Kevin Rudd’s appointment as ambassador to US offers risks and rewards for Anthony Albanese

The appointment of Kevin Rudd as US ambassador poses huge risks and equally substantial rewards for Anthony Albanese.

Albanese’s decision to send a former prime minister and close confidante to Washington underscores Labor’s commitment to AUKUS and the US alliance more broadly, if any reassurance were needed.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announce Kevin Rudd will be Australia’s next ambassador to Washington.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

It places a deep strategic thinker and China expert – who recently warned we have just five years to prevent war with Beijing – in the capital of our most consequential allies and guarantees Australia has a direct line to the White House.

Rudd was recently awarded a Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University on the subject of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and while he will have to step down from his role as head of the Asia Society and cut off his media commentary, his views will be sought in the corridors of power in Washington.

The newly named ambassador is respected in Washington by both Democrats and traditional Republicans. His friendships range from President Joe Biden’s top Asia adviser, Kurt Campbell, through to Paula Dobriansky, a Republican who worked in senior positions for Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush. She heaped praise on Rudd when he was mooted as a possible Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Kevin Rudd is widely respected in the US by Democrats and Republicans.

Kevin Rudd is widely respected in the US by Democrats and Republicans. Credit:Bloomberg

He could be the most qualified person ever appointed Canberra’s Ambassador to Washington – and he has had some seriously illustrious predecessors: the outgoing ambassador Arthur Sinodinos; former treasurer Joe Hockey; and former opposition leader Kim Beazley, to name only the most recent three.

But the risks of the Rudd appointment are also manifest and surfaced immediately at the press conference Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong held on Tuesday.

Few people have forgotten the rhetorical firebombing of the former prime minister’s character by his own colleagues in the fallout from the Rudd-Gillard leadership wars. The then-treasurer Wayne Swan issued a statement in 2012 saying Rudd had “no Labor values”; Kristina Keneally later called him a “psychopathic narcissist”; and former attorney general Nicola Roxon called him a “bastard… who burnt [good people] like wildfire” during a keynote lecture on her time in office.

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