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Strong UN in Australia's interests.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Defence

8 May 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/293

Strong UN in Australia’s interests

A strong United Nations is in Australia’s interests as a middle power, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Andrew Bartlett, told a public forum on the future of the United Nations tonight.

“It is not enough for us to just rely on ‘great and powerful friends’ for security or for economic prosperity through favourable trade arrangements, because ultimately their interests are not always our interests,” Senator Bartlett said.

“The United Nations and other multilateral forums, and the development of international treaties, conventions and law are very much in the interests of a middle power like Australia.

“Yet Australia is following the US in increasingly sidelining the UN.”

Senator Bartlett said: “The Australian government has often undermined the United Nations when it does not like the UN’s judgments on Australia’s human rights record - especially in regard to asylum seekers and indigenous Australians and the military action against Iraq.

“And now John Howard is being somewhat mischievous in making proposals for UN reform.

“We could have more faith in the Prime Minister’s commitment to the functions of the UN if he had not so recently demonstrated a willingness to go outside the Security Council when the numbers are not going to fall the way that he and the US President wanted them to.”

Senator Bartlett also told the forum that participating in an illegal and immoral war without UN sanction has undoubtedly increased the risk to Australia of terrorist attack.

“The United States and Australian administrations have consistently referred to the threat of terrorism as a justification for pre-emptive military action. In fact, pre-emptive military action as well as the abandonment by the United States of the proper processes of the United Nations is likely to exacerbate the threat of terrorism,” he said.

“The illegal use of force by powerful western nations against a predominantly Muslim country will help create environments that nurture religious radicalism and racial hatred. On the other hand, a strong United Nations will help to address the root causes of terrorism.”

To arrange interview with Senator Bartlett contact Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649