Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is set to announce that Australia’s new ambassador to the United Nations in New York is none other than Bill Farmer, currently ambassador to Indonesia.

If confirmed, the appointment will stun loyal Labor supporters and bring into question the number of sandwiches in the PM’s lunch box.

Farmer is a root and branch Howard man. As Secretary of the Department of Immigration from 1998 to 2005, Farmer was at the heart of the children overboard affair.

It is a matter of record that Howard’s exaggerated and highly spiced account cost Labor the 2001 election. However, it brought promotion for Farmer: Howard awarded him the Centenary Medal in 2003, he was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2005, and in November 2005 he was given the plum posting to Jakarta.

Now Rudd is proposing to recall former senator Robert Hill as ambassador to the UN and send Farmer. Presumably, Rudd believes Farmer’s handling of asylum seeker issues and the disgraceful “Pacific solution” project will raise Australia’s profile at the United Nations.

Farmer is the second “children overboard” identity rewarded by Rudd. Jane Halton who was Executive Co-ordinator at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and chair of the government’s people smuggling task force during the affair was promoted by Howard in January 2002 to become Secretary of the Department of Health and Ageing.

In September last year Rudd renewed her contract for another five years. Thank you, Kevin from Queensland, who seems to be the only person in Canberra who believes that the Health Department has improved its administration in the past seven years under La Halton.

But before we finish, there’s yet another Howard man being rewarded by the Rudd administration. Nick Warner, Secretary of Defence, since December 4, 2006, is tipped to become ambassador to Washington in place of Denis Richardson who will return to Canberra to run defence.

Richardson, the former Director-General of ASIO (1996-2005), has previously worked at foreign affairs, trade and immigration but this will be his first fulltime professional role with the generals, admirals and air vice marshals.

On his ASIO watch, the Australian Wheat Board sent bribes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with whom we went to war against. Despite recommendations from an official government inquiry, no one has ever been charged. Probably because none of the alleged offenders were Moslems.

Rudd has decided to handpick his general staff often without bothering to ask ministers for their input. He has already recruited three from the discredited NSW Labor Government and installed them in $400,000-a-year jobs: Roger Wilkins at Attorney-General’s; John Pierce at the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism; and Robyn Kruk at the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and Arts.

If it all ends in tears, we know who to blame.

Peter Fray

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