The Rudd government is doing things Kevin’s way, which is a far cry from the way Kevin himself operated when he was a diplomat, without putting too fine a point on recent events. Many accepted protocols have been overturned and some have even been written out of the rule book.

Diplomats hate change — their attitude is that was has worked for centuries still gets jobs done. Well, those who subscribe to that theory haven’t taken into account the young Turks in the PM’s office — they pull Kevin’s strings and he pulls theirs and somewhere in the middle there’s activity — sometimes not to everyone’s liking or expectations.

Take the latest “crisis” surrounding the Bush/Rudd late night phone call and how such things should be arranged under normal circumstances — it’s obvious of late that Rudd and his office eschew normal.

In the PK world — that’s “pre Kevin” — the PM’s office would advise the head of the American desk in DFAT, or perhaps his or her opposite number in PM & C — either is acceptable — that the PM needed to speak to the President and the subject matter would be discussed. The public servant concerned would then either contact our Embassy in Washington or the White House protocol office and set the ball rolling. Our own foreign minister would, of course be advised along with the US Ambassador in Canberra. The wires would run hot while everything was put in place and the PM’s office would nominate several times he would be available to speak.

Crikey has been told diplomacy was overturned when the Bush/Rudd call was arranged and we were further told the heads of the American desks in DFAT and PMC were kept in the dark and to make matters worse, the Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith was told second hand.

The only accepted and tried and true modus operandi was that note takers in the US and Australia were on the line — and of course there’s the rub.

Only four people actually know what was said — well four that we know of — and only one of them has spoken. No doubt there were agents from shadowy secret services of both countries and as they officially don’t exist, its hardly likely they’ll make us any the wiser.

Crikey’s informant says whether or not Bush made the offending remark is now beside the point. What matters is that there was a leak and the murky matter must be dealt with before relations between the two countries are irreparably soured and other world leaders leave instructions that they are “out ” when Kevin calls.

Peter Fray

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