Truth, Kevin Rudd and the UN…

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

Those who keep up with Australian politics will know of the debate surrounding the government’s decisions not to formally nominate former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to be appointed as the secretary-general of the United Nations. There are those who see it as sheer vindictiveness (‘petty, partisan, vindictive’ to use the words of a former Labor foreign minister Gareth Jones)- the current government unwilling to back a fellow Australian simply because he has been on the other side of politics. They also see it as a serious breech of protocol, where ambassadorial appointments and the like have usually risen above partisan party preferences, and are made on merit. The other side feel this is exactly the point – the appointments have been made on merit, and they believe Rudd’s nomination would at best have lacked merit, and at worst, that it could be dangerous for world peace. It has been a bitter debate, and a reminder of the deep divisiveness that has come to be associated with Kevin Rudd.

Put yourself into Malcom Turnbull’s shoes. For those outside of the Australian loop, Turnbull is our current Prime Minister – but who knows for how long. He is hanging on in parliament by the slenderest of margins (a majority of 1), and has more than a fair few enemies – largely within his own ranks. He finds himself in the awkward position of originally having told Rudd he backed his nomination, but it appears that he has been pressurised to change that position, although he claims that he has had a genuine change of mind – one of many such changes since the reality of being a very vulnerable Prime Minister has sunk home. Rudd’s publication of Turnbull’s earlier support has only inflamed the debate further.

Given that I rarely make any political comment on this blog, why am I bothering to report on this fiasco? Simply put, it strikes me that there are many issues at stake here. Repeatedly it has been said that it is the governments duty to back whatever Australian has a hope of securing the post – in this instance it happens to be Rudd, and therefore those who follow this logic, feel he should have been backed.

Think about it… this nomination is for secretary-general of the United Nations – arguably the most important political position in the world. This is the person who more than any other, has to intervene in times of political crisis and endeavour to guide negotiations to a peaceable outcome – one that is fair to all, especially to the most vulnerable on this planet. And here we are surrounded by people yelling, ‘back the Aussie, come what may’. Why – well because they’re Australian, and that’s all that counts. Really?

It doesn’t really matter what side of politics you sit on, you can’t deny that Rudd’s brief prime ministerships (his second round was for a few weeks) were characterized by bitter division and acrimony – largely between people who were on the same team as he was. Indeed, a former Labour premier of New South Wales Kristina Keneally (a Labour premier note, so in the same political party as Rudd) went on TV to say that she knew at least a dozen candidates better suited to the post than Rudd, one of which was her Labrador… And she also called him a bully, and a psychopathic narcissist. Ouch. I imagine she won’t get a dinner invite to the Rudd’s any time soon…

The stunningly obvious question to ask is, ‘Given that Rudd has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in bringing Australian’s together, why would we ever contemplate rewarding his disastrous leadership style with a yet more significant position? Doesn’t the UN need better leadership?’

To me it falls into the no-brainer category. While undoubtedly Kevin Rudd has many fine qualities and is a person of remarkable intellectual ability, he clearly would not be the right candidate for this post. Why do so many find it so hard to state the obvious… And what does it say about us if we allow nationalism to so quickly cloud our judgement?

But then this is not a new problem. Move away from the world of politics to the more modest level of the local church and you quickly find people filling posts for which they are clearly unsuited… and no one says a word. We often see people doggedly doing things that they are not gifted for, and politely refrain from comment. Telling the truth seems to hard – or too offensive.

So how do we go about having tough conversations… saying things that people really don’t want to hear – but need to hear.

It seems to me that when it comes to truth telling, there are three principles that should guide us…

  1. We should speak the truth. Yes – people’s feelings matter… but so does truth matter. If we find we say one thing to a person’s face, and another when we are away from it, there is something deeply wrong.
  2. The Bible instructs us to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Often it is best to keep silent until you actually care about the person you are going to have the difficult conversation with. Part of care is getting to understand the person and why they act as they do. This can take time… But it is often time richly repaid.
  3. The Bible also celebrates what it calls ‘a word in season’ (Prov 15:23). There are times when people can hear truth if it is lovingly spoken to them… and there are times we have to put it on hold until they are in a better place and more able to grapple with the changes that might be needed.

Put these three together and we should 1. speak the truth 2. in love and 3. at the right time. All three components matter.

While having such conversations might seem hard, honest robust conversations usually do good and should not be avoided. People don’t thrive when they are in the wrong position – everyone suffers, including the person wrongly placed. Kevin Rudd appears to have been doing a magnificent job until he became Prime Minister. It is not as though there are not many valuable things he can do in the world… But potentially be the broker for world peace… Please. And that is as true for those you see struggling in positions for which they are clearly unsuited as it is for Kevin Rudd. Have the confidence that God has something better for them to do – and have the conversation.

I guess this has been a different kind of post to my norm. I’ve been struck by how our inability to say obvious things in the political forum seems to reverberate all the way through our society – and is even mirrored in the church. Perhaps it is time for those of us who are in the church to model tough but open, respectful, hopeful and charitable conversations, while still holding firmly on to truth…

As always, nice chatting…



  1. A very worthy read Brian on a topic that is important to get our heads and hearts around. Not the topic necessarily of Mr Rudd, but the topic of gently speaking truth into life situations. There is lots of black and white in the greyness of most life …


  2. Thought provoking, Brian. Great article and couldn’t agree more. God bless, Jonas

  3. Good comment Brian and I fully endorse the observation that churches have often put round pegs in square holes! Always to the detriment of the individual, and usually the hu
    Church. I’m sure that this has seen many good people give up on a calling to ministry

  4. I totally agree that as Christians we are mandated to speak the truth in love at the correct time. Too long have Christians taken the easy option by not saying anything. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
    ??Ephesians? ?6:12? ?NIVUK??

  5. Very well written Brian, as per usual

    • Thanks John. Hope things are going well for you.

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