A matter of temperament: Australian PM Turnbull explains why he vetoed Rudd’s bid to lead UN

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 2:12pm

Australia’s prime minister said Friday he vetoed a predecessor’s bid for the top United Nations job because Kevin Rudd lacked the interpersonal skills and temperament to be a candidate.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had previously declined to explain his reasons for rejecting Rudd’s bid to succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon beyond saying that Turnbull’s former political opponent was not “well suited for that role.”

But Turnbull confirmed the reasons Rudd gave The Australian newspaper in an interview published on Friday.

“He (Rudd) has said in the paper today ... I said to him the reason he was unsuitable for the job was his interpersonal skills and temperament — well, I wouldn’t dispute that,” Turnbull told Radio 3AW.

Rudd told the newspaper of their telephone conversation last week: “Mr Turnbull said that in his judgment, I had neither the interpersonal skills nor the temperament to be a candidate.”

Rudd said Turnbull would not discuss submissions to his conservative Cabinet from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or Australian diplomats in Washington and New York that supported his candidacy.

Rudd also said Turnbull had initially supported his bid as Rudd spent two years unofficially lobbying governments around the world to support his campaign.

Turnbull said he was aware that some of Rudd’s former centre-left Labor Party government colleagues had described their former prime minister as a “control freak” and a “narcissistic psychopath.” But Turnbull declined to say whether he agreed with those descriptions.

“I have noted that... I’m not going to get into a commentary on Mr Rudd. I was very frank with him,” Turnbull said.

The government’s decision to stymie an Australian’s chances of becoming the world’s top diplomat has been widely criticised as a triumph of petty domestic politics over national interest.

Australia traditionally gives bipartisan support to former politicians who seek international appointments in the interests of increasing Australian diplomatic influence.

The decision has also been interpreted as evidence of Turnbull’s diminished influence within his conservative government after it was returned with a single-seat majority at elections a month ago.

Rudd did not immediately respond to a request for comment.