The first Rudd ministry sworn in at Government House in Canberra today included an interesting appointment that bodes well for the Federal government giving greater attention to affairs in Australia’s neighbourhood than has been the case for many years.
The naming of Duncan Kerr as parliamentary secretary responsible for the Pacific was nominated by prime minister Rudd as a key appointment that will “help rebuild the fabric of personal and political relationships with the governments of the South Pacific”.
Mr Kerr has held the Tasmanian federal seat of Denison for more than 20 years. In 1993 he was Australia's Attorney General under Paul Keating before becoming Justice Minister, holding that portfolio until 1996. In the 1980s he was the dean of law at the University of PNG.
At a press conference last Thursday, Rudd said: “If you notice anything about our relations with the South Pacific in recent years, they’ve gone through one rocky patch after another. It’s not the time for an extensive policy discussion as to why that’s been the case.
“I would suggest having a dedicated parliamentary secretary and someone with such extensive experience as Duncan charged with that responsibility will help rebuild the fabric of personal and political relationships with the governments of the South Pacific.
“Duncan has previous experience in PNG. Duncan also was responsible for early advice way back in the early part of the decade about emerging problems in the Solomon Islands which I’m sure some of you here would recall for its prescience.”