Saturday salon 30/7

1. We need to talk about Kevin

Ambigulous already has.

Malcolm Turnbull, in a captain’s pick after cabinet couldn’t agree has seen fit not to nominate Kevin Rudd for the top job at the UN, as the Hawke Government supported Malcolm Fraser for the post of Secretary General of the Commonwealth, or the Howard Government supported Gareth Evans to be head of UNESCO.

The first thing you need to know is that Rudd says he was repeatedly assured by Turnbull that Turnbull would support him.

Turnbull’s word is worthless and he is entirely beholden to the most reactionary elements of the LNP.

Personally I think Rudd was a reforming PM who achieved a great deal, but his management style was bad enough to justify tipping him out of the job. With the wisdom of hindsight that should have been done after the 2010 election, which I think he would have won.

So personally I wasn’t rooting for him. Two things caused me pause. One is I heard Professor Ramesh Thakur from the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU and former UN assistant secretary-general say on NewsRadio that Rudd was highly regarded internationally, and that it would be “extraordinary”, petty and parochial for us not to put his name forward as a “credible” candidate.

Secondly, I think Julie Bishop’s support means something. I’ve come to respect her more than most in her job. I don’t think Turnbull himself has the international experience yet to make an assessment.

Here’s what Prof Thakur said about Rudd’s candidature and the whole process on July 20.

Peter Hartcher says they thought they were making a decision about Kevin Rudd, but they were mistaken, they were making a decision about themselves, and they flunked it.

Mark Kenny has the story.

Kim Beazley supported Turnbull, saying we should be campaigning for a woman.

Kristina Keneally described Kevin Rudd as as a ‘psychopathic narcissist’, suggesting her dog would make a better candidate for the UN secretary-general.

She may have thought so but she diminished herself by saying it.

Michelle Grattan says it was character assassination by silence, unacceptable, makes us look whacky and shows Turnnbull in thrall to the tribal right.

Mark Beeson, Professor of International Politics, University of Western Australia, thought Rudd was worth a punt, might have actually achieved something in the job, and should have been supported. Turnbull chose to look churlish on the international stage rather than stare down some of the recalcitrants in his own party,

Personally I like Helen Clark, but her seven-year stint at the UN Development program was not all sweetness and light.

2. ACCC chief slams privatisation

To use his term, he gave it an “uppercut”.

After 30 years of supporting privatisation because of its efficiency, ACCC chief has come to the conclusion that it harms the economy. He said:

    Selling public assets has created unregulated monopolies that hurt productivity and damage the economy…


    In a blistering attack on decades of common government practice, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the sale of ports and electricity infrastructure and the opening of vocational education to private companies had caused him and the public to lose faith in privatisation and deregulation.


    Mr Sims said he was growing “exasperated” as governments including the Commonwealth became more explicit in trying to maximise proceeds from asset sales.

3. The Nordic model

American reporter Ann Jones gave up on  the futility of reporting truths about America’s disastrous wars, and so she left Afghanistan for another mountainous country – Norway – where she lived a pleasant and relaxed life for four years. Thinking she should settle down she returned to America.

    It felt quite a lot like stepping back into that other violent, impoverished world, where anxiety runs high and people are quarrelsome.

The US seemed backward to her.

In Norway people worked 37 hours a week in a job they enjoyed and spent the rest of the time enjoying life.

She found that not even Bernie Sanders seemed to understand how the economy worked. Sanders was against the public ownership of the means of production, but the Norwegian government owns lots of public assets and is the major stockholder in many vital private enterprises. They also have plenty private start-ups.

Perhaps Rod Sims should take a look and tell us what he thinks.

4. Mojgan Shamsalipoor and Peter Dutton’s cold, cold heart

Australian Story this week told the story of Iranian asylum seeker Mojgan Shamsalipoor (outline here) who doesn’t fit the rules because the persecution was not political or religious, it was from family members. She was raped by her step-father and then forced to marry a 60-year old. Her mother paid for her to come here with her brother, where she married the son of an Iranian refugee. Both attended Yeronga High School in Brisbane.

Apparently if you marry an Australian you have to go back to where you came from, apply from there, and then there is no guarantee.

Her expectation is that she would be tortured and probably killed if she returned to Iran, the more so because she and her husband are of the Bahá’í faith.

Seems the Australian Government has locked up all the Iranian asylum seekers while it tries to negotiate an agreement with Iran to send them back.

5. Australia’s shame at Don Dale

You’d have to be under a rock not to have heard about the brutish treatment handed out to kids under detention at NT’s Don Dale detention centre, revealed in a Four Corners report.

You might not know that the NT Government is suing the abused boys for damage caused in an escape attempt.

Also, leading NT Aboriginal organisations are more than upset, they are furious about lack of consultation and involvement in the Royal Commission. They see it as compromised from the start.

They are particularly upset about the appointment of former NT Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Martin to head the probe. They see him as not independent, and I think part of the problem.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

16 thoughts on “Saturday salon 30/7”

  1. Brian

    Thank you once again for a comprehensive report, this time about the Kevin Rudd nomination.

    I agree that he was a reforming PM and clever. But unsuited to the UN role. You are correct in mentioning earlier nominations “by the other side”; indeed Mr Rudd made a few of those, and drew attention to them, early in his first term.

    But doesn’t that tell us only that such a nomination is not unprecedented? I don’t believe it shows us the nomination would be wise.

    To digress to Victorian Values, it would be possible to appoint Eddie McGuire to an official anti-discrimination position. Anything goes in Victoria. But many would regard him as unsuited to such a role, quite possibly including Eddie himself.

    Through knowledge, interests and temperament, Mr Whitlam was suited to his UNESCO role in Paris. Many reasonable appointments like this have been made.

    Unfortunately I have to agree with the scallywags who suggested foisting Kevin on the UN would make sense only if you wanted to weaken it from within.

    Apologies for being so harsh.

    Haere mai.

  2. Ambigulous, the point the Prof Mark Beeson made was that the tendency, once you’d satisfied the conflicting interests within the UN Security Council, was to appoint a compromise candidate who wouldn’t rock the boat too much. Beeson says that’s not Rudd, and if they appointed him he was bound to rock the boat, and might actually make a difference, which would be a useful change.

    Other commentary from the Murdoch Press (don’t know about the Oz) was that Turnbull stuffed up. That included in the CM Laurie Oakes and Dennis Atkins. The CM editorial called it a brutal blow to Turnbull’s leadership.

    In the AFR Laura Tingle reminded us that Rudd was the prime mover in getting the G20 revamped and focussing on the GFC. I recall Obama wanted a smaller grouping based on the G8 as it then was.

    He was also behind Australia getting a seat on the Security Council.

    Phillip Coorey goes into what Rudd did in office. He talks about a cabinet meeting where Albo slid a file across the table and said:

    “Just once I’d like to end cabinet without giving a job to a bloody Tory,” he said.

    They’d just reappointed Kathryn Greiner as chairwoman of Hearing Australia.

    By the time he got to appointing Beazley to US ambassador, he’d appointed 10 Tories, including Bruce Baird, Robert Hill and the former Nationals leader Tim Fischer.

    When he appointed Beazley he twinned it with appointing Brendon Nelson to ambassador to the European Union and NATO.

    At the same press conference, Rudd let it be known he was lining up a job for former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello who had already announced his retirement and would leave following the bi-election for his seat.

    Six weeks later, Costello was appointed to the Future Fund board of guardians.

    In 2011, when Gillard was PM and Rudd foreign affairs minister, they did not did not put forward Costello as the chairman of the IMF after disgraced sex pest Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced out. Swan had already signed up to support Canada to push for a Mexican who didn’t get up.

    Apparently this was held against Rudd at the cabinet meeting.

    I think account should have been taken of what Rudd has done post his political career. I don’t know much about it, which is why I’d take notice of Prof Ramesh Thakur and Julie Bishop.

  3. Barnaby Joyce has intervened saying it was a cabinet majority decision, not a captains call. Further that they took account of the character references Rudd’s Labor colleagues had given him.

    Also missed above was the fact that in May Turnbull had suggested to Rudd that he withdraw to avoid humiliation.

    Rudd still says that Turnbull told him that cabinet approval would not affect the outcome.

    To be honest I’d take Rudd’s word over Turnbull’s.

    Nevertheless, the ABC replayed Rudd’s expletive laden dummy spit, and anyone seeing that would not give him a job to do anything.

  4. A couple of things on the NT Royal Commission.

    I understand the NT Government has withdrawn its case to sue the kids for damages.

    Stan Grant has made an angry speech on Indigenous rights in a public lecture he gave at the the U of NSW.

    Bill Shorten has called for the appointment of two Aboriginal co-commissioners.

  5. Turnbull hasn’t been having a good week. First of all he stuffed up on Don Vale by rushing in and setting up a royal commission apparently on the advice on the advice of the NT government and their choice of commissioner without consulting Aboriginal organizations and Labor nor during due diligence on the proposed commissioner who made what some consider very lenient sentencing on a case where white terrorists drove around scaring people camped in the Finke river before murdering an Aboriginal man.
    Then there was the Kevin Rudd case where Turnbull made a captain’s call against the advice of his foreign minister.
    Then there is the Mojgan Shamsalipoor case.

  6. John, I think one of the things that motivated Julia Gillard was seeing close up what a mess Rudd was making of fairly straightforward stuff. they say she used to clean out his in-basket every time he was away and she had to act.

    I wonder what Julie Bishop is thinking.

    But then being saddled with Barnaby Joyce and the Nats would cramp anyone’s style!

  7. On Kevin Rudd:

    Stupid, nasty little boys. And talk about a lack of leadership!!

    Kevin Rudd has the qualities that are needed for the UN’s chief cat-herder in the early 21st Century. He is not Trygvie Lie nor is he U Thant nor Kofi Annan – he doesn’t have to be; this is a different age.

    Further, since Helen Clark is more likely to be offered the position than Kevin Rudd, refusing to back Kevin Rudd does make the whole of Australia look bloody ridiculous. Backing Kevin Rudd, on the other hand, would have shown Australia as a founding member of the UN that still plays a very active part in world affairs …. and since Kevin Rudd is unlikely to actually be appointed, what harm is there in supporting him? (Apart from bare-faced hypocrisy, that is, but we talking about a gaggle of Australian political yes-men and scribblers so hypocrisy is a given).

    The good news is that this buffoonery has opened the way for the setting up of an Anti-Australian Activities Committee, so as soon as we can reopen some of the Detention Centres out in the desert, we can haul the Tribal Right before it and give them the opportunity to explain themselves over a lot of looted money (our money!) and over how they wrecked the Australian economy. Not sure what hard labour can be found for them once they are sentenced – digging a shipping canal from Lake Eyre to the sea, perhaps?

  8. On Rudd, there was a story in the paper today relating how Rudd befriended Turnbull after he’d lost the leadership to Abbott, had him around to dinner at Kirribilli and offered him a position as special envoy on climate change. That was when Turnbull had indicated he’d leave politics.

    Rudd is a bit of an enigma and definitely has flaws, but from the outset did the business at an international level as PM.

    I don’t think I mentioned it, but Katter is a good buddy of Rudd’s and was very cranky about the decision. I heard today Alexander Downer and Nick Minchin also backed Rudd.

  9. On Privatization:

    Why did it take the ACCC Chairman 30 years to wake up to what many of us have known all along? Privatization is only Reverse Communism but with far more inefficiency and waste than in the original Communism.

  10. Why did it take the ACCC Chairman 30 years to wake up to what many of us have known all along?

    Beats me, but ideology, or just call it fashion.

  11. Two developments.

    First Brian Martin has resigned as royal commissioner, basically because he didn’t have the confidence of Aboriginal groups. Turnbull might need to consult more broadly about a replacement.

    Warren Mundine says that while he supports the Commission, he doesn’t think it is necessary to tell us what to do.

    Secondly, a long-term ambassador has pointed out that Rudd is quite close to Hillary Clinton, and that the matter might not be decided when/if she becomes president. She could ask Turnbull to change his mind.

    The press has been saying Rudd is “furious”. There’s no evidence of that, but on form he may not have given up.

  12. Midnight looms and I’m not quite there yet with a new SS.

    Talking with my good wife is my excuse. After all these years we still do it!

Comments are closed.