Kevin Rudd given glowing endorsement by Lord Nicholas Stern for top United Nations job

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London: The world would “do very well to have” Kevin Rudd as United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) and “Australia ought to be proud to have him as a candidate,” one of the world’s leading economists says.

Lord Nicholas Stern has given the former prime minister a glowing endorsement ahead of Mr Rudd’s expected official nomination for the job in coming months.

Lord Stern, a former World Bank Chief Economist, former Secretary at Britain’s Treasury and author of the Stern Review on climate change told Fairfax Media that Mr Rudd is widely respected on the world stage and would make an outstanding Secretary-General.

“I think he has the experience, intelligence, know-how, judgement to do this extremely well and he’s a real leader,” Lord Stern said.

“He’s got all the skills plus leadership and he’s a man that people trust.”

Mr Rudd’s chances of winning the job are thought to be slim as it is Eastern Europe’s turn to hold the position and sentiment is strongly in favour for a first female UNSG. Mr Rudd has himself noted this, joking that because his name is not “Ruddovich” he is unlikely to win the ballot.

Mr Rudd has also already been endorsed by Dr Jose Ramos Horta, the face of East Timor’s independence struggle but been lampooned by some of his political opponents in Australia who believe he is not fit for the role, because of his performance as prime minister.

Lord Stern has worked with Mr Rudd for nearly a decade and extremely closely on climate change, an issue that contributed to Mr Rudd’s initial political demise in 2010.  After regaining the Labor leadership in 2013 but being defeated at the polls, Mr Rudd attended last year’s talks in Paris to push for the signing of a global deal to curb emissions which eluded world leaders, to his frustration, in 2009.

Lord Stern said Mr Rudd had helped lead the global debate on climate change.

“There are a couple of hundred countries in the world and the job of the Secretary General is to bring those people together and… that’s what Kevin has,” he said.

“He’s a great strategist, he sees the issues, he understands the detail. He’s a big picture man and a details man and he understands how to get people together to resolve what differences amongst them that there will inevitably be.”

Australians hold mixed views on Mr Rudd’s bid for job

Lord Stern’s endorsement came as polling conducted by the Labor Party’s official pollster UMR showed 62 per cent of those polled supported an Australian holding the position of UNSG.

The same poll showed 43 per cent disapproved of former Coalition Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s preference for the government to endorse New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark over Mr Rudd.

But more than half of those surveyed, 56 per cent said, they either did not know or did not support the Australian government supporting Mr Rudd for the job if and when he declares he is a candidate, compared to 44 per cent in favour.

The survey did not specifically question whether voters approved of Mr Rudd as a candidate.

UMR’s polling was conducted in February 2016, before a recent online Essential Media survey, which found just one in five voters supported Mr Rudd’s likely candidacy and twice as many, supported Ms Clark over Mr Rudd.

Time is running out for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to decide whether the government will back an Australian candidate before this weekend’s calling of a double-dissolution election.

Although Mr Rudd has not yet formally announced his is running for the job, it is widely known that he has been sounding out world leaders and testing support for the position, as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has noted.

The decision is to be taken to Cabinet but it’s not clear if the government will decide on the matter before the writs for an election are issued, possibly as early as Friday, or if the government can make such a decision before the July 2 election if it is in caretaker mode. This leaves little time for Mr Rudd to declare and secure a government endorsement before the new UNSG is chosen by the end of the year.

The issue was raised in Question Time by Labor’s Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek who asked Mr Turnbull ” Will the prime minister join with the opposition today on a bipartisan basis and support the nomination of an Australian candidate for the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations?”

Mr Turnbull called on Ms Plibersek to specify Mr Rudd as the candidate and mocked Labor’s leadership wars.

“There are 24 million Australians, and what the honourable member has omitted to mention is the name of the person she is actually proposing. I suspect it is somebody whose deficiencies she has set out in great detail at various times,” he said.

“In the event of this matter becoming a live one, certainly the cabinet will consider it and give it due attention,” the prime minister told Parliament.

Lord Stern is currently at the prestigious London School of Economics and last week hosted the head of the OECD for a debate on the dangers of Britain leaving the EU. These included the possible loss of easy access for Australian financial business operating out of London using the so-called “passporting system” to bypass local regulations and more easily target European markets.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald