THE mystery backer for former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s tilt at winning the United Nations top job was the Republic of Botswana. The southern African nation, home to meerkats and the world’s largest elephant population, was the country that secretly offered to nominate Mr Rudd as UN Secretary-General, despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s veto. It culminated in an extraordinary phone call from the President of Botswana Ian Khama to the Lodge on Saturday, August 13, to “test the waters’’ about nominating Mr Rudd. The call was witnessed by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who were dining with Mr Turnbull. The Prime Minister indicated that he would discuss it with senior colleagues but later called Mr Khama back and told him: “It’s ¬entirely a matter for you.’’
Mr Khama declined to comment publicly on his secret talks with Mr Turnbull when contacted, but heaped praise on Mr Rudd. “It may be further noted that Mr Rudd enhanced the already existing friendship and co-operation between our two countries during the time that he was Prime Minister, as reflected in part in President Khama’s 2010 state visit to Australia,’’ a spokesman said. Botswana’s secret offer to back Mr Rudd is at odds with Mr Turnbull’s public claim in New York on September 23 that no country had raised the issue. “Nobody has mentioned Kevin Rudd to me,” Mr Turnbull said at the UN. At the time, Botswana had already contacted him and Mr Rudd, who then wrote to Ms Bishop asking whether Australia would publicly campaign against him if another country nominated him. She did not respond, perhaps fearing Mr Rudd would leak the correspondence just as he had with his emails and texts with Mr Turnbull. As a result, Mr Rudd decided not to nominate.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council endorsed former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres as the next secretary-general. Despite Mr Turnbull’s public rebuke that Mr Rudd did not have the “temperament’’ for the job and Mr Rudd’s claim that Mr Turnbull had “concocted’’ his backflip, Botswana was still prepared to intervene. Mr Rudd’s personal connection with Botswana runs deep. He visited in 2002 for the wedding of his brother Greg to a local woman, Okhola Rudd, who had briefly worked as an exotic dancer in a Brisbane strip club. Mr Rudd’s backers still insist he may have had the support of up to four of five permanent members of the UN security council. It follows Mr Rudd’s tireless stealth campaign for the job that saw him travel the globe, using his status as a former prime minister to secure the public endorsement of East Timor for his candidacy.
Mr Rudd has ¬repeatedly refused to disclose the identity of his mystery backer but has confirmed he was approached by ¬another nation after Australia refused to endorse him. “Mr Rudd has not approached any governments, other than Australia, to endorse him as a candidate for UN Secretary-General,’’ a spokeswoman said. “Following the decision by the Australian government, another government approached Mr Rudd to nominate him. “Mr Rudd approached the Australian government more than six weeks ago asking if they would oppose such a nomination. He has received no reply and, as a result, Mr Rudd has ruled out this proposed nomination.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull torpedoes Kevin Rudd’s UN bid, announcing Australia will not nominate him on the grounds of “temperament’’ after cabinet splits.
Mr Rudd retaliates, releasing personal letters he claims prove Mr Turnbull promised to support his bid as recently as December. In one, dated May 1, Mr Rudd writes: “You in fact sent me a message ... where you stated that you and the FM (Foreign Minister) were ‘as one’ in your support for my candidature.”
Mr Turnbull complains about Kevin Rudd leaking the letters. “They were all confidential discussions, they were all private conversations,” he said.
President of Botswana Ian Khama calls Mr Turnbull seeking to “test the waters’’ over nominating Mr Rudd. Mr Turnbull calls back and tells him that Australia can’t stop another country nominating. Mr Rudd writes to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop asking if Australia will campaign against him. He gets no reply.
Mr Rudd releases his 65-page blueprint for the UN in New York, called UN 2030: Rebuilding Order in a Fragmenting World, described as a “cry from the heart’’ for UN reform.
In New York, Mr Turnbull denies any other country has approached him about his veto of Mr Rudd’s candidacy.
The Rudd camp retaliates. The same day, reports surface on Channel 7 that a “mystery country’’ is prepared to nominate him, but won’t say who.
Mr Rudd publicly confirms that another government approached him “to nominate him as a candidate for UN Secretary-General’’. “Mr Rudd approached the Australian government more than six weeks ago asking if they would oppose such a nomination. He has received no reply and as a result has ruled it out.”
Former prime minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres is formally nominated by the UN Security Council as Secretary-General.