Wannabe Cretin: Turnbull Spares Australia Rudd Embarrassment

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.



“A New Way:” Beattie To Canberra; Cain, Bannon To Follow

THIS IDEA is that bad: recycling old ALP warhorses signals desperation, not strength; if Peter Beattie is Kevin Rudd’s idea of “A New Way,” John Cain and John Bannon — even Brian Burke — must surely follow. Labor is desperate; but if it wins, Beattie would replace Rudd, not serve under him.

Sarcasm aside, news yesterday that former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie is to stand for election in the seat of Forde would be hilarious if received in jest, not earnest.

30 days prior to a federal election, the former Premier is to stand in an electorate he admits he has little knowledge of, despite 18 years in state politics and nine as Premier.

It comes “a few days” after a phone call between Beattie and Rudd, in which the pair say they agreed to put aside their notorious (and acrimonious) differences for the good of the ALP, with Beattie dripping endorsements of Rudd all over his media coverage yesterday.

And it began with Beattie flying into Australia yesterday morning after a protracted stay overseas, moving directly into his brother’s house in the Forde electorate — presumably to afford the cover of being “a local.”

Hardly an auspicious start.

Labor is desperate to win the September election; as we have spoken about many a time, the imperative to keep bums in ministerial leather and the party connected to the levers of power — not least, to dispense patronage and favours to its union masters — transcends every other consideration.

It follows, therefore, that Beattie isn’t simply making up the numbers.

It is unlikely his presence will garner the ALP a single vote south of the Tweed River; as Queensland Premier he enjoyed modest recognition outside his home state, but no more.

Yet it provides clarity on two points: one, that the ALP knows it is going to suffer a belting in the southern states; and two, that its rhetoric about needing to win seats in Queensland is forged in all seriousness — and that that enterprise is progressing far less successfully than the party is acknowledging publicly.

The first question is whether Beattie can even win in Forde: a traditionally marginal seat, it has been won by the government party at every election since 1987, except 2010.

Held by the Liberal Party on a slender 1.6% margin it may be, but it also typifies the outer metropolitan mortgage-belt electorates populated by working class and lower middle class families that, anecdotally, are swinging against Labor in all capital cities.

Assuming he clears that hurdle — and it’s a not-insubstantial “if” — the next question is whether Beattie can lift the statewide ALP vote in Queensland by two or three points.

In short, it’s doubtful — Beattie quit as Premier with reasonable approval numbers. But his legacy only became evident on the watch of his successor, Anna Bligh, whose government was ultimately flung from office in an avalanche: its public service bloated and inefficient, its health system dysfunctional, and the state virtually bankrupted.

Labor has been trying to harness dissatisfaction with Campbell Newman’s conservative government in Queensland to drum up a fear campaign about “cuts to the bone” that might  be replicated under a conservative government in Canberra.

But Newman is attempting to repair the damage done by his Labor predecessors, and to knock Queensland back into economic shape — something Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are likely to be required to do federally in the near future.

Beattie, by contrast, is simply a former Premier who won four elections but jumped out of the coop before the chickens came home to roost.

In exactly what degree of esteem he is now held will become evident soon enough.

Either way, the only federal election in the past 30 years at which state factors can conclusively be said to have had an impact was in 1990, when Victorian voters delivered nine additional seats to the Liberals on the back of mismanagement of the state by the government of John Cain — and even then, the effect was confined to Victoria (Bob Hawke and the ALP were, of course, narrowly re-elected to a fourth term on that occasion).

The economic evils of Cain and his successor, Joan Kirner, make the alleged misdeeds of Newman’s government pale into insignificance.

I have never thought Labor would win this federal election; not under Julia Gillard, not under Rudd, and certainly not now simply on account of a former Labor golden boy in Beattie throwing his hat into the ring.

Were it so straightforward, Cain and the equally disgraced Bannon — or even the smooth-talking miscreant Brian Burke — would indeed be standing for Labor this year as well.

I’ve been asked about possible Labor gains in Queensland (as an ex-Queenslander) since the election was called last week; until today, I didn’t think there would be any.

Beattie might win Forde; might. Even on that count, I’m sceptical. But were he to do so, that would be about the extent of it, and Labor certainly won’t pick up the six to eight extra Queensland seats it has been rattling on about, or anything approaching that.

The whole “Beattie for Canberra” thing just doesn’t add up at first glance; there is seemingly little or no reason for Beattie to even countenance it — especially given his wife is known to oppose his return to politics.

He has joked about a “death in the family” — his — should he ever re-enter the fray too often not to expect his wife’s hostility to the move to be taken at face value.

He is also 60 years old, which is not a noted age for federal politicians to be embarking anew on long and/or successful careers.

And this all points to a broader motive underpinning it.

It is no secret that Kevin Rudd continues to be reviled by a large cross-section of the ALP party room, as well by at least some of his staff; to compound this, he has declared war on the party’s vested interests with his proposed leadership election reforms — a package the unions, and Labor’s NSW branch in particular, will never allow to stand.

In the highly unlikely event of a Labor election win, Rudd is an odds-on certainty to be executed — again — in another brutal and ruthless coup by the same faceless forces that engineered his demise in 2010.

It may be as prosaic as Rudd having decided Beattie would be the least worst contender to replace him, and — in counterbalance to his rival Bill Shorten, who has form in coups against Labor leaders — opted to maximise the prospect of someone other than Shorten emerging victorious from such a coup if, indeed, it eventuates.

Beattie isn’t going to Canberra to sit quietly on the backbench; that is a given.

He’s probably not too interested in the good burghers of Forde either, the truth be told.

But the bottom line for voters — in Queensland and the rest of the country — is that the Beattie announcement changes nothing in terms of the 7 September election.

If Labor loses, it won’t matter a can of beans whether Beattie wins Forde or not.

If Labor wins, nobody should be surprised when Rudd takes another leadership bullet.

It’s at that point — assuming he wins his seat — that yesterday’s dramatic return by Beattie might actually mean something.

But in the final analysis, none of this gives credibility to Rudd’s theme of “A New Way,” and it’s that message — if any — that will resonate around the country.