CANBERRA – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made Australia’s renewed bid for another term at the United Nation’s Security Council one of his first major decisions.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced today Australia will run against Finland, and any other forthcoming contender, for a 2029-30 seat on the Council.
”It was a decision of Prime Minister Turnbull,” she told reporters while attending the UN General Assembly in New York.
“I took it to him last week and he agreed that Australia should put its name forward at an appropriate time.”
The previous Prime Minister Tony Abbott was regarded as sceptical of multilateral organisations and had been critical in opposition of the then Rudd Labor Government's last bid for UNSC seat.
She said 2029-30 is a long time away, but “it is a time frame that will Australia to campaign effectively in a measured way".
“I don't believe I'll still be Foreign Minister at that time,” she joked. “I will leave that to Prime Minister Wyatt Roy in 2029."
The acting opposition leader, Tanya Plibersek has welcomed the announcement, although she has questioned the timing.
“I would just say something that's 15 years off doesn't strike me as particularly ambitious," she told reporters in Sydney.
“We'll be very supportive of the bid over the next decade and a half and hope to see a positive result when the time comes.”
Bishop has not announced the cost of such a bid, but said “we don’t intend to spend a great deal on money on it.”
“These are highly competitive campaigns and we don’t want to spend unnecessary time and resources trying to campaign at an earlier slot.”
Australia last held one of the rotating temporary seats on the UNSC from 2013-14 after a much shorter campaign time.
The previous Labor Government declared the last bid cost more than $23 million, but the Coalition had estimated in 2010 that the cost had blown out to $40 million.
The Foreign Minister said Australia would use a new term to push for greater international cooperation to tackle global security challenges.
She said Australia served with distinction during the last term on the UNSC, highlighting Australia’s role in driving the Council’s response to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 over Ukraine.
“Had we not been on the Security Council, I doubt very much we would have been able to achieve that unanimous resolution that led to the presence of Australian authorities and Australian Federal Police in Ukraine to recover the bodies and the remains of the Australians killed on that flight,” she said.
Australia is also a first time candidate for the Human Rights Council for the term 2018-20.
“I think it's appropriate for a nation such as hours that is committed to freedoms, rule of law, human rights and democratic institutions, that we stand up and defend our values on the Human Rights Council.”
Labor has also welcomed this bid, but Plibersek said there are worrying signs that Australia must improve, particularly over asylum seekers.
“I am a little bit concerned however that in recent days we've seen the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants actually cancel a visit to Australia because he can't get a commitment from the Government to treat the visit seriously,” she said.
The Special Rapporteur, Francois Crepeau, postponed his planned trip last week, citing protection concerns and the lack of full cooperation from the Government over access to on and off shore detention centres.
Crepeau also cited the 2015 Border Force Act, which he said sanctions whistle-blowers who disclose "protected information" with a two-year court sentence.
But Plibersek said there are other concerns, as Australia launches its bids.
“I think that when we are actually going backwards on climate change, we've had the largest aid cuts in the history of Australia, taking us down to the least generous aid Budget since we've kept records,” she said.
“The effort to secure a spot on the UN Human Rights Council will be a very difficult one for Australia.”