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Howard loyalist Farmer to key diplomatic post

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is set to announce that Australia’s new ambassador to the United Nations in New York is none other than Bill Farmer, currently ambassador to Indonesia.

If confirmed, the appointment will stun loyal Labor supporters and bring into question the number of sandwiches in the PM’s lunch box.

Farmer is a root and branch Howard man. As Secretary of the Department of Immigration from 1998 to 2005, Farmer was at the heart of the children overboard affair.

It is a matter of record that Howard’s exaggerated and highly spiced account cost Labor the 2001 election. However, it brought promotion for Farmer: Howard awarded him the Centenary Medal in 2003, he was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2005, and in November 2005 he was given the plum posting to Jakarta.

Now Rudd is proposing to recall former senator Robert Hill as ambassador to the UN and send Farmer. Presumably, Rudd believes Farmer’s handling of asylum seeker issues and the disgraceful “Pacific solution” project will raise Australia’s profile at the United Nations.

Farmer is the second “children overboard” identity rewarded by Rudd. Jane Halton who was Executive Co-ordinator at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and chair of the government’s people smuggling task force during the affair was promoted by Howard in January 2002 to become Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing.

In September last year Rudd renewed her contract for another five years. Thank you, Kevin from Queensland, who seems to be the only person in Canberra who believes that the Health Department has improved its administration in the past seven years under La Halton.

But before we finish, there’s yet another Howard man being rewarded by the Rudd administration. Nick Warner, Secretary of Defence, since December 4, 2006, is tipped to become ambassador to Washington in place of Denis Richardson who will return to Canberra to run defence.

Richardson, the former Director-General of ASIO (1996-2005), has previously worked at foreign affairs, trade and immigration but this will be his first fulltime professional role with the generals, admirals and air vice marshals.

On his ASIO watch, the Australian Wheat Board sent bribes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with whom we went to war against. Despite recommendations from an official government inquiry, no one has ever been charged. Probably because none of the alleged offenders were Moslems.

Rudd has decided to handpick his general staff often without bothering to ask ministers for their input. He has already recruited three from the discredited NSW Labor Government and installed them in $400,000-a-year jobs: Roger Wilkins at Attorney-General’s; John Pierce at the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism; and Robyn Kruk at the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts.

If it all ends in tears, we know who to blame.

12
  • 1
    mirek
    Posted Monday, 2 February 2009 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    On his ASIO watch, the Australian Wheat Board sent bribes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with whom we went to war against. Despite recommendations from an official government inquiry, no one has ever been charged. Probably because none of the alleged offenders were Moslems.” This is obviously a backhanded slur, probably imagined by the author as witticism, however, the real cause for letting the AWB affair `slide` was that both parties were complicit, and an independent Royal Commission-type enquiry would have uncovered `inconvenient facts`. Overall, is seems that the hopes and expectations of millions of Australians who voted Labor, are being thrown overboard! Is there an alternative to the two-party system?

  • 2
    Julie
    Posted Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    No doubt there are benefits in having politicised staff at the top as they understand the need to deliver the government agenda without argument. Rewarding the Howard acolytes means that the Howard loyalists become Rudd loyalists.

    It might work if the dysfunction creeping into the public service can be stemmed. Whilst Rudd may see that having political savvy public servants can help him deliver his agenda what he will find is that their style gridlocks decision making and dissatisfaction builds and staff leave in droves making it even harder to deliver. Rudd has chosen people who know how to deal with criticism resulting from political decisions. How much better it would have been if he had chosen people who were good at their job.

  • 3
    WallyA
    Posted Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Ah well, it couldn’t last, not the great dream of wall to wall Labor stalwarts, not in the Year of The Ox!!

  • 4
    Pamela
    Posted Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Is it arrogance, stupidity or moral turpitude? I despair. Rudd must realise that the fact that he is not Howard will rub off eventually. We hated Howard and we can hate Rudd with the same fervour if he keeps this up. Farmer Bill to the UN- it is enough to make four of us in this office -puke!

  • 5
    Donna
    Posted Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Until Govt members do something about Rudd, its goodbye Labor from me and hullo Greens. These rewards to former Howard cronies, particularly Farmer are disgusting. There is not one reason imaginable why a Labor PM would bestow such a post on a man who set out to destroy Labor by not fair means but foul.
    Rudd has lost his marbles, the rumblings he is hearing are not peels of thunder in the distance.

  • 6
    barb
    Posted Friday, 30 January 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Oh oh oh,
    Is it me ? I do have trouble with this one. And thankyou Julie for your considered comment
    What have these luminaries got on Rudd?
    Surely , he is not that st*p*d , no?

    What with the awfullness of the Opposition federally and in my own state the Greens, due to the quality of their leadership ,look appealing.

  • 7
    Cathy
    Posted Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Rudd’s the Z-generation of politicians defined by setting themselves up for a glorious end. He’s plowed his way through government-funded family income schemes to top dog status guaranteeing a publicly-funded future around a profile retirement interest plus pension. Why put your children through university when careers in political parties are cradle to the grave investments.

  • 8
    Paul Davies
    Posted Friday, 30 January 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Mitchell’s drive-by smears of three very capable public servants show what a washed up hack he is. It’s an easy game to play - pick the most controversial thing to happen while a person is in a position and impugn their character by inference - but it’s cheap (and erroneous) talk that doesn’t even rise to being called journalism. If he had spent any time following the play in Australian foreign policy over the past thirty years he would know better.

    . Farmer has led Australian missions in Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia - the kind of places that, y’know, kind of matter to Australia
    . Warner has dome some brave and dangerous duty for Australia in Cambodia, Iran and PNG, among other places
    . Richardson - American policy makers would agree (if Mitchell had ever bothered to try calling any) - has positioned Australia well to transition from the Bush to Obama administrations without any disturbance to a very important relationship. As for ASIO’s supposed complicity in the AWB scandal, reading the relevant part of the Cole Inquiry report (as I did - it took ten minutes, more than the amount of time Mitchell took to research his piece, that’s for sure) it’s clear ASIO neither turned a blind eye or had reason to know what AWB was up to.

    Look, Australia’s diplomatic officials are fair game for criticism. But to caricature the commitment and capability of three very eminent public servants because Alex Mitchell hated John Howard is pretty contemptible, really, and reflects badly on Crikey for publishing such nonsense in the first place.

  • 9
    Gergyl
    Posted Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    On his ASIO watch, the Australian Wheat Board sent bribes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with whom we went to war against. Despite recommendations from an official government inquiry, no one has ever been charged. Probably because none of the alleged offenders were Moslems.”

    That’s how many bloopers in one para? Please can Crikey get itself just one lowly junior sub-editor…

  • 10
    pamela
    Posted Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Farmer Bill’s backers probably think that the Children Overboard lie was good politics, that interdicting and turning back sinking boats was a good example in the region. It worked- look at the effect it had on the Thai Navy who have been drowning Rohingya refugees for the past few months by talking the Aussie method for repelling refugees a step further. While the Australian Navy fired cannons over refugee boats and watched them sink, they at least rescued the refugees in most cases successfully. Sadly several drowned but this will happen with a high risk strategy. Bill Farmer was among the architects and executioners of Operation Relex so don’t anyone try the good bloke routine. We know too much.

  • 11
    JamesK
    Posted Thursday, 29 January 2009 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    I think this reflects well on Kevin Rudd.

    His biography on DFAT is very impressive: http://www.dfat.gov.au/homs/id.html

    Moreover during the Hawke primeministership from “1984 to 1987 he was Minister in the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York (from 1985 to 1986, Deputy Representative of Australia on the Security Council)”.

    Mitchell’s jibe: that “Despite recommendations from an official government inquiry, no one has ever been charged. Probably because none of the alleged offenders were Moslems” is so easy to throw but no substantial argument is put forward to back it.

    That says more about Mitchell than Farmer

  • 12
    pamela
    Posted Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Farmer Bill’s backers probably think that the Children Overboard lie was good politics, that interdicting and turning back sinking boats was a good example in the region. It worked- look at the effect it had on the Thai Navy who have been drowning Rohingya refugees for the past few months by talking the Aussie method for repelling refugees a step further. While the Australian Navy fired cannons over refugee boats and watched them sink, they at least rescued the refugees in most cases successfully. Sadly several drowned but this will happen with a high risk strategy. Bill Farmer was among the architects and executioners of Operation Relex so don’t anyone try the good bloke routine. We know too much.

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