Turnbull himself warned Rudd months ago that neither he, nor Cabinet, would back him for the UN post: a development that surely supersedes any previous assurances, but a detail Rudd conveniently saw fit to omit from his jaundiced fit of pique yesterday afternoon.
If nothing else, Rudd’s actions underline the entrenched treachery and bastardry his old colleagues at the ALP have accused him of for decades.
Some of those past colleagues — most notably, former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally — have had the integrity in recent days to remain honest in their assessments of Rudd, with Keneally’s suggestion her pet dog would make a better candidate probably an insult to the dog only on account of it being likened to Rudd in the first place.
Others, however — led by alleged leadership prospect Tanya Plibersek, who has never hid her contempt for Rudd in the past, but has seen fit to engage in the same petty politicking she accuses Turnbull of, claiming Rudd was an outstanding candidate vetoed by the Coalition to settle a vendetta — ought to be ashamed of themselves.
In the end, Turnbull explained his decision by saying that in his judgement, Rudd was not a suitable candidate “for that particular role,” which is an understatement.
The prospect of this supreme egotist turning up in corridors of power across the world, demanding meetings with officials and government leaders off the cuff, throwing God knows what insults around at Australia’s most powerful international partners in unguarded moments near microphones or listening ears (and throwing all manner of tantrums whenever things don’t go to plan) is a nightmare scenario Turnbull is right to dissociate his government from.
And that’s just where Rudd’s campaign for the position is concerned. Imagine the embarrassment Australia might be subjected to if he succeeded.
If there is merit at all in the prospect of Kevin Rudd as Secretary-General of the United Nations, let the vanquished candidate now reflect that really, what happened yesterday might be the fault of nobody but himself; if he is qualified at all for that post — a point of obvious conjecture — perhaps he might consider that the gleeful and/or oblivious alienation of people he indulged himself with for decades just might have come at a price.
There can be no room for sentiment, and no entertainment of shades of grey in what is a black-and-white proposition.
There are too many question marks over Kevin Rudd as a candidate for a high-profile position of global governance to make the risk of endorsing him worth any benefits (real, perceived or imagined) he might deliver, and specious arguments that he should have been supported simply because he is Australian must be dismissed as the juvenile claptrap they are.
Turnbull would have been criticised over this whichever way he jumped, and just as those peddling mock outrage today are shining a light on how this government will be treated in the immediate term, the opposite call on Turnbull’s part would have been disastrous.
It would almost certainly have elevated Liberal leadership ructions, for a start; but more importantly, it would have left this country exposed to unquantifiable embarrassment at the hands of a volatile and self-consumed psychopath in a context Australia could ill afford any opprobrium or rancour Rudd managed to generate along the way.
It was only half in jest I suggested Brian Burke might be less unsuitable than Rudd; after all, Burke at least was civil, and not just in front of a camera.
A narcissistic lunatic is not the kind of commodity Australia needs to export to the world with a letter of introduction and a blank cheque.
Whatever else people might think of Turnbull, he was dead right on this.