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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12706


Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (19:20): It is my pleasure to follow the member for Corio in this place to welcome Australia's election as a temporary member of the UN Security Council. The member for Corio is a good man and he did pay tribute to a number of people within the Department of Foreign Affairs and elsewhere who have contributed significantly to this win. He also placed a straw man before this parliament when he talked about the isolationist tendencies of the coalition. That is absolute rubbish. His comments, together with those of the member for Eden-Monaro, who made some outrageous slurs against Australia's longest serving foreign minister, Alexander Downer, and Australia's second longest serving Prime Minister, John Howard, should have been retracted because they overtly politicised this debate and gloss over the significant foreign policy achievements of the Howard government.

When we talk about multilateralism, how could we forget INTERFET and East Timor? How could we forget what we have done in Bougainville, what we have done at a multilateral level to take on the terrorists and stamp out terrorism in our region and the highest level of cooperation with our most important near neighbour, Indonesia? How could we forget the many FTAs, what we did at the Doha Round on the free trade agenda and the counter-terrorism bilaterals? I could go on. There was a significant foreign policy legacy from the Howard government, and it has been glossed over in the comments from the member for Eden-Monaro and the straw man placed before this House by the member for Corio. This coalition, both in opposition and in government, stands ready to play its part at the multilateral level in a way that is consistent with Australian values and in a manner that furthers the national interest.

We are here to pay tribute to those who contributed to our election as one of the 10 temporary members on the UN Security Council for 2013-14, where we will join the permanent five: United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain. It was interesting that the member for Corio mentioned the contribution of former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. One would have thought he would have voted for him, but he did not. The member for Corio referred to the three foreign ministers, Stephen Smith, Kevin Rudd and Bob Carr, who all contributed to this election campaign. The fact that we have had three foreign ministers in less than five years is a reflection of the disunity and chaos we have seen on the other side. In contrast, the coalition had the same foreign minister for nearly 12 years of government. We have seen three on the other side in less than five years. The member for Corio referred to the charm of Bob Carr. I thought he was going to bring out a bouquet of flowers. That charm did not do much for the infrastructure needs of New South Wales during the time of his premiership.

Australia is a significant country on the world stage. We are the 12th biggest donor to the United Nations. Since 1947 we have contributed more than 65,000 personnel to UN peace and security missions. This is the fifth time that Australia will be serving on the Security Council. The UN plays an important role in international security, giving mandates for major missions, whether it be Afghanistan or East Timor; in the work of its agencies, the World Food Organization and the World Health Organization; in conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and in transnational crime. And the list goes on.

Australia needs and deserves to be at the top table when it comes to the United Nations. There is no disagreement from the coalition on that point. The fact that we have such hardworking and effective members in our diplomatic corps, who act in a non-partisan manner to execute the wishes and the policies of the government of the day, is why we have been successful in this campaign.

To the former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dennis Richardson; to our ambassador in New York, Gary Quinlan; to deputy secretary Gillian Bird; to the Prime Minister's Special Envoy, Joanna Hewitt; to the former ambassador in India and elsewhere, John McCarthy; to Special Envoy Bill Fisher; to head of the task force Caroline Millar; to people like Bassim Blazey; and to those on the coalition side, Tim Fischer, Robert Hill and Russell Trood, I say to you: thank you for the work that you have done to help make Australia's campaign for the UN Security Council successful.

But the reason why the coalition has raised questions about this bid is not that we should not be at the top table on the UN Security Council. Of course we should be. And, when we get there in 2013-14, we have to do a good job and there are plenty of issues like North Korea and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism and Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. They are on the table and we will have a seat at the table. It is a good thing for Australia and it is a good thing for the world. But why we have raised questions in this place and outside this place is that the manner of the government's campaign compromised our values. And it came with a cost and it is dishonest of those on the other side to ignore that reality. It is one thing to celebrate the victory, but it is another to ignore the reality of the campaign itself.

Our Governor-General was sent on an unusual 18-day tour of Africa in order to win votes. That is not a normal role for the Governor-General. We have changed our vote on Israel in the UN Security Council, in order to placate some in the Arab world, to win votes in the campaign. We have increased our aid budget and directed it at certain parts of the world in order to win votes—$5 billion goes towards our aid budget and that is growing. We have seen increasing amounts of money, hundreds and hundreds of millions, sent to the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa. Yes, we have interests there; there is no question about that. But that money has gone to those places in the world in order to curry favour. I ask: what is the Australian interest and responsibility in paying $150,000 for a statue to go outside the United Nations to commemorate the antislavery movement in the Caribbean and Africa? That statue should be there, but it does not necessarily need Australian dollars.

Our foreign minister has also changed his travel itinerary in order to win votes. He went to Mongolia and Malta ahead of India and Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is our nearest neighbour, and in Papua New Guinea we have a terrible situation where 12,000 children under the age of five die every year. If I had a say, I would be saying put some of that money towards eradicating the dangers that lead to the untimely deaths of those 12,000 children. Go and visit Papua New Guinea and India before you go to Mongolia and Malta.

The other issue I want raise is Australia's participation in a conference for the Non-Aligned Movement in Iran. Australia is not a member of the Non-Aligned Movement; however, Australia decided not to send its ambassador but rather to send the Prime Minister's special envoy and our ambassador to the UN in New York to Tehran. Tehran is a state sponsor of terrorism. Tehran is hell-bent on getting a nuclear weapon. Tehran, under Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs, is a danger to the world. But Australia closed its eyes to that reality in order to ensure that we had a high-level delegation present in Teheran at the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement to which Australia is not a member. I say shame on the government for doing that.

I finish where I started. Australia is an important nation in the world. We are the 12th biggest contributor to the UN budget. We should have a bigger footprint in countries around the world, but instead this government has starved DFAT, seeing more than 100 people cut in the last budget alone. There is no disagreement from the coalition that having a seat at the top table, at the United Nations, is a good thing. The UN does important work to better the lives of people, whether it is health and education, whether it is the cultural sphere or whether it is the security sphere. The world is a better place with the United Nations. Australia, as a significant country, should be at the top table.

But I say to you with experience that the way this government has gone about the campaign has compromised our values. It has done so in a way that has come at a cost. If $24 million was the only expense, I would say that was money well spent. But $24 million is a fraction of what has been spent. As I said, hundreds of millions of dollars has been diverted from the aid budget. The United Nations is an important body. Australia's role in the United Nations at the top table is an important development. But please, as this government prepares our diplomats and our representatives to participate in the deliberations of the UN Security Council as a member of that body, do not compromise on our values. Stay true to our national interest and remember that in diplomacy it is values and interests that count.