Prime Minister John Key says he would still like Australia to support Helen Clark's bid for Secretary General but does not believe a Kevin Rudd campaign would hamper Clark's chances.
Australia's Government are expected to decide soon whether to formally nominate Rudd as a candidate. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop revealed yesterday that Rudd has asked for the nomination after Australia's election returned the Liberals-National Coalition Government.
Speaking in Indonesia, Key said he would be keen for Australia to support Clark and had lobbied for that with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after earlier securing an indication of support from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
However, he said it was up to Australia to decide.
"Obviously we would love it if the Australians would support Helen Clark... I think you'd appreciate though that if a country has a former Prime Minister that goes to the Government and asks them to support him for a particular position, then that's always a very difficult thing for the particular government in question, or certainly it can be a very difficult position."
Most government liked to see their own nationals succeed. "So in the end we'll see how it plays out. Hopefully the Australians will support Helen Clark but if they don't - well, we'll understand why."
Australia's Government has been luke-warm over Rudd and Key contrasted that with the "100 per cent commitment and support" his Government had shown for Clark, his former rival. "That is where our support lies and we don't do that in a reserved way. We do that because we genuinely hope she wins."
That support included agreeing to fund her campaign, loaning her a team of Mfat advisors, and Key's personal advocacy for Clark with his international counterparts.
He also made a coded reference to Rudd's late entry after the candidates had debated each other and spoken in the General Assembly. He said Clark had proven her mettle "over the course of the more transparent part of the process."
He did not believe Rudd would impact on Clark's bid, saying the final result could come down to politics rather than merit, such as the call for an Eastern European candidate to have a go. "In some respects, I'm not sure it alters the dynamics much if Kevin Rudd puts his name forward. He is a candidate some people support but equally some might not. All we can do is do what we are doing, which is give Helen all the support we can."
He said it was unlikely Clark would be vetoed by any of the five Permanent Members on the Security Council. "Personally I think it's time the UN had a woman at the helm. I think Helen Clark has by far the best credentials."