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Opposition support for UN Security Council seat not guaranteed.

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The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs (to 22 September 2008)

The Federal Opposition will not guarantee support a bid by Australia to gain a seat on the United Nations (U.N) Security Council.

The Government must provide satisfactory assurances and answers on a range of issues critical to Australia, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP, said today.

''On any hard-nosed assessment it appears that if Australia is to secure the sufficient votes to gain a two-year temporary seat on the Security Council in 2013-14, Australia would have to seriously reposition on some major foreign policy matters.

''Support of the nations within the Arab Gulf Co-operation Council would be necessary and would require Australia to significantly weaken its support for Israel.

''To gain the critical support of many African countries, Australia would have to soften its position on human rights abuses; particularly in Zimbabwe.

''Mr Rudd must answer the question - where does he plan to get the necessary votes if he doesn't intend to make these and other critical foreign policy compromises to gain majority support of the 192 nations within the U.N.?

''Any successful bid for a U.N. Security Council spot will also lead to a crisis in DFAT given the huge focus and resource requirements; particularly at a time when the Rudd Government is slashing $58 million from DFAT staff positions in major diplomatic posts.

''Reductions in funding and personnel dedicated to negotiating the Free Trade Agreements with China and Japan, are also likely.

''Many other questions require an honest answer; including: 1) Is there any real prospect of reform to the choking bureaucracy of the U.N. which has seen it fail to adequately respond to many crises; such as Rwanda?

2) What is the agenda and issues that Mr Rudd wants to take to the Security Council?

3) How was the cost of $40 million to lobby other countries for this spot and the likelihood of attaining a position arrived at and assessed? Is there any assurance that the cost won't seriously blow out?

4) Is this a genuine bid, or is it simply another expensive ''symbol'' of activity on the part of Mr Rudd, without any substance?

5) What real benefit will Australia derive from the temporary membership of the U.N. Security Council, particularly given the cost of lobbying, the important compromises that would need to be made to foreign policy, the veto power of the five permanent

members of the Council and the irrelevance experienced by many other temporary members?

''Like many other ''symbolic'' gestures by the Rudd Government this proposal for a temporary U.N. Security Council seat appears half baked.''