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PM silence means no UN gold for Kevin Rudd

AAP logoAAP 29/07/2016 Don Woolford

So it's not to be "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi" in Kevin Rudd's bid for United Nations gold.

Whatever chance the former Labor prime minister had in the race to be the next UN secretary-general has been sunk by Malcolm Turnbull's decision not to support him.

At one level it's a decision of minuscule importance, given Rudd's chances were remote anyway.

But it's interesting in other ways.

For a start, it ends the general assumption that Australian governments will support one of us for major international jobs whatever our domestic political differences.

Thus Bob Hawke backed Malcolm Fraser's failed bid to be Commonwealth secretary-general. Mr Rudd appointed Brendan Nelson and Tim Fischer to important diplomatic posts.

My countryman, right or wrong, was a step too far for Mr Turnbull, who was left holding the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't hot potato after cabinet couldn't agree.

It would have helped if he'd gone beyond a bland "not well-suited for the position", especially as his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop favoured supporting Rudd. Repudiating the relevant minister, especially one so senior, deserves some explanation.

We can guess what the objections were and they'd have had more to do with personality - especially his short fuse and impatience - than capacity.

Ironically, it's Mr Rudd's better qualities - his experience, his enthusiasm, his genuine interest in making a difference - that would probably have counted against him in the end.

The UN, or at least the permanent members of the Security Council, probably want a respectable frontman (or woman), but not an activist liable to go off on adventures of his own.

For Mr Turnbull, the risk lies less in the merits of his Olympics-eve decision than in the appearance, if not the reality, that he's increasingly hostage to his right wing, which generally was anti-Rudd.

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