National Security Committee Meetings and past and present PMs

Previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (left) walking in the garden thoroughfare of the Australian Parliament House complex with his Chief of Staff, Alister Jordan (right), photo from 2008

Kevin Rudd with Alister Jordan in 2008

Question: if, (as I suspect), on the occasions that Kevin Rudd had his senior staffer sit in for him on National Security Committee of Cabinet meetings, either Julia Gillard as Deputy PM and/or the Minister of Defence was there, is there really any problem at all with the judgement of any of the senior government ministers involved?

To take a limited lead from a fictional example set in a different country with a not-entirely-identical system, didn’t we all see Chief of Staff Leo McGarry chair JCS security meetings in the White House Situation Room while Jed Bartlet dealt with the presidential schedule on West Wing? None of the stock Republicans on The Hill rose in the House to excoriate President Bartlett for this, did they? If the Head Of Government not attending every such security meeting really is such a big deal, wouldn’t a TV drama based on how such things get spun as part of partisan politics have played at least once with the idea in 7(?) seasons?

Seriously, just how many senior members of Cabinet really need to be present for every single NSCC meeting?

This leak smacks totally of senior defence and/or police personnel feeling slighted by the age of Alister Jordan sitting in as Rudd’s representative. Jordan may “only” be 31, but he was Rudd’s Chief of Staff, the most senior person in the PMO after Rudd himself, not some junior office boy. The Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Office is surely entirely the right person for Rudd to delegate as his representative at meetings that he cannot himself attend. Questions that have been raised regarding Rudd’s judgement in appointing Jordan in the first place are, or at least damn well should be, an entirely separate issue from whether the PM’s Chief of Staff is an adequately serious and responsible level of prime-ministerial representation at senior-level meetings that the PM cannot, for whatever reason, attend.

The Opposition says the revelations show that Mr Rudd is not fit to be a minister in a future Labor government.

The committee, attended by senior officials including the chief of the Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police commissioner, is where some of the most important decisions of government are made.

One senior official said that in his nearly 30 years of dealing with this committee and its earlier incarnations he could not remember a prime minister treating it with such disdain.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop says, if true, the claims mean Mr Rudd should not be considered for any ministerial position in a future government.

The Opposition is also trying so hard to paint this leak as coming from a Labor Cabinet figure – disunity in Labor! Danger, El Ectorate, danger! – that, in combination with the quote I’ve bolded above, it only makes me more sure that it’s actually coming from an old-school-Tory-leaning defence or police official.

It’s interesting to note how the two-smears-for-the-price-of-one spin on Rudd’s first day campaigning in his own electorate as “sucking oxygen from Gillard’s federal campaign” echoed this narrative: the idea that Rudd is such a loose (and disloyal) cannon, obviously not fit for senior office and that thus Gillard is not fit for senior office either if she gives him a Cabinet position. Oh yes, how dare he get his office to send out press releases about where he would be for his local election campaign (shock! the gall!), and then not give the milling press pack any juicy #spill soundbites?

Then we get another two-smears-for-the-price-of-one spin on Rudd’s consideration of taking up a position on a UN panel for climate change:

Mr Rudd, who discussed the post further with Mr Ban when in New York last week, said the panel would be comprised of many former and current heads of government, foreign ministers and ministers from developed and developing nations.

Obviously, if Rudd is re-elected as MP for Griffith (high probability) and then given the Minister for Foreign Affairs post (also high probability), being part of such a panel would actually be part of his duties, not some part-time perk at all. Surely he should be considering the role seriously given his understanding of his future prospects, and talking about it is being transparent about how he sees what the job of Foreign Minister entails. Gillard surely should be happy to have someone so willing to look into larger aspects of the Foreign Minister’s international role. But yet again, it’s being spun as Rudd the loose cannon and Gillard being irresponsible to want him in her Cabinet.

a red-white-blue poster in the style of the Obama HOPE poster, showing Opposition Leader Tony Abbott with the word NOPE underneathDon’t fall for it, Julia. Don’t fall for it, Kevin. The LibNats and the media magnates are so shit-scared that there will be a rapprochement between Rudd and Gillard that will look good to the electorate, that they are trying to set up great walls of division between them. Don’t let them get in the way of the larger message.

Categories: culture wars, media, parties and factions

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8 replies

  1. That was one of the xxxest news stories to lead a bulletin. I couldn’t believe that the ABC used it to lead off their new 24-hour news channel. Their one and only interview on the story seemed to totally contradict their claims that it was even a scandal.
    I’m kind of curious to know why they seem to have such an agenda to drive Rudd out of politics? What is going on?

  2. I remember when the polls reported that Rudd and Gillard both scored higher on the preferred Prime Minister than Tony Abbott, it was reported as a problem for the ALP.
    There’s been far too much work put into making this sound like a close race between deadlocked rivals (aka reason to watch the election coverage + ratings etc) rather than a one sided stomping that looked likely from the moment the results rolled inat the last polling day.

  3. And then you get Piers Akerman in the Terror claiming that the ABC has a left wing bias. I’m not going to give them linkjuice.

  4. My first thought like your was “But Leo McGarry goes to that secret meeting of the generals, and when he can’t there’s always Josh Lyman.” But the principal difference is that in West Wing Land the Cabinet is appointed from the population, not from elected representatives. At a guess, without knowing what the rules about the quorum and membership of the Australian committee, it’s probably a breach of something like ministerial responsibility to send an unelected official in your place rather than a special minister of state of something especially if they’re voting or something rather than reporting back to Cabinet as a whole. Are they actually saying he spoke FOR the Prime Minister?
    But my second thought was who apart from inner cabal of government would really care? Is it going affect the polls?

  5. Are they actually saying he spoke FOR the Prime Minister?

    If they are then they don’t know what they are talking about.

  6. @mary bennet, I’m with Mindy.

    At a guess, without knowing what the rules about the quorum and membership of the Australian committee, it’s probably a breach of something like ministerial responsibility to send an unelected official in your place rather than a special minister of state of something especially if they’re voting or something rather than reporting back to Cabinet as a whole.

    But nobody has provided any evidence that Rudd didn’t attend himself whenever there was a crisis or a vote on something in the NSCC meetings. The claim is only that “sometimes” he sent his Chief of Staff instead, and oh the horror.
    As far as I know, Ministers sending staff members to take notes on their behalf in committees happens all the time in Parliament. The staffers never take the chair, the next senior Minister present would do that. Since committee meetings nearly always run over their allotted time, and the Ministers have their timeslots booked up pretty tightly, how else could all the committee meetings needed in fact take place at all in the time available unless Ministers can delegate their staff to attend and report?

  7. I would have thought staffers at that level had security clearance, too. I don’t see the big deal.

  8. What a beat-up. I’m annoyed this has gotten so much air time – whoever started this story should have looked at the info, gone ‘WTF’ and left it. I agree with those saying the Ministers have their staff representing them in meetings on occasion without any problem – there is simply too much on for Ministers to get to every Committee meeting, and in that case, what is wrong with a representative turning up, taking notes and giving a brief back to the Minister? Rudd says he attended the key meetings. :shrug:
    I’m extra annoyed about the emphasis on Jordan being 31, thanks for talking about that one tigtog. 31! The irresponsibility of it! How disgustingly youthful – how dare he be so young! Everybody knows you’re a raving moron until you hit age 50. Nobody ever achieved anything useful, took on responsibility or made sound decisions before that.

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