Australia launches new bids for seats on UN Security Council, Human Rights Council

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the nation hoped to maintain its focus on international security, launching a new bid to be elected to the United Nations Security Council.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the nation hoped to maintain its focus on international security, launching a new bid to be elected to the United Nations Security Council.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia has launched a new bid to be elected to the United Nations Security Council, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop saying the nation hoped to maintain its focus on international security.

Ms Bishop said in a statement on Wednesday (Sept 30) that Australia would be a candidate for a Security Council seat in 2029-2030 as she signalled the country's intention to also seek a spot on the UN Human Rights Council for 2018-2020.

The Foreign Minister, who is in New York for UN meetings, said that Australia served with distinction when it last held a non-permanent seat on the Security Council from 2013 to 2014, "most noticeably through our advocacy of the downing of MH17".

"Had we not been on the Security Council, I doubt very much we would have been able to achieve that unanimous resolution that led to the presence of the Australian authorities and Australian Federal Police in Ukraine to recover the bodies and the remains of the Australians killed on that flight," Ms Bishop told reporters in New York Tuesday.

Malaysia Airlines MH17 was down by a suspected ground-to-air missile over Ukraine in July last year, killing all 298 on board, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.

Australia has vowed to keep pushing for the prosecution of those who shot down the flight.

Ms Bishop added that the decision to bid for a Security Council seat was taken by new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who ousted former prime minister Tony Abbott in a political party coup two weeks ago.

The 2029-2030 term is the first available opportunity to nominate for a seat that is uncontested, giving Australia the greatest chance of success and minimising the cost, she added.

Opposition Labor spokesman Tanya Plibersek supported the moves, saying "when we participate in these multilateral organisations we enhance Australia's reputation as a good global citizen".

But she expressed concern that Australia's treatment of asylum-seekers held in offshore camps on the Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea and Nauru could make the human rights bid "very difficult".

UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Francois Crepeau last week said he was postponing a visit to Australia due to restrictions on his access to detention centres and fears that people who spoke to him could face legal reprisals.

Ms Bishop said she had spoken to Mr Crepeau and explained her country's policies against asylum-seekers arriving by boat, adding that the tough approach would "not at all" damage the bid.

Australia has sat on the Security Council five times, with former Labor leader and prime minister Kevin Rudd leading the last push.