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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1106

National Security


Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:05): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. On 3 March 2012 the minister said, 'There has really been no justification for the benefit that will accrue to Australia by pursuing a Security Council seat.' Given that the foreign minister has travelled to New York to attend the Security Council eight times, and given that the Security Council has been critical to dealing with the MH17 disaster, Ebola and combatting IS, does the minister still think that winning a UN Security Council seat was of no benefit to Australia?


Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinMinister for Foreign Affairs) (15:05): I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her question. At the time, in 2012, we were concerned that the Labor government had so skewed our foreign policy priorities and resources—and, indeed, our aid budget—in pursuit of a seat on the Security Council that we raised our concerns. But in advance of the 2013 election we made it quite clear that should the Abbott government win the election we would serve with distinction on the UN Security Council, and I pay tribute to the Labor government for pursuing it at the time. It is not something we were advised was appropriate. In was in fact against the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and we received the same advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as the Labor government did. The then Labor government went against departmental advice, and we said at the time of the 2013 election that we would pay tribute to the Labor government for achieving the seat on the Security Council and, should we win, we would serve with distinction, and we did.

We used our opportunity on the Security Council to pursue international support for an investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, and we used the opportunity with our seat on the Security Council to ensure that we had international support to access what was, in fact, a war zone, to bring back the remains of the Australians who were killed on board MH17. We also continued the Labor government's focus on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and we led the debate in relation to foreign terrorist fighters. We also led debates on policing in the number of peacekeeping operations that are occurring around the world. We also used the opportunity on the Security Council to push for other issues that were of concern to us, indeed a focus on our region.

We said that, should we inherit the seat on the Security Council, we would pursue it with the appropriate resourcing, with the appropriate personnel and with the appropriate priorities. But I say again that I hope that countries do not have to skew their aid budget, do not have to skew their foreign policies, do not have to skew long-held positions, in order to win a seat on the Security Council. It is a view shared by many other countries that this whole process of winning a seat on the Security Council should be because of our principles, not because we are prepared to compromise our principles.