Jobs for the boys a new Rudd ploy

LABOR caucus backers of Kevin Rudd have told colleagues he will be "more generous" to supporters than he was when he was prime minister.

LABOR caucus backers of Kevin Rudd have told colleagues he will be "more generous" to supporters than he was when he was prime minister.

They point to the diplomatic appointment of a former federal Labor MP as a demonstration of the Foreign Minister's new preparedness to reward Labor loyalists.

The new pitch by the Rudd camp for caucus support comes as Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade documents reveal that the Foreign Minister overrode a merit-based selection process to appoint former Labor chief whip Roger Price to the $200,000-plus post of Australian consul-general in Chicago.

A senior Labor backbencher in NSW has told The Age that Mr Rudd's supporters have said that if returned to the Labor leadership, the Foreign Minister will be more be "more sympathetic" about diplomatic and other appointments, including looking at opportunities for MPs who may retire or leave Parliament at the next election.

A Victorian MP has said he has heard a similar pitch that "support will be recognised and rewarded".

As prime minister, Mr Rudd made only three political appointments to diplomatic posts former Labor leader Kim Beazley as ambassador to the United States, former deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Tim Fischer as ambassador to the Vatican, and former minister and Liberal leader Brendan Nelson as ambassador to the European Union and NATO.

Mr Rudd's reluctance to appoint Labor MPs to diplomatic and other posts led to internal criticism that he failed to repay political debts to his supporters and Labor loyalists.

The DFAT documents released under freedom-of-information laws show that the department had started a merit-based selection process for the appointment of a new consul-general in Chicago. As Foreign Minister, Mr Rudd was briefed on the status of the selection process in December 2010.

But the selection of a professional diplomat did not proceed. Instead, last July, Mr Rudd abruptly decided to appoint Mr Price, who was elected to Parliament in 1984 and served as Labor chief whip from 2004 until he retired at the 2010 poll.

Although he served on the parliamentary joint committee for foreign affairs, defence and trade, Mr Price's engagement with international issues was limited and he referred directly to the ANZUS Treaty only five times in 26 years of parliamentary debate.

The released documents show that DFAT had to rush to find a copy of Mr Price's CV before his appointment was urgently submitted for formal endorsement by the Governor-General.

Emails released indicate Mr Price's main concerns were "questions on the residence, salary and superannuation" and "inclusions in the residence like linen and cutlery". His appointment was announced on September 13 last year and he took up his role in November.

DFAT delayed release of the FOI documents for five months. Details of the circumstances of and reasons for Mr Price's appointment have been withheld from release on the grounds that public disclosure would damage Australia's international relations, "compromise the effectiveness of our post in undertaking its responsibilities" and "undermine the systems in place to ensure that these appointments into the future are handled appropriately".

Unusually, DFAT has advised that any internal review of the decision to withhold information will be undertaken by Mr Rudd's office rather than the department.

Mr Price did not respond to requests by The Age to discuss his appointment and duties as consul-general. He is not the only former federal MP to be appointed to the post. US-born, former Liberal MP Bob Charles served as consul-general in Chicago from 2005 to 2008.

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