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Turnbull says Rudd not suitable for UN

AAP logoAAP 28/07/2016 By Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Australia won't be nominating Kevin Rudd for the top job in the United Nations even though he claims Malcolm Turnbull had told him Australia would be "mad" not to support him.

Mr Turnbull announced on Friday the government would not nominate Mr Rudd for secretary-general of the UN because he didn't believe he was suited for the role.

Mr Turnbull told Mr Rudd of the decision on the phone on Friday just before publicly announcing it.

"The threshold point here is when the Australian government nominates a person for a job, particularly an international job like this ... do we believe the person, the would-be nominee, is well suited for that position?" Mr Turnbull said.

"My judgment is that Mr Rudd is not, and I've explained to him the reasons why."

But late on Friday, Mr Rudd released three letters he had sent to Mr Turnbull in which he refers to the prime minister's apparent support.

In the second letter, Mr Rudd said he was "shocked" the prime minister told him he no longer supported his bid after "You had always said to me that the Australian government would be `mad' not to support my candidature."

He wrote another letter this week asking for a personal meeting to "simply ask for the right to be heard."

After Mr Turnbull announced his decision, Mr Rudd said it was a "pity" the government did not support him and that the prime minister would not explain the decision in person, even though they were both in Sydney at the same time.

He was thankful for support from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and "her many cabinet colleagues", but has now pulled out of the race.

"It would have reflected well on what our nation can offer to the world - as a middle power with relationships across the world, including the developing world, smaller states, the Commonwealth, our Pacific Island friends and of course our partners in Asia," Mr Rudd said in a statement.

Mr Turnbull said the decision had nothing to do with Mr Rudd being a former Labor leader, pointing to Kim Beazley's appointment as US ambassador.

Ms Bishop and Attorney-General George Brandis are understood to have supported Mr Rudd's nomination, but a number of conservative ministers including Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Treasurer Scott Morrison spoke against it.

Labor leader Bill Shorten accused Mr Turnbull of putting "his own interests ahead of our nation's", while frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the prime minister was "pathetic".

But cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said Labor was in no position to lecture the government, given that party members felt so strongly about Mr Rudd's mismanagement they ousted him from the prime ministership in 2010.

"They said he was a narcissistic psychopath, which is pretty rough," Mr Pyne said.

Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, who supported Julia Gillard over Mr Rudd for the party leadership, said the decision undermined Mr Turnbull's authority and proved Labor's point he had "shrunk in the office of prime minister".

It is possible Australia could back former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.

A letter from the presidents of the UN general assembly and security council in December said the job required "proven leadership and managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations, and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual skills. "

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