What in the world can Kevin Rudd do now?
As speculation mounts that ousted Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will become the new Foreign Minister, is there a better role out there for him in the world?
Kevin Rudd was known for appointing politicians of both sides to important positions overseas.
He shipped former Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson off to Brussels as an Ambassador when he was discarded as Opposition Leader. At the same time Kim Beazley who he knocked off as leader was predictably sent packing for the plum job in Washington.
Nationals Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fisher was also found a role as Ambassador to the Holy See. Rudd didn’t even stand in the way of his arch enemy, former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, becoming the UN’s Special Advisor in Cyprus. There were also reports he was considering nominating former Treasurer Peter Costello as a branch head of the European Bank.
The relatively youthful ousted Prime Minister, only fifty-two years old, is now left to ponder his own future.
Having spent the weekend licking his wounds at The Lodge speculation is mounting that he will take over from Stephen Smith as Foreign Minister.
Smith, a factional player famously called one of the two ‘roosters’ by Latham, was a reluctant convert to the role which removes you heavily from domestic politics. But he has fallen in love with it and it would be sad to see him have to stand aside for someone who never truly allowed him to spread his wings in the role. The fact that Smith granted an interview to 7.30 Reportland on Thursday night shows he is eager to hold the role.
With the new Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan holding onto Treasury (never a strength of Rudd’s but a powerful role) it is hard to see him warming to any other portfolio.
Taking control of DFAT is the logical fit, allowing Rudd to spend as much time overseas while he recovers from an incredibly embarrassing and upsetting experience. He will either take the role or not remain in cabinet at all. Regardless it will be a short-term fixture allowing him to job-seek on the international stage despite mantra of seeking to contest his seat at the next election.
But what else is there for the former Prime Minister to do in the world?
A logical fit would be for Rudd to become Australia’s next Ambassador to China, a position that current Trade Minister Simon Crean has reportedly been eyeing off.
Nothing would send a stronger signal to Beijing after a bad year of relations following the Stern Hu affair than to send the Mandarin speaking Rudd their way. Despite calling them “rat fuckers” he is adored there and it would help during his period of hiatus.
The problem is the current Ambassador Dr. Geoff Raby has only been in place since 2007 and still has many years left in his tenure. Other plum Ambassadorships to London or the United States have also recently been filled and are not a natural fit for Rudd.
Rudd has long been thought to be positioning himself for a later tilt for Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The current Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s first term expires at the end of 2011 and lobbying for potential nominees will start shortly. Ban has the potential to serve a second but has been a bureaucrat disappointment to many in the role compared to his prominent predecessor Kofi Annan.
While Rudd’s chances for the UN’s top job are not out of the question, they are incredibly unlikely.
His efforts on climate change and foreign aid started out well, but both crumbled in the face of politics and the financial crisis respectively. As the two stalwarts of the global body at the moment it is unlikely they would elect someone with such a bad track record on them. His hope would be that the United States and others like China would see him as a pragmatist on these issues to offset the often heavily idealistic body.
Politics aside, generally the role is rotated among regions and with Ban’s origin in South Korea it is unlikely he will be succeeded by another Asian. If Australia falls under the ‘Western European and
Others’ grouping even then it is unlikely as they have held the role more than double any others.
The Bretton Woods institutions like World Bank and IMF are also probably off the cards given his lack of expertise or taste for economics and finances. Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown would
be a much better fit here anyway, particularly given his experience as Chancellor and commitment to the world’s poor.
So while Rudd may not end up directing a global body, not all hope is lost.
Just like former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke became the head of the UN’s Development Project, a smaller agency directorship is highly possible.
While his Asia Pacific community idea has left him with few friends in the Asian institutional sphere who would support a role for him there, his efforts in helping bring about the G20 might be different.
Rudd was central to the efforts to see the G20 emerge as the main executive global decision body over the G8 in response to the financial crisis. Having earned in its stripes on this it is now time for the G20 to begin to institutionalize for the future by widening its agenda and creating a secretariat.
All this begs the question: is there any place left for Kevin Rudd in the world?
Thom Woodroofe, 20, is the Young Victorian of the Year and founder of Left Right Think-Tank. Email him on email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @thomwoodroofe
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