The appointment of Australia’s Ambassador to the US is one of the two most important diplomatic appointments any Australian Prime Minister will make, the other of course being to the United Kingdom.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the appointment of former Prime Minister, Dr Kevin Rudd, a key political ally during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era to the plum job. Mr Albanese served as Leader of the House during that period and then was elevated by Dr Rudd to become Deputy Prime Minister in the dying days of the last iteration of the Rudd Government.
Whilst it is not an appointment many would have made on the conservative side of politics, the fallout of the decision to appoint Dr Rudd now falls fairly and squarely with the Prime Minister. He will now own this decision.
Dr Rudd’s appointment to Washington needs to be seen in the context of recent commentary by the Prime Minister. During the federal election campaign, then Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese told 4BC radio Brisbane that speculation surrounding Dr Rudd’s appointment to Washington was “complete nonsense” and then in response to claims made by the Australian that Dr Rudd would be appointed to Washington under a Labor Government, Mr Albanese said that such claims were “total garbage.”
Mr Wallace, who is the Deputy Chair of both the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and the Defence Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade said that Mr Albanese was developing quite a history of inconsistent statements.
“Prior to the election, Mr Albanese publicly stated that Australians would be paying $275 p.a. less on their power bills under his Government. We now know that according to Treasury estimates in the October Budget that power prices are expected to surge by 56% and gas prices by 46% over the next 2 years.” Mr Wallace said. “Even with Labor’s unprecedented market intervention rushed through Parliament last week, that increase will be in the order of around 47%, at a cost to Australian tax payers of some $3B for a market intervention expected to last only 12 months.”
“Further, Dr Rudd’s appointment comes at a time when the Labor Government has announced the abolition of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the wholesale sacking of Tribunal Members appointed by the previous Coalition Government, alleging ‘cronyism’. This Government has talked the big talk about honesty and integrity in Government, but these recent decisions demonstrate that Mr Albanese is more interested in playing politics, silencing its critics, settling old scores and rewarding political allies.”
Mr Wallace said that Dr Rudd should clarify to the Australian people, as their most senior diplomat to the US, as to whether he stands by his previous comments he made about Australia’s decision to enter into the AUKUS Agreement and build nuclear powered submarines with the assistance of the US and the UK. Dr Rudd said in an interview with SBS in September 2021:
“I suspect there was a domestic political agenda at play, which was for Scott Morrison to make himself look big, important and hairy-chested in dealing with his domestic Australian political audience on the nature of the China challenge. And he saw the French relationship as expendable.”
At a time where there is bi-partisan support for AUKUS and an acknowledgment that we live in the most challenging geo-politically unstable period since the end of WWII, Prime Minister Albanese should clarify why he appointed Dr Rudd to steer Australia’s involvement in the AUKUS Agreement with our most important security partner, in circumstances where Dr Rudd considers that the AUKUS agreement was simply throwing red meat to the conservative base.
Love him or loathe him, Donald Trump was the 45th President of the United States. Just last month, President Trump announced that he intended to make a third run for the Office of President. It is possible that Dr Rudd could be Australia’s Ambassador to the United States with Donald Trump as its 47th President.
Prime Minister Albanese should answer whether in those circumstances, the appointment of Dr Rudd would be in Australia’s best interests where Dr Rudd has consistently publicly criticised the actions of President Trump, over a number of years, recently describing him on Twitter as “the most destructive President in history”. It remains to be seen whether those chickens will come home to roost for Dr Rudd in Washington.
Prime Minister Albanese’s appointment of Dr Rudd as Ambassador to the United States will either go down in history as an act of brilliance albeit a “courageous” reward for a political ally (in a Sir Humphrey Appleby sense), or a foreign policy disaster for Australia with its most important ally.