Beazley, Nelson rewarded
Friday September 18, 2009
KEVIN Rudd has given Brendan Nelson a new career €” just a day after the former Opposition leader trenchantly attacked the Government's emissions trading policy in his valedictory speech to Parliament.In Mr Rudd's latest, and most spectacular, example of bipartisanship, Dr Nelson will become ambassador to the European Communities, based in Brussels, where his job will include representing the Government's climate views.In a double announcement, Kim Beazley €” like Dr Nelson, a former opposition leader and former defence minister €” becomes ambassador to Washington. Mr Beazley, whom Mr Rudd beat for the Labor leadership in 2006, is chancellor of the Australian National University.Dr Nelson will also be the Australian Government's representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), where Afghanistan is the big issue for Australia, Australia's special representative to the World Health Organisation, and ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg.Mr Rudd sounded out Dr Nelson in general terms about the possibility of a government job on two occasions earlier this year, but the offer of the ambassadorship came only in the last fortnight €” after he announced he was leaving Parliament at the end of this month. Dr Nelson told Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull of the job shortly before the announcement yesterday morning.Asked whether he would be toeing the Government line on emissions trading, Dr Nelson said: "My job, obviously, will be to represent Australia's interests and the priorities of the Australian Government and to prosecute the position of the Australian Government on all issues."Mr Turnbull said both men were very qualified for their posts. Asked whether he felt a sense of betrayal that Dr Nelson, who takes up his post in February, was representing the Rudd Government, Mr Turnbull said: "Well Brendan will do his job professionally and if he's asked to represent policies that he may not have agreed with when he was in Parliament, he will do that professionally and represent the Government."Mr Rudd, when he was in Europe last year, promised to enhance relations with the European Union.The Prime Minister, who earlier appointed former Coalition deputy prime minister Tim Fischer to the Vatican, said he believed in harvesting "the talents of the nation. I'm serious about that". Whatever their political backgrounds, Mr Beazley and Dr Nelson "have now entered into the public service of the Australian nation".Mr Beazley, also taking up his post in February, succeeds Dennis Richardson, who returns this year to head the Foreign Affairs Department."I can't think of anything that I would rather do at this point of time and it's an expression of confidence which I profoundly appreciate," Mr Beazley said. "The United States is a country for which I have a very great affection." He had had dealings with it for a very long time, as a minister, opposition leader and academic.Shadow foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop said Dr Nelson was "ideally suited" to his new role. Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said the Government should be congratulated "for taking a national interest approach to these key appointments".The base salary for the Washington ambassador is about $220,000, and for the European post about $180,000. Mr Beazley and Dr Nelson retain their parliamentary pensions, although they will be reduced.