Australia to seek seat on UN Security Council in 2029/2030
Australia will seek a seat on the UN security council in 2029-30, in a decision that marks a break from Tony Abbott’s prime ministership.
The foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, announced on Wednesday that the Turnbull government would seek the position to make a difference to “maintaining international peace and security”.
Bishop said the long lead time would give Australia the greatest chance of success and would cut the cost because it was “the first available opportunity to nominate for a seat that is uncontested”.
Australia served a two-year term on the security council which ended in December 2014. The Abbott-led Coalition criticised the former Labor government’s bid for the seat, complaining about the cost and the distortion of Australia’s foreign policy priorities.
In 2012 Abbott condemned the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, for “swanning around in New York talking to Africans” about the security council bid rather than going to Jakarta to talk about border protection policies.
“All other things being equal, yes, better we are on the security council than off it,” Abbott said at the time. “But it was never worth the $40m-plus that this government has spent just to win a bronze medal at the United Nations.”
Bishop, who is in New York for UN meetings this week, said on Wednesday that the need for strong international cooperation to tackle global security challenges became more pressing each year.
She said Australia had “served with distinction throughout our last two-year term” and had championed initiatives that directly supported its national security interests.
“In July 2014, Australia drove the council’s response on the downing of MH17, resulting in a resolution supporting an impartial, international investigation and demanding accountability for the perpetrators,” Bishop said.
“Australia chaired the al-Qaida, Taliban and Iran sanctions committees and coordinated the council’s work on Afghanistan. We pressed for a concerted international response to the rise of Da’esh and the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.” Da’esh is the government’s preferred term for Islamic State.
“Australia promoted the linkages between human rights protection and political stability and security, including putting the human rights situation in North Korea on the council’s formal agenda.”
Bishop, who revealed in March that she was “scoping the opportunities” for another term, said security council elections were highly competitive and candidacies were usually announced many years in advance.
“If elected, Australia will use our term to support Australia’s core national security interests, while enhancing our international influence by making a practical constructive contribution across the security council’s agenda,” she said.
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said the opposition would support the bid. “Labor has always been a supporter of a multilateral approach,” she told the ABC.
In a subsequent media conference, Plibersek said Abbott and Bishop had been “very critical” of the former government’s security council bid, but Labor was “not like that”.
Plibersek said, however, that the long timeframe for the bid did not strike her as “particularly ambitious”. She also suggested the government’s cuts to the foreign aid budget were “seriously compromising our reputation as an international citizen”.
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Bishop also reaffirmed that Australia was pushing ahead with its candidacy for the UN human rights council for the term 2018-20, saying it would bring a clear focus on addressing human rights violations, holding perpetrators to account and calling for the global abolition of the death penalty.
“We are an international leader in advancing the rights of women and girls, strengthening governance and democratic institutions, and promoting freedom of expression,” she said.
Bishop confirmed the human rights council push last week, amid criticism from the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau. Crépeau delayed a planned trip to Australia to inspect detention centres because the government had failed to guarantee no one he spoke to would be prosecuted under the Border Force Act for disclosing information.
In an address to the UN general assembly, Bishop said Australia would bring to the human rights council “the same principled and practical approach that distinguished our 2013-14 security council term”.
In other remarks, Bishop said decisive action was required on climate change. She described Australia’s post-2020 emission reduction targets as “strong, responsible and achievable” and said the UN conference in Paris in December should be “the platform needed to secure a collective approach” to limiting global warming to 2C.
Bishop also emphasised the importance of achieving full equality for women, saying it was a criterion for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
She told the general assembly all options for a political solution to bring an end to the conflict in Syria “should be assessed with clear-eyed realism” - signalling Australia’s willingness not to demand the immediate departure of Bashar al-Assad as president.