Since being unceremoniously dumped as Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has apparently been clocking up some truly excellent adventures at public expense in his consolation prize role as Foreign Minister.
According to the Daily Telegraph:
Kevin Rudd has notched up a staggering 384,000 kilometers in overseas air travel since becoming Foreign Affairs Minister — the equivalent of flying to the moon.
The former prime minister has confirmed his status as Australia's leading frequent flyer by visiting 43 countries during an eight-month odyssey in which he has been overseas four days out of every 10.
Now Rudd could be forgiven for thinking that his ouster by his own Labor Party as Australia's democratically elected leader (yes, Australia's peculiar system of government allows for such blatantly undemocratic practice) was deserving of some kind of natural justice — or, in plain terms, payback.
And in that spirit, it appears, Rudd's office recently sought approval for use of taxpayer dollars for an official visit to China, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Thailand. Estimated cost to the Aussie taxpayer: $77,607, Sky News reports.
The Department of Finance estimated the cost of the trip would include a hotel suite in Stockholm, Sweden, that costs more than $1,700 a night, the Telegraph reports.
The prime minister's office, now occupied by Julia Gillard, has reportedly instructed Rudd's office to tone it down "in relation to accommodation costs," at very least.
It's been a rough few weeks for Gillard, who could be forgiven for thinking that in the Australian prime ministership she's been handed (or more correctly, brazenly grabbed in June last year) a poisoned chalice.
Anxiety over "Gillard's" policy on asylum seekers has come on the heels of anxiety about "Gillard's" policy on climate change, which comes in the wake of anxiety over "Gillard's" policy on replacing democratically elected leaders.
On a personal note, Gillard has made clear her policy — and anxiety — clear over a new TV satire about her brief time as prime minister, airing on the taxpayer-funded ABC channel.
"Seriously, I've got more to do than sit around watching ABC TV," she said this week.
(GlobalPost reports: Political satire too sexy for Australia's Gillard)
Meanwhile, the opposition is making hay, suggesting that Gillard and the man she ousted last year are "engaged in open warfare."
"It is time that Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd sorted out their personal animosity for the good of Australian taxpayers," a spokesman for the opposition, Jamie Briggs, told Sky News.
And if Australia's notoriously anti-Labor Murdoch press is to be believed, Rudd is "working the phones" to drum up a challenge to Gillard to take back the prime ministership.
The Australian newspaper says "multiple coalition sources" reported that Mr Rudd was either five votes or 11 votes short of rolling Gillard and returning to "The Lodge," Australia's equivalent of the White House.
A senior Labor figure has dismissed the renewed speculation about Gillard's leadership as untrue and a "beat-up" by the opposition.
No comment from Rudd, though to be fair he is, perhaps unsurprisingly, on a taxpayer funded trip to the U.S. to attend United Nations.
Could it be that the foreign minister, though losing his battle over travel expenses, is winning the war.