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Bracks axed from plum posting -

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ELEANOR HALL: Labor MPs are calling it a petty and vindictive act.

The incoming Abbott Government says it is revoking the former Victorian premier Steve Bracks' overseas appointment because he's not the best person for the job.

The Gillard government appointed the former state Labor leader as Consul General in New York in May and Mr Bracks was set to fly to the US financial capital this week.

This morning the Coalition MP most likely to be Australia's new Attorney General, George Brandis, said his team had also acted because the Labor Government violated caretaker conventions in appointing Mr Bracks.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: Political appointments to diplomatic postings are nothing new. Both sides make them, and even sometimes choose an opponent for a plum position.

But what makes this one a little different is the row over when the then Gillard government chose to make Steve Bracks the nation's representative in New York.

He says he was appointed on May the 17th, but didn't start officially in the role until last month.

Incoming Abbott Government Minister, George Brandis.

GEORGE BRANDIS: The appointment of Mr Bracks to the position in New York was an appointment that was made at a time when the Opposition ought to have been consulted. The Opposition wasn't consulted.

SIMON SANTOW: Senator Brandis' colleague, Julie Bishop, has long voiced her opposition to the appointment.

But as the prospective Foreign Minister she was letting others do the running on the issue today.

Like the former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett on ABC Local Radio in Melbourne.

JON FAINE: This was a political appointment by a person who was still very political, was involved in this campaign…

JEFF KENNETT: Who hadn't taken up his post. So it's sour grapes.

JON FAINE: I can understand…

JEFF KENNETT: I'm sorry for Steve personally. I'm sorry for Steve because it's a great house and everything else. But he, it was a political appointment, he hadn't taken up the job, and therefore he of all people would understand the risks that that involved.

SIMON SANTOW: Senator George Brandis on Sky News this morning went further than his colleague Julia Bishop has previously gone.

Now, he says, Steve Bracks simply isn't the best person for the job.

GEORGE BRANDIS: Mr Bracks has no obvious credentials for that job. He has been the Premier of Victoria. But the reason, let's be blunt about this, the reason Mr Bracks was appointed to that job was because the Labor Party wanted to make a gift to him of a plum diplomatic…

INTERVIEWER: How does he not have credentials though, Senator Brandis? Because politicians, senior politicians are often appointed to senior diplomatic posts.

GEORGE BRANDIS: Kieran (phonetic) I agree with that as a general proposition. But I think you have to judge these things on a case by case basis.

SIMON SANTOW: He says Kim Beazley is a worthy appointment but Steve Bracks isn't.

GEORGE BRANDIS: Mr Bracks' credentials for the New York post, having been a state premier, were not obvious to us. We weren't consulted about it. It was a decision made at the very end of the government, when the consultation requirement was in place. And the, I spoke to my colleague Julie Bishop this morning, the incoming Foreign Minister, and she tells me that she has indicated to DFAT that the new Government won't be proceeding with that appointment.

We think frankly we could find someone better.

SIMON SANTOW: Victoria's Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, has no doubt what was behind the dumping of Steve Bracks.

DANIEL ANDREWS: This is a partisan, petty, vindictive decision from Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop. It's wrong. It's not the leadership that was offered. And I thought that national politics could be a little bit bigger than this.

SIMON SANTOW: So too, Tanya Plibersek, currently the acting Foreign Minister before the Abbott Government and Julie Bishop are sworn in, in a few days time.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: When we came into government in 2007, Amanda Vanstone was allowed to complete her term in Italy. But even on top of that we appointed both Tim Fischer and Brendan Nelson to represent Australia overseas. We considered that they were suitable people to do so. We acted in a bipartisan way in the best interests of Australia. What you hear is the incoming government coming in, making political decisions from day one.

SIMON SANTOW: Amanda Vanstone was appointed Ambassador to Italy the day after resigning from the Senate in April 2007.

She took up her post in late June. By October the Coalition had lost power.

AMANDA VANSTONE: I'm not going to comment on potential appointments or otherwise of the incoming government. All I can do is tell you what my position was. And that is that I'd been appointed and taken up the position. That's all I can help you with.

SIMON SANTOW: So when you hear your name invoked, how does that make you feel?

AMANDA VANSTONE: All I can say in relation to that is that I'd already taken up my appointment. I think that makes it a difference. And if you want to get any comment on any government decision you need to speak to people in the Government. I mean I'm not here, I haven't been involved in the government for six years.

SIMON SANTOW: What about credentials broadly speaking? If you've been a former premier, would you have the sort of credentials for that sort of role?

AMANDA VANSTONE: It's really not up to me to say in this context. Other than to say that most of the political appointments on both sides have been people who've had federal cabinet experience.

SIMON SANTOW: So does the Abbott Government have someone in mind to take up the New York Consul General's role?

With Steve Bracks out, it seems that other ex Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, isn't coveting the job.

JON FAINE: Would you put your hand up for the position if it's vacant?

JEFF KENNETT: No, certainly not. Jon, please. Me, a diplomat? You're joking. I call it as it is.

ELEANOR HALL: That's former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett with Jon Faine on ABC Radio in Melbourne this morning. Simon Santow our reporter.