Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Governor-General's Africa trip under fire -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Reporter: Hayden Cooper

ELEANOR HALL: The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has become embroiled in a political controversy
over Australia's bid for a seat at the UN Security Council.

The Federal Government says it needs the backing of African nations to secure the seat, and that
enlisting the Governor-General's help is "absolutely essential".

Next week, Australia's head of state will be travelling to nine African countries and will lobby
for the Australian UN bid. But the Opposition says the matter is too political for vice-regal
involvement.

Hayden Cooper reports from Canberra.

HAYDEN COOPER: Representing Australia abroad is part of the Governor-General's job.

And Quentin Bryce has already done it on several occasions in her six months at Yarralumla.

But this trip to Africa has aroused political suspicions.

JULIE BISHOP: I think it compromises the position or it most certainly has the potential to.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Opposition's Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman Julie Bishop says Quentin Bryce is
being asked to do Kevin Rudd's bidding.

JULIE BISHOP: For the Governor-General as head of state can represent Australia overseas and can
play a role in promoting Australia's interests.

However, the mission the Governor-General is undertaking to lobby other countries for Australia to
get one of the revolving seats on the Security Council, would normally be done by Government
ministers.

And in this case, Australia's campaign is becoming highly politically contentious and the
Opposition is increasingly concerned at the strategy Mr Rudd is adopting to win the seat. It should
not be at any cost, either financially or by compromising our principles.

HAYDEN COOPER: The Governor-General will visit nine countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and
Botswana.

And the Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith has defended the trip. He told the ABC's Insiders
program that it's not only defensible, but absolutely essential.

STEPHEN SMITH: When the Governor-General is travelling in foreign countries, of course from time to
time as is appropriate she will make statements that reflect government policy.

Australian government policy is we want to make a substantial engagement with Africa. We see that
as being very importantly in our economic and social and foreign policy interests, and we reflect
our commitment to multilateralism by running for the Security Council. And she will make that point
appropriately.

HAYDEN COOPER: But the Governor General's trip aside, the Opposition says it's getting more
concerned about the UN bid itself.

Julie Bishop links the lobbying effort to the forthcoming United Nations Durban II conference on
racism.

Already several governments, including the Obama administration, have pulled out, because they say
the draft agenda, prepared largely by Libya, targets only Israel.

Ms Bishop says Australia hasn't withdrawn, for fear of losing support for its UN bid.

JULIE BISHOP: Our strategy for garnering a seat on the Security Council is intricately tied up with
our attendance at the Durban II conference.

And it will put the Governor-General in an invidious position is she is asked to comment on
Australia's attendance at Durban II, because already that is feeding the perception that we are
attending Durban II to appease or ameliorate those United Nations member states, whose votes we are
seeking to get a seat on the Security Council. And the office of the Governor-General should not be
compromised in this way.

HAYDEN COOPER: So are you saying the Governor-General should be restricted to basically ceremonial
events and picture opportunities and nothing more?

JULIE BISHOP: Well no, I didn't say that. I said obviously you would take it into account case by
case. In the past there are many examples of the head of state representing Australia overseas and
playing a role in promoting Australia's interests.

But this mission that is becoming part of the political campaign to win a seat on the Security
Council, and becoming part of Mr Rudd's strategy, is of concern.

HAYDEN COOPER: But surely the Governor-General is aware of the boundaries in her role and is
capable of taking on a job such as this?

JULIE BISHOP: Well that is our concern. If the Government continues down this path of using a
strategy to win a seat on the Security Council by trading on our principles, trading on our support
for Israel, for example, then that involves the Governor-General in a political campaign.

Mr Rudd is seeking to trade our principles in order to get a seat on the Security Council and
Australia should have no part of that and the Governor-General should play no role in that.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Opposition's Julie Bishop ending that report from Hayden Cooper.