Philip Ruddock has been a Member of Parliament since he was 30. He entered Federal Parliament in September 1973 representing the seat of Parramatta. He retires from Parliament representing the seat of Berowra at the next Federal election; which according to the current prime minister, will happen towards the end of 2016. At the time of writing, he is 72.
During his career as a politician he has presided over the locking up of refugees behind razor wire in Australian deserts and the insertion in the Marriage Act of the ‘between a man and woman’ phrase that increasingly frustrates those Australians that believe in equality for all, regardless of race, colour, orientation or creed.
It was announced this week that Ruddock will become Australia’s Envoy on Human Rights. According to the dictionary, there are two definitions to the word envoy: the first is a messenger or representative, especially one on a diplomatic mission; and the second is a minister plenipotentiary, ranking below ambassador and above chargé d'affaires.
While we will never know, did the actual conversation between Turnbull and Ruddock go something like this?
Turnbull – Thanks for dropping by Philip, we need to have a chat about you continuing on in parliament. How do you like your tea?
Ruddock – Yes Malcom, white & one thanks. I enjoy being the ‘father of the house’ and want to beat Billy Hughes record for years in parliament.
Turnbull – There’s the problem Philip, I’m promoting to the public that I am a leader of change and reform. The media are having a go that some of the long term MP’s in New South Wales have to go for me to demonstrate I’m serious — even Rupert’s Australian (paywalled) is tapping people on the shoulder and you’re one of them.
Ruddock – Mal, mate, I still have a lot to contribute to parliament?
Turnbull – What? — trying to get better transport to the far northern suburbs of Sydney? First, that’s a state problem, not ours; second, Abbott’s already used that line on the Northern Beaches. Phil, it’s time to leave the island.
Ruddock – But what about my experience?
Turnbull – The cemetery is full of indispensable people. Look Phil, when Rupert’s Oz is saying
As one cabinet minister puts it to The Australian: “It’s not about age with Philip [Ruddock] and Bronwyn [Bishop], it’s about what they offer. Seriously, what do they offer any more? How can the public take our claims of renewal seriously if they become protected species?
I’ve got to do something. I can’t get rid of Abbott, I’m racking my brain working out how to get rid of ‘biggles’ Bishop — her expenses claims as Speaker were a step too far — but I have worked out what you can do. I’ve noticed that you wear an Amnesty International badge Phil. How would you like a roving commission to discuss human rights?
Ruddock – Keep talking — this could be interesting.
Turnbull – So what you do is occasionally go overseas to investigate some place there is claimed to be some human rights abuse, be seen talking to the powers overseas about it and come back home to tell everyone how you have brokered a solution. You could be Australia’s Jimmy Carter.
Ruddock – Sounds good. I’ll talk to the family about it. My only concern is what do you want me to do about claims Australia has a pitiful human rights record? Don’t forget that I locked kids up behind razor wire in the desert, John and I had a ball inserting genders into the Marriage Act and there is condemnation within Australia and from overseas about how we treat refugees. Even the United Nations is getting stroppy.
Turnbull – Don’t worry about any of that, it’ll blow over.
Ruddock – Even the kids we’re going to send back to Nauru?
Turnbull ‒ Storm in a teacup. Faux outrage wound up by the usual do-gooders. You know GetUp, Amnesty International, The Greens — the usual rabble.
Ruddock – Yeh, complete tossers.
Turnbull – So thanks again for dropping by Phil. You’ll let me know when you’ve told your family so I can do the media release for this exciting challenge.
Ruddock – Yeh, no worries [leaves half a cup of tea, gets up and walks out].
Turnbull (5 minutes later) – Someone find me the number of the Liberal preselection committee chairman for Berowra.
Voice from outer office – The number is [redacted]
Turnbull – Thanks. [Dials number] Hello, chairman, the fix is in. Ruddock is out of the running.
At the risk of being called ‘ageist’, let’s look at Ruddock’s new appointment on a logical and rational level. The Australian government is appointing a person who is clearly of retirement age, complete with access to a very generous superannuation scheme, to a position where he can probably claim to have to go anywhere in the world to promote the Australian government’s human rights record and credentials on our behalf, regardless of the lack of empathy shown to others’ human rights by the governments where he was a senior member or departments he led as a minister. Without trying to be too flippant – it’s like putting Dracula in charge at the Blood Bank! To add insult to injury, what’s the bet there is a ‘generous’ salary and benefits package that ‘represents’ the ‘seniority and gravitas’ of the position.
What do you think?