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Monday, 20 October 2008
Page: 9621

Ms PARKE (9:01 PM) —I move:

That the House:

(1)   notes that the 24th October is United Nations Day, celebrating the entry into force of the United Nations Charter on 24 October 1945;

(2)   celebrates Australia’s key role in the formation of the United Nations and the drafting of the United Nations Charter;

(3)   recognises that Australia has been a consistent and long-term contributor to United Nations’ efforts to safeguard international peace and security and to promote human rights, for example, by being the 13th largest contributor to the United Nations’ budget, by contributing to many United Nations’ peacekeeping operations, and by firmly committing to increasing Australia’s development assistance and seeking real progress towards the Millennium Development Goals;

(4)   notes further the Australian Government’s commitment to the multilateral system as one of the three fundamental pillars of Australia’s foreign policy; that Australia is determined to work through the United Nations to enhance security and economic well-being worldwide, and to uphold the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter;

(5)   notes that, as the only truly global organisation, the United Nations plays a critical role in addressing the global challenges that no country can resolve on its own and that Australia is determined to play its part within the United Nations to help address serious global challenges, including conflict prevention, international development, climate change, terrorism and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction;

(6)   notes also Australia’s commitment to, and support for, reform of the United Nations’ system in order to ensure that the organisation reflects today’s world and is able to function efficiently and effectively; and

(7)   reaffirms the faith of the Australian people in the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.

As a former United Nations staff member, it gives me great pleasure to move this motion, noting that 24 October is United Nations Day, celebrating the entry into force of the UN Charter on 24 October 1945. Australia played a key role in the formation of the United Nations and the drafting of the UN Charter. Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, Australia’s Minister for External Affairs in the Curtin and Chifley Labor governments, was the leader of the Australian delegation to the founding meeting of the United Nations held in San Francisco in 1945, at which Australia became the champion of the small and middle powers in the drafting of the UN Charter. Some three years later, in 1948, Dr Evatt was the third President of the UN General Assembly when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted—a document which, along with the UN Charter, he had worked hard to achieve. Of course, this year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These two documents remain of key importance today, not only in defining the course and framework of international relations but also in setting standards and principles to guide nations in the treatment of their own citizens as well as respect for each other. This is the normative function of the UN—setting the benchmarks against which nations compare themselves and to which nations aspire in order to be regarded as good international citizens.

As when the UN Charter was drafted, the problems of today’s world can only be addressed by a truly international organisation. The serious global challenges of conflict prevention, development, climate change, terrorism and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction cannot be resolved by any one country acting on its own. While most people tend to think of the UN in connection with war zones and conflicts between member states, in fact there are countless ways in which member states cooperate with each other for the common good through the UN: coordinating assistance in natural disasters; regulating civilian air traffic or the carriage of goods by sea; providing development assistance; promoting respect for human rights, the rule of law, democracy and good governance; tackling HIV-AIDS and other global health issues; providing support to peace processes; supervising elections; and advancing universal education and environmental protection. Much has been achieved in 63 years, but it is clear that much remains to be done.

As the Secretary-General noted in his most recent report on the work of the organisation:

We must deliver results for a more secure world. Once again, during this past year, in too many places around the world, children bore arms instead of holding textbooks, the earth was scorched instead of cultivated, and national revenues were diverted to arms instead of being spent on education and health care. Every life lost and every penny spent on war is stolen from future generations.

I am proud to be part of the government that has recommitted Australia to a path of multilateralism and support for the UN as one of the three key pillars of its foreign policy, including ratifying the Kyoto protocol and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and taking steps to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Australia has participated in the negotiation of a new treaty to ban cluster munitions, has established a commission to promote a new nuclear disarmament treaty and is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council for 2013-14. Australia is also committed to tackling the Millennium Development Goals within its region, with programs to eradicate poverty and advance health, education and infrastructure.

With regard to this parliament’s interaction with the UN, each year a parliamentary delegation attends the UN General Assembly. There has been a UNICEF Parliamentary Association since 1987 and I am proud to chair that association, along with Senator Simon Birmingham as deputy chair. As of last week, there is a new Australia-UN parliamentary group, of which I am the chair, Senator Russell Trood is the deputy chair and Senator David Feeney is the secretary. I note with appreciation the encouragement of John Langmore, President of the United Nations Association of Australia, former member for Fraser and former senior UN official, for the establishment of the UN parliamentary group.

I would like to finish with a quote from one of my heroes—the only person to have received a Nobel Peace Prize posthumously—the second UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammerskjold, who died in somewhat mysterious circumstances in a plane crash in the Congo on 17 September 1961. In his last address to UN staff, nine days before he was killed, he said this:

It is false pride to register and to boast to the world about the importance of one’s work, but it is false humility, and finally just as destructive, not to recognise—and recognise with gratitude—that one’s work has a sense. Let us avoid the second fallacy as carefully as the first, and let us work in the conviction that our work has a meaning beyond the narrow individual and has meant something for man.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Is the motion seconded?