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And so what happens after six years of sustained UN-bashing?

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KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs



The UN finally pulls up stumps and goes home

The closure of the UN office in Sydney would be a potent symbol of the Howard Government’s systematic discrediting of the organisation during the six years of Howard’s incumbency.

John Howard has seen the UN as fair political game from the outset.

His Government has repeatedly attacked Mary Robinson and the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

His Government has attacked Ruud Lubbers and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

In fact, wherever the Howard Government has seen domestic political advantage in attacking the United Nations, it has done so with relish.

Of course the same Government has never bothered defending the UN for the good that it does this country and the world.

John Howard has never used the authority of his office to tell the Australian people how much Australia benefits from the UN; the fact that East Timor would have never been possible in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution; that the democratic transition of East Timor would have never been possible in the absence of UNTAET and UNAMET; that the repatriation of East Timorese refugees would have been financially impossible were it not for the resources of the UNHCR; that the economic reconstruction of East Timor would have been an Australian burden rather than one shared with the international community were it not for the UN.

The bottom line is that it has never been domestically politically useful for the Prime Minister to defend the UN - only to attack it.

It is unlikely the UN would close its office in Australia for budgetary reasons if this Government had a different track record - and if this Government bothered to lodge its strenuous objections with Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The closure of the UN office in Sydney, which has been in continuous operation since Doc Evatt was President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 is a symbolic parting in the road between this country and UN - of which we should be collectively ashamed.

Ends 24 September 2002

For further information contact: Kevin Rudd, MP on 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan on 0417 605 823