Australian business leader backing Clark

Alex Malley, CEO of CPA Australia writes:

As an Australian business leader, most Kiwis would expect me to back the local horse, Kevin Rudd, when it comes to choosing the next United Nations secretary general.

They would be wrong. I back Helen Clark, and here’s why.

If ever the world needed a strong United Nations secretary general, surely that time is now.

The news cycle is moving so fast, as author Zadie Smith recently put it, the wheels might come off: wars, terrorism, coups, humanitarian and refugee crises, financial crises, far-right nationalism, mass shootings, famine, drought and the return of the spectre of nuclear conflict.

Each line item requires a multi-faceted and coordinated response from the global body, which in turn necessitates enlightened, principled and strong leadership from the very top. Now more than ever.

The world is full of capable professionals, people who are expert in their fields, but the requirements for a great leader are actually quite different. Leaders need to be solution-oriented, consensus builders and eloquent advocates and inspirers of their constituency.

In the case of the UN secretary general, the constituency is the world. There’s no bigger brief and surely that demands we eschew parochialism and get the best person for the job.

I know both antipodean candidates for the post, having met and interviewed Helen, an enlightening experience, I can assure you.

I also have a strong sense of Kevin’s qualities, through his various travails in charge of Australia but also through the lens of his brother Greg Rudd, who I interviewed when he was standing as an independent senator for Queensland.

The picture Kevin’s own brother paints is of a leader who doesn’t build consensus and who does not utilise the best talent around him.

What I’m hearing is that it is very unlikely to be either Clark or Rudd. The P5 members do not necessarily want the strongest person for the job. They want a Secretary-General who is compliant – and that isn’t Helen. One diplomatic source remarked that the P5 ideal candidate is Ban Ki-moon again, but with better English.

So Clark’s chances are pretty low. Even if the US and Russia mutually veto all the Eastern Europeans, I think other candidates are more likely to get through. Rudd not being nominated probably doesn’t change things greatly as he was never really in with a chance.

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