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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10237

United Nations Security Council


Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Did the minister or the government give any undertakings to other countries that Australia would abstain from the vote on Palestine being given observer status at the United Nations in return for undertakings from those countries that they would vote for Australia gaining a seat on the United Nations Security Council? If so, what undertakings?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:00): I welcome the question; it is a serious question. The answer is no. Indeed, I would have liked, during the period when we were campaigning for votes for the Security Council seat, to have been able to have said: 'We will not oppose the bid signalled by the Palestinian delegation.' I would have liked to have been able to say that.

In September, we received a letter from the Palestinian delegation, indicating they were disposed or they were planning to make a bid for increased non-state status. We did not reply to that letter. At a meeting in New York, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, in September, between me and the Gulf Cooperation Council—a large number of Arab nations—the foreign minister of Oman asked me what would be the Australian response to the Palestinian bid. My reply was, 'We won't make a decision until we see the wording of the draft resolution.' Let me say, uninhibitedly, that the job I had of lobbying for a vote would have been easier if I had been charged with the possibility of saying: 'We are committed not to oppose the Palestinian bid that is expected in November.' But we did not say that. I did not say that. I would have liked to have been able to say it. I could not say it, because it was not our position. On that one occasion, as I said, when the matter came up at a meeting between me and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, my reply was—disappointing to my interlocutors, I am sure—'We would need to wait until we see the wording of the motion.' We won that bid, without having made a commitment anywhere that we would 'not oppose' the— (Time expired)


Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:02): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Did the minister or the government give any undertakings to other countries that Australia would vote yes for Palestine being given observer status at the United Nations in return for undertakings from those countries that they would vote for Australia gaining a seat on the United Nations Security Council?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:03): I thought I had answered that question.

Senator Abetz: It's a different question.

Senator BOB CARR: All right, it is marginally different. Let me answer that: absolutely not. In fact, I was not seeking that. I did not imagine that as a possibility. The position I canvassed in the first part of the question was whether I would have been able to have said, back in September—before 18 October—that we would not oppose a bid for Palestinian status. I did not say that. And, not even being able to say that, I certainly was not able to say that we would vote yes. That was not even a question.

So I can underline for the benefit of the Senate that we won on 18 October, having been silent to the request from the Palestinian delegation expressed in a letter to, I think, our ambassador seeking our support or, at any rate, seeking our position on this. We did not respond to that letter. There are no settings where we gave any other indication.




Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I thank the minister for his response. Did other countries subsequently voice concerns when they became aware that the Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, was contemplating Australia voting no in relation to Palestine being granted observer status at the United Nations and, if so, which countries?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:04): I am not aware of letters we received on that or messages that were sent to us. I will look at the files and give you a response. There was a letter sent on behalf of Arab country ambassadors in Australia by His Excellency the Ambassador of Morocco, I think, seeking our view or asking us to vote in favour of Palestinian status. There may well have been other representations of that type.