A long time ago now I wrote about the problems I saw in Mr Rudd's management style. He has become a polarising figure within his own party and more broadly within Australia. At the same time, I have never doubted his intellect, his capacity for hard work, his very genuine and deep interest in international affairs and in the UN. I have also admired his ability to move on.
Looking at the way events have unfurled, the first question I asked myself was whether Mr Rudd was a credible candidate. The second was would his nomination embarrass Australia. My answer to the first question was yes, the answer to the second no. I also asked myself whether or not Mr Rudd might do some good in the role. My answer here was yes.
I then tried to think about the Australian position. From an Australia foreign policy perspective, was Mr Rudd the best candidate? I am not a foreign policy expert. My feeling was quite possibly not. Here I am a little biased. I have a personal preference for former NZ PM Helen Clarke.
The question then was would an Australian nomination of Mr Rudd lock Australia into supporting him? I didn't know. It is the UN that makes the decision. In this first "contested" appointment, it would be good for the UN to have a wide choice. My gut judgement was that Australia could nominate Mr Rudd to provide choice without having to commit to his candidature. Later, the letters released suggested that Mr Rudd was asking for very little in the way of support. The scope was there for a nomination, for appropriate support without fully committing.
The events that finally unfolded throw a dark light on the maturity and judgement of Australia's political players. Within both Labor and Coalition parties, there were examples of the way in which past political angst affected a decision that should have had nothing to do with that angst. I have commented before on the inward parochial nature of Australia's political debate, the way in which that becomes the whole world ignoring broader issues.
The official expert recommendation from the Foreign Minister was effectively rejected by a Cabinet and Coalition parties unable to distinguish personality from policy and national interest. The inability of Cabinet to decide, to leave the issue to the PM, was a failure for Cabinet and PM. And then we have the final extraordinary result where the PM responded by rejecting Mr Rudd on the grounds that he was not suitable for the role in ways that can only be described as humiliating.
Let's be clear on this. It is the UN that makes the decision. In a way, the Australian Government is like the recruitment consultant putting forward a candidate for the job. The employer has to maker the judgement. These events have humiliated Mr Rudd and embarrassed Australia. Neither deserved that.