Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Australia is bidding for

a seat on the UN Security Council. It is a temporary seat for two years but our government is attaching huge importance to it.
The bid was initially made by Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister. (He would also like to see himself as the Secretary-General of the UN.) The bid has continued under the Prime Ministership of Julia Gillard.
It has cost, according to the government, $24.5m so far. They claim the expenditure is necessary because Luxembourg and Finland have been in the running for a decade and Australia was late bidding.
The real cost has been far higher. It has involved trying to bribe countries they think might vote for Australia - a little "foreign aid" here and there - in Africa in particular. It has involved "taking a stance" and commenting on some issues and remaining silent on others.  It has taken up months of diplomatic negotiations. It has also affected Australia's foreign policy.
The bribes have almost certainly lined the pockets of some high ranking officials. That is the way those things work. The public stance taken on some issues is sometimes at variance with the advice being given government by those who have far more idea what is really going on. Remaining silent on other issues has sometimes caused extreme disquiet.  Australian diplomats really are being sent abroad to, as the saying goes, "lie for their country". The months of negotiation are causing stress and anxiety. Foreign policy decisions are being made with an eye on the bid rather than an eye on the country.
What is Australia doing it for? The "prize" is a seat on a committee with no teeth. The Security Council is powerless. The decisions of the Security Council are often vetoed by one or more of the permanant members - and are often ignored by others. Only individual states can take action - and they often fail to do so for their own political and economic reasons.
It is no secret that Kevin Rudd, along with other politicians of all persuasions, likes to suggest that Australia is very much more important than it really is. He (and others) talk up Australia's influence and importance "in the Asian region" and in world affairs. "We talk and you listen" has been the message delivered to the world.
The reality is that Australia is a small country - in terms of population and influence - and if English was not the official language it would probably have no influence at all.
The idea that getting a seat on the Security Council will dramatically increase the influence Australia has on world affairs is nonsense. Other countries will simply watch to see which way Australia votes - and that could end up doing more harm than good, especially when a choice has to be made between countries like China and the USA.
It would be better if the bid failed - but I suspect mine is a minority view.

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