Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia will have a great deal more influence in the international arena after winning a non permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Australia has defeated rivals Finland and Luxembourg to secure a spot on the UN Security Council in 2013-14.
The federal government had spent 24 million dollars on the bid over the past four years.
The opposition has questioned the amount of funding spent on the bid and believes it has distorted Australia’s foreign aid priorities.
Michael Kenny reports:
After a tense few hours of voting overnight, the 193 UN Members gave Australia 140 votes, giving it the two thirds majority it needed to win the non-permanent seat.
Luxembourg won 128 votes and Finland 108.
It is the fifth time Australia will serve on the Security Council.
But it has not held a seat since 1986 under the Hawke Labor Government.
Senator Carr believes the successful bid in 2012 reflects the high level of respect for Australia in the international community.
“This vote endorses Australia as a good global citizen. This is the world saying we respect Australian values. We respect Australian professionalism. We want Australia to help. This is the world saying that. And for us as a middle power, a long way from the centres of clout in the world, the centres of power in the world, this is a lovely moment.”
Australia relied heavily on African, Caribbean and Pacific Island nations to get enough support to win the seat.
• Christine Milne
Australian Greens Leader
Friday 19 October 2012
Doorstop – Greens welcome United Nations Security Council seat
Subjects: United Nations Security Council, Australian multilateralism, Tony Abbott
CHRISTINE MILNE: The Australian Greens are very pleased to see the election of our country to the UN Security Council. We are big supporters of the United Nations and of multilateralism and see this as an opportunity for Australia to take a leadership role.
I would like to think that Australia on the Security Council can really elevate the issue of climate change as a major global security issue and also take a lead in regulating the trade in arms. That is something we’ve said we supported in the past and there is a real opportunity now to do something about it.
But with the elevated status we have in the UN it will also lead to greater scrutiny and I think a couple of areas where Australia could now do things very differently, one is review the decision to delay our achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular the 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income going to foreign aid, I think we should review that decision so that we get back on track and I also think in terms of our refugee policy the UNHCR has been very critical of Australia’s offshore processing, we are not meeting a global obligations on human rights and I think now is an opportunity for Australia to put things right.
But I really want to thank all of the people who have been involved in this successful bid to get onto the Security Council and the Greens look forward to working with the Government to making sure that Australia takes the best advantage of the position we now find ourselves in on the United Nations.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it was money well spent? Was it worth the $25 million or something to achieve this goal?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Any bid to get onto the Security Council will take a lot of extra diplomatic effort and cost and no doubt there have been people flying around the world, talking to other countries, making arrangements with other countries, and that’s where the support that Australia has received from the Caribbean, the Pacific and African countries, I think no doubt we’ll have an expectation that comes with it that Australia will deliver on higher levels of ambition on climate change and work harder to achieve a global treaty by 2015. So let us hope that confidence that’s been given to Australia by those developing countries will come to fruition and Australia will step up on the level of ambition on climate change.
JOURNALIST: Do you think Australians would care about this achievement or does it not resonate with them at all?
CHRISTINE MILNE: I think Australians when they come to understand that we have now secured a place on the UN Security Council, that is effectively the top people at the UN, I think Australians will be proud of that. We haven’t been in that position for some 26 years so Australians haven’t had much experience of it in recent times or even memory of it but there are really significant global challenges now and climate change is the overwhelming one, but also trying to regulate the arms trade globally is a major contribution to peace and security for everyone but also achieving the Millennium Development Goals, helping people get out of poverty is a great way also of making a major contribution to security. So I think when Australians start seeing what we can do in that capacity it will lead to quite a deal of pride in our nation and I hope that’s the case.
JOURNALIST: Does this add any extra pressure on Australia I guess on how we can talk about other countries, if we can’t criticise particular countries in the same kinds of tones or ways we might have before?
CHRISTINE MILNE: With the election to the Security Council comes a great deal of responsibility and accountability. Australia has always taken responsible positions when commenting on other countries and the Parliament’s being quite careful about that. I think the key thing will be to make sure that Australia takes an independent foreign policy position in the Security Council. Australians felt very uncomfortable by John Howard putting Australia as the deputy sheriff to the US. Australians also felt quite uncomfortable at the level of ease with which the Gillard Government said yes to effectively putting US bases on Australian soil. I think the election to the Security Council really puts a lot of pressure on Australia to show that we have an independent foreign policy, we’re in a really good position in this century, it’s the first time in our history where we are geographically in the place where all the action is going to be this century in terms of the emergence of major nations in Asia in the global sense, and so it really is incumbent on us to work out where Australia sits as an independent nation.
JOURNALIST: And lastly what did you think of Tony Abbott and the Opposition and his comments weren’t as glowing as the Government was expecting on what has been crowned as quite an achievement.
CHRISTINE MILNE: I think Australians will be a little bit unnerved by the revelation that Tony Abbott really isn’t a multilateralist. He’s never supported multilateral engagement on climate change, he’s out there retreating if you like from a global position and Australians like to think of ourselves as being quite a significant role as a middle power around the world and what Tony Abbott has just demonstrated is that he is not a great one for engaging in multilateral processes and I think that’s a huge step backwards. The only way we’re going to strengthen global security and address the major challenges of the century is through a multilateral engagement and outlook and clearly Tony Abbott’s not up to it.
JOURNALIST: Do you think that in the particular parliament that we’re in now where you hold such a key vote, does that give the Greens extra clout where you can push maybe some of your agenda onto an international stage through the Security Council. Is that something you guys have thought about today?
CHRISTINE MILNE: Certainly the Greens have always been big supporters of the United Nations and big supporters of multilateralism, we’ve encouraged Australian governments over time to engage with the proposed treaties in the UN and we certainly see an opportunity now for the Greens to work with the Government to advance the cause of global peace and security, particularly through elevating climate change in the Security Council but also regulating the arms trade. If the Greens could get behind the Government and advance that cause I think it would be a great thing for Australia and a great thing for the world.