Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Phil Goff calls for Australia to back Helen Clark for UN role

Kevin Rudd has asked to be nominated for the UN Secretary General role after months of speculation he would move to join the field. Photo / File
Kevin Rudd has asked to be nominated for the UN Secretary General role after months of speculation he would move to join the field. Photo / File

Labour MP Phil Goff says Australia should turn down Kevin Rudd's request to run for UN Secretary General and back Helen Clark because she was more likely to be successful.

The Australian Government is expected to decide at a Cabinet meeting next week whether it will formally nominate Rudd for the role. Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed yesterday Rudd had now asked to be nominated after months of speculation he would move to join the field.

Goff, a former Foreign Affairs Minister under the Clark-led Government, said Australia may feel compelled to support Rudd. "But given Helen Clark is at least in the group of front runners, Australia might contemplate whether backing the most likely candidate from the region to win would be a preferable option for them."

He said Clark was better placed than Rudd - and had a subtle dig at Rudd's bumpy double stint as Australia's Prime Minister, referring to Clark's length of service as Prime Minister compared to Rudd's.

Rudd had "abilities" but Clark had a greater prospect of success. "Obviously it would be good for Australia, as it would be good for New Zealand, to have a Secretary General from this part of the world. So wouldn't you back the person most likely to succeed?"

Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten has called on the Australian Government to back Rudd, saying it was in the "national interest" to have an Australian at the head of the UN. However, while Clark's bid has strong support from the National Government as well as Labour in New Zealand, the Australian Government and some Labor party figures are divided on Rudd.

On Friday morning the Security Council will hold the first 'straw poll' to narrow down the field of 12 candidates so far but others can still join after that point. The Security Council is expected to pick a final candidate by October.

So far there are 12 candidates for the role, not including Rudd. They are Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Helen Clark (New Zealand), Christiana Figueres (Costa Rica), Natalia Gherman (Moldova), Antonio Guterres (Portugal), Vuk Jeremic (Serbia), Srgan Kerim (Macedonia), Miroslav Lajcak (Slovakia), Igor Luksic (Montenegro), Susana Malcorra (Argentina), Vesna Pusic from Croatia, and Danilo Turk (Slovenia).

It is considered to be Eastern Europe's turn to hold the post although Clark has argued it should be based on merit rather than region.

Clark's argument that the role should be selected on merit rather than region was echoed last week by the The Elders - a group of global leaders established in 2007.

Elders Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Lakhdar Brahimi, former Algerian Foreign Minister and UN diplomat, said the key decision would be made by the Security Council.

"It is crucial that that the five Permanent Members collectively recognise that merit must trump all other considerations, including regional rotation and gender ... Only an independent and courageous Secretary General, someone capable of building consensus and, at the same time, showing real moral leadership, can give the UN the confidence and credibility to gain lasting peace in our time."

They also called for a change to one seven year term rather than a five-year term with the option of a second term. They argued would allow a Secretary General to make changes such as reform of the Security Council without fear of jeopardising re-election hopes.

- NZ Herald

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