A split in federal cabinet yesterday meant the Prime Minister was left to make a captain’s call on whether to nominate Rudd for secretary-general of the United Nations.
“I have spoken to Mr Rudd in the last hour and advised him of that decision and the reasons for it,” Turnbull told reporters in Sydney today.
He said he would not go into the cabinet discussion.
“I do not want to add to Mr Rudd’s disappointment, but 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, would-be nominee is well suited for that position?
“My judgment is that Mr Rudd is not, and I’ve explained to him the reasons why.”
Turnbull said it was “far from the most important issue confronting the Government”.
The decision had nothing to do with Rudd being a former Labor leader, he said, pointing to Kim Beazley’s appointment as US ambassador.
“This is no disparagement of Mr Rudd – he is a former prime minister of Australia – but my judgment is that he is not well suited for this particular role,” Turnbull said.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney-General George Brandis are understood to have supported the nomination in cabinet. But a number of conservative ministers including Immigration Minister Peter Dutton spoke against it.
The Government has not yet decided who to support for the role.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said earlier today that it was important to back Australians.
“I mean, we are at the Olympics in a couple of weeks – guess what, we back the Australian,” he said.
“He is a former diplomat and it is petty that this is an issue.”
Acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said Rudd was a distinguished Australian who is widely respected as a foreign policy expert.
Following Turnbull’s announcement, Albanese wrote on Twitter: “Turnbull. Pathetic.”
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) July 29, 2016
Labor frontbencher Terri Butler added: “It seems Malcolm Turnbull has zero authority in his own cabinet”.
Conservative Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, who is due to go on a UN secondment later this year, said the decision “reflects the sentiments of a great many Australians”.
“Our participation in international institutions is more important than an individual’s ambition,” he said in a statement.
“While seeking to advance Australia’s stature on the world stage, we’ve got to do what’s right, rather than what’s politically expedient. The prime minister has done exactly that today.”
Labor MP and former Rudd campaign adviser Anthony Chisholm said: “You would almost think that elements of the Turnbull cabinet are setting the PM up to do maximum damage to his standing.”
A recent Essential poll found 45 per cent of Australians supported former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark for the UN job. Support for Rudd was at 21 per cent and a third said they didn’t know who they favoured.
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