Australia's Prime Minister has pulled off a deft political maneuver in her appointment of a former state leader to replace Kevin Rudd, who resigned dramatically as Foreign Minister a week ago.
Julia Gillard announced this week that former NSW premier Bob Carr will take up the post vacated by Rudd after he sought (unsuccessfully) to wrest the country's top job from Gillard.
Rudd's leadership challenge ended weeks of damaging speculation over whom was more popular in the ruling Labor Party -- with polls showing that while Rudd was the voters' preferred prime minister, Gillard had the backing of the party itself, or at least, the party's most influential people.
Listen to the country's political opposition and these same influential people, senior unelected officials in the Labor party dubbed the "faceless men," are the puppet masters of our elected politicians.
Meanwhile, Gillard's promotion of Carr to the Foreign Ministry was interpreted by the country's political media as a move to reassert her authority -- though over whom exactly was never made quite clear.
One report, in the Murdoch press, talked of a "mutiny by ministers" that forced Gillard to withdraw an initial offer made to Carr early in the week. That report even cites Carr as saying he'd discussed the job with Gillard on Monday and by Tuesday believed the idea had been killed off, and so he had "moved on from it".
But a year out from an election, with persistent doubts over Gillard's leadership skills, someone in the Labor Party -- be it the faceless men, the spin doctors or the ministers themselves -- saw sense in appointing Carr and letting the media interpret this as an in-control Gillard prevailing in her choice of Australia's top foreign envoy.
They even went that couple of steps further -- Carr is not even a serving member of Parliament, and first needed to be handed a newly vacant seat in the country's Senate (evidently within the powers of a sitting government to arrange).
Carr's appointment was even praised by a newly humbled (publicly at least) Rudd, who called him ''an excellent choice as Australia's foreign minister,'" according to the Fairfax press.
Throughout the 20 years he had known him, ''he has demonstrated a strong continuing interest in international affairs."
Carr, who is 64, certainly hasn't wasted any time in taking up his duties, reportedly speaking with his foreign counterparts within hours of his appointment, and drawing up plans for his first overseas trip.
Though wouldn't you?