The government is divided over Kevin Rudd's UN bid

Former PM Kevin Rudd. Photo: Getty Images.

The Turnbull government faces a fresh dilemma after Foreign Affairs Minster Julie Bishop confirmed that former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has asked for Australia to nominate him as the next United Nations Secretary-General.

Mr Rudd’s formal request has long been anticipated and the cabinet, which has had preliminary discussions in the past, is divided.

Ms Bishop was abrupt when she confirmed to Sky News on Monday that Mr Rudd was asking for the support of his country to succeed Ban Ki-moon on January 1, 2017.

“Kevin Rudd has requested that the Australian Government nominate him and, as the Prime Minister has indicated on a number of occasions, that’ll be a matter for cabinet,” she said.

“I’ll certainly put the matter forward.”

Despite Mr Rudd being such a divisive figure when he was in Parliament, the Labor Party believes the government should back him on the basis that it should always back an Australian.

Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland said it would be “a tremendous honour” for Mr Rudd and she urged the government to exercise its “best judgement”.

When Tony Abbott was prime minister, he wanted to back former New Zealand prime minster Helen Clark. He and other conservatives outside cabinet remain opposed to backing Mr Rudd.

Earlier this year, conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi said Mr Rudd was “dysfunctional”, “vengeful”, “unstable”, and a “megalomaniac” and , thus, unsuited for the role.

Those in cabinet who are believed to harbour reservations include Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann.

Mr Rudd, now based in New York, has spent the past two years lobbying the permanent members of the UN Security Council, especially Russia and China.

This article originally appeared on the Australian Financial Review. You can read it here, or follow the AFR on Facebook.

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