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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12701

Mr MARLES (CorioParliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs) (19:00): It is with great pleasure that I speak on the very successful bid by Australia to become a member of the United Nations Security Council. Principally, I thank the many people involved in this campaign and who have run a fabulous campaign on behalf of our nation. I think this is a moment in which it would be good for there to be a sense of national unity on what has been achieved. It is disappointing to hear a tone of political contest about unquestionably a wonderful achievement for this country, one which is consistent with Australian foreign policy as it has been exercised by both sides of politics since the formation of the UN after the Second World War.

This is the fifth occasion on which we will serve on the UN Security Council. The first was under the Chifley government. The second and third were under the Menzies government in the fifties and sixties. When we served in the 1980s, the campaign was initiated under the Fraser government but came to its fruition under the Hawke government. When we failed to win in 1996, it was a campaign initiated by the Keating government and brought to its conclusion by the Howard government. Alexander Downer in 2001 was keen to pursue the case again, but ultimately did not. In 2008, we launched the campaign which has been successful in 2012. The point of giving that history is to show that we have regularly served on the Security Council. In a sense we have just gone through the longest drought of not serving on the Security Council, but the urge to serve has been the natural instinct of conservative and Labor government alike, because Australia is a country which seeks to be an activist middle power which pulls its weight in the world.

The process of seeking membership of the Security Council and putting Australia's credentials before the world has been incredibly important for Australia's foreign policy beyond these two years. It is a very healthy act for Australia to engage in, just as it is a healthy act for everybody in this chamber to place our credentials before our constituencies every three years. Since the formation of the United Nations, effectively Australia has by and large put its credentials before the world every decade roughly. That did not happen in the seventies or the first decade of this millennium, but roughly speaking we have put our credentials before the world about each decade. That is a very healthy thing to do.

In this instance, it has helped to sharpen our foreign policy. We have learnt a lot from the process as undoubtedly we would have learnt a lot from campaigning previously, just as all of us learn about our constituencies when we put ourselves before them in the lead-up to an election. One thing we have learnt is the world is a much smaller place than it was when we last sat on the Security Council back in the mid-eighties. Also, there is no room for isolationism today. It is very important, when the opposition seeks to put forward its critique of Australia's participation, that it does not walk down a path of isolationism in the arguments made.

When I hear arguments that we should focus directly on our region, as if to take an interest in the rest of the world has no relevance to our region, that worries me. When I hear a criticism about Australia participating in the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile—one of the major advances in astronomy in this decade and one of the most important areas of Australian expertise where Australia has led the world in astrophysics—I get worried. That is about Australia looking inwards and not pursuing its historical mandate under both persuasions of government, where we seek to engage in the world as a middle power doing our best in our own modest way to influence the world, but most importantly to understand the currents of global politics and global trade so that we can best navigate out way through as a middle power for the benefit of our country. We have done that well in terms of our engagement with Asia post-war, again under governments of both persuasions.

I can point to an area—for example, our engagement in Africa—where we have seen our development assistance increase in the context of an increasing aid budget to Africa. Our engagement in Africa now is vastly better than it was before we entered this exercise, and it will set the tone for Australia's engagement in Africa well beyond our participation on the Security Council. Why should we have an increased engagement in Africa? In fact, resource companies of Australia are playing a critical role in the resource development of Africa, which in turn is one of the key reasons that that continent is enjoying an economic emergence.

It is missing the point for Australia at a government level to not make sure we do everything we can to support our private sector engagement in Africa. The kind of development assistance we are engaging in with Africa supports that, with mining for development initiatives and scholarships—1,000 across the continent, many within the mining industry and within government so that this continent can best utilise the phenomenon it is experiencing in its economic emergence. That is in Australia's national interests. It is a good thing for Australia to do. There are Australian companies and Australian citizens who will benefit by virtue of that better engagement in Africa, and there is no doubt that our campaign for the Security Council and the exercise of placing our credentials before the world has helped enhance our engagement in Africa. There are many other examples: Latin America, Brazil and other parts of the world. This is a good thing. To start criticising it because it is beyond a three-hour shift in our time zone from Sydney is an act of isolationism. It worries me greatly in terms of where the opposition currently position themselves in foreign policy.

This leads to the second point. There are so many lessons to be learned from around the world in relation to our own region. In the Caribbean, we have an aid program—a pretty modest one at $60 million over four years—which is supporting an engagement and a level of cooperation between the Caribbean and the Pacific. It stands to reason that we are likely to learn more about the process of developing countries with small island developing states when we look at and examine the more developed small island states of the Caribbean. Similarly, when we want to see how there can be a social dividend from the resource projects in Papua New Guinea, we do learn a lot from seeing the very successful example of that in Botswana. It stands to reason that examining world's best practice across the globe is the best chance we have of implementing world's best practice at home. That is exactly why our engagement—modest as it is—in the Caribbean actually helps people in the Pacific, because we are learning lessons that can be applied in the Pacific. It is why our engagement in Africa helps Papua New Guinea. This is not rocket science. You need to look at and engage with the world if you are going to draw the best practice world lessons to apply at home and within our region. To say that to go any further than a three-hour shift in our time zone in terms of our engagement is to put a blinker on about what is going on in the world in the context of a globe today, which is much smaller, where information is being shared much more than it ever has been before.

I think it is really important for our friends on the other side of politics to understand that lesson, because this is very much the tradition of conservative politics when they have been in government. Making the isolationist argument that is being made now in the critique about the UN is running completely contrary to the way in which former conservative governments in this country have engaged with the rest of the world. It really does behove the opposition to think carefully about its own traditions in managing our foreign policy when it has had the opportunity to do so. But, unfortunately, right now the mean-spirited critique that we are seeing in relation to Australia's success in getting elected to the United Nations Security Council evidences how ill-prepared the opposition is to lead Australia's foreign policy.

That said, there is no doubt that the election of Australia to the United Nations Security Council is a wonderful moment for our country and is a wonderful achievement for Australian diplomacy. There are many people who deserve this government's thanks in bringing this about. Can I start by mentioning the two prime ministers who have been in place during the period of this campaign, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Kevin Rudd, obviously, began the process of seeking a seat on the Security Council and he deserves much credit in terms of what has ultimately been achieved. But there is also no doubt that Julia Gillard brought this home. I was with the Prime Minister in New York during the leaders week a few weeks ago and her performance was utterly critical to seeing Australia ultimately be elected to the Security Council.

We have had three foreign ministers during this time. Stephen Smith began the campaign and was wonderful in the work that he did. Kevin Rudd as foreign minister continued the work that he had done as Prime Minister with an amazing amount of energy and vigour which really set the tempo for all of us in terms of the way in which we went about this campaign. Of course there was Bob Carr who introduced to the world the eloquence and charm that he has shown to the people of New South Wales over the last couple of decades. That charm unquestionably hit its mark at a global level and was very important in terms of seeing the result that we were able to celebrate a couple of weeks ago.

I would like to acknowledge Dennis Richardson, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, whose steadfast advice was so important throughout this whole process, and Gillian Bird, currently Acting Secretary, who was the relevant deputy secretary of the department for much of the time and who played such an important role as well. Within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra a task force was established for the UN Security Council campaign, and that was headed by Caroline Millar whose work was tireless in bringing about this result. She has done an amazing job. She has also participated significantly in the very successful campaign for the election of the Director-General, an Australian, of the World Intellectual Property Organization. So, Caroline Miller can now lay claim to being DFAT's prime numbers person. She deserves an enormous amount of credit and this is a great moment of satisfaction.

Can I also mention those others in the UN Security Council task force team—Blanca Amado, Bassim Blazey, Shae-Lee Burnell, Toni Caggiano, Madeline Chmura, Kate Duff, Julia Feeney, Ian Gerard, Laura Kemp, Isabelle Kremer, Michael Kulesza, Lizzie Landels, David Lewis, Rachel Lord, Emily Luck, Craig Maclachlan, Simon Mamouney, Paul Martin, Dieter Michel, Helen Mitchell, Anne Moores, Will Nankervis, Lara Nassau, Christopher Nixon, Therese O'Meally, Gaia Puleston, Hugh Robilliard, Scott Rutar, Arthur Spyrou, Jen Vanderstok and William Underwood. My thanks go to every one of those people.

In New York the campaign was spearheaded by our ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations Gary Quinlan. If this is any person's triumph, it is Gary's. There is absolutely no doubt that his efforts in the final few years of this campaign were so vital in getting the result that we did. The extent to which those countries, who had committed their vote to us, ultimately stuck on the day is an enormous tribute to the sense and confidence that ambassadors in the United Nations of other countries had in our Ambassador Gary Quinlan. He deserves our nation's gratitude. He has done an amazing thing.

I would also like to acknowledge Australia's former ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations Robert Hill, a former minister in the Howard government, who played a very important role as well. Unquestionably his role, both as the permanent representative and the ambassador to UN, and also as a former minister of the Howard government, gave this campaign from the outset a bipartisan flavour and we are very grateful to the work that Robert Hill did.

I would like to acknowledge Philippa King, the deputy head of mission to the United Nations and her predecessor Andrew Goledzinowski, both of whom have done fantastic work. I would like to acknowledge the UN Security Council campaign manager in New York, Anastasia Carayanides, and her team of Chelsey Martin, Peter Stone and Sally Weston, all of whom I worked closely with. They all deserve our thanks.

They were the key people who pursued the campaign but they were supported by a range of other people in New York—both Australian posted officers and locally engaged staff who either contributed directly to the campaign or supported the general operations of Australia's UN mission in New York and Australia's consulate in New York. Each contributed to the overall success of the campaign. In that context I would again like to acknowledge Will Nankervis but, in addition to Will, Damian White, Caroline Fogarty, Sue Robertson, Jared Potter, Claire Elias, Tanisha Hewanpola, Emil Stojanovski, Ian Robinson, Dean Cottam, Lauren Patmore, Ryan Neelam and all their predecessors, plus all the locally engaged staff who worked for DFAT in New York.

The staff of the Australian consulate in New York have also carried a significant burden in the context of this campaign. I would like to acknowledge our Consul-General in New York, Phil Scanlan, and I would also like to make special mention of Rebecca Smith—Bec took great care of me during my numerous visits to New York, particularly in the week of the vote. I also acknowledge the AusAID team in New York led by Peter Versegi, the Defence team in New York led by Brian Walsh and the AFP staff in New York led by Terrance Nunn and all of their predecessors.

I visited a number of countries around the world in this campaign, and I went to a number of multilateral meetings all of which involved significant amounts of work. I would like to acknowledge Paul O'Sullivan, our High Commissioner to New Zealand during the 2011 Pacific Island Forum and all his team; our current High Commissioner to New Zealand and the Cook Islands, Michael Potts, who looked after the Pacific Island Forum this year; our then High Commissioner to Sri Lanka but in this context the Maldives, Kathy Klugman, who looked after our presence at the SAARC summit in the Maldives last year; Ambassador Patricia Holmes in Argentina, who is also the Ambassador to Uruguay, who looked after the Mercosur summit in 2011; High Commissioner Philip Kentwell in the Caribbean, who was with me during the COFCOR conference in 2012; Ambassador Lisa Filipetto, who was with me in Ethiopia during the African Union summit; and of course during leaders week this year Gary Quinlan led his team. I acknowledge all of those who provided support to those heads of mission in all of those efforts.

I would also like to acknowledge all the other heads of mission who are currently posted overseas and their teams of locally engaged staff and Australian staff, particularly in those small posts with multiple accreditations who did so much work with all the countries with which they engaged. There is so much work that goes into a campaign of this kind, and there are so many people behind the scenes in each of those posts, but all of their efforts count. They in turn are supported by a range of people at DFAT headquarters in Canberra who have worked on policy and strategy across many countries, as well as those who have worked on incoming and outgoing visits associated with the campaign.

With regard to my visits overseas, I acknowledge in particular the work of Paul Myler, former head of one of the Europe branches at DFAT and his team; Dave Sharma, head of the Africa Branch and his team; John Richardson and Rowena Thompson, who have overseen work associated with my recent visits to Central America and the Caribbean; Jennifer Rawson, who heads the Pacific Division; and the team in the Executive Branch led by Bryce Hutchesson.

The contribution of other departments has also played a very important role—Defence, AFP, the Department of Climate Change and others. I particularly acknowledge AusAID and Peter Baxter and his entire staff, both in Canberra and overseas. Finally I would like to acknowledge—

An o pposition member interjecting

Mr MARLES: This is important, because these people played a very significant role in what is a very significant achievement for our country, and it is a moment we should be celebrating in the right spirit. I would like to acknowledge the special envoys, who did an incredible job in visiting countries around the world: Bob McMullan, who was appointed to a number of anglophone African countries and is a highly experienced and distinguished former minister and member of this place; Joanna Hewitt, a former Secretary of DAFF and DFAT deputy secretary, who looked after a number of other anglophone African countries; Bill Fisher, who was the envoy to the francophone countries and La Francophonie, an organisation including 53 francophone UN member states; Dr Russell Trood, a former Liberal Party senator who did a wonderful job not only in the week itself but in the years leading up to the vote as our special envoy to Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucuses; John McCarthy, the special envoy to Latin America; Neil Mules, who was the special envoy to the lusophone countries; former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, who was our special envoy to Eritrea, Rwanda, South Sudan and Bhutan and who, again, did a wonderful job in each of those places; and Peter Tesch, who was our special envoy to Central Asia. I would also like to acknowledge Ahmed Fahour, who was our special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Each of those people played a very significant role in this win. In acknowledging the very many that I have tonight, I hope it gives some indication of the size of the effort in getting Australia elected to the United Nations Security Council for the fifth time. In many respects, the names that I have been able to put into Hansardtonight are just the tip of the iceberg of the incredible effort that was done on behalf of our country. Those people, both those I named and all those who supported this effort, deserve Australia's thanks.