Comparing herself to a footy coach on grand final week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard is staying tight-lipped on Australia’s chances for a United Nations Security Council seat.
Arriving in New York ahead of the UN Leaders Week, Ms Gillard said competition was tough for the five non-permanent seats which are up for grabs in the 18 October vote.
Asked to rank the nation’s chances of securing one of two seats in a category which includes European frontrunners Finland and Luxembourg, Ms Gillard was noncommittal but confident.
“People this week will be interviewing coaches for the AFL grand final and the NRL grand final and you won’t hear any of those coaches speculating on the results of the match,” she said.
“They’ll be talking about what they’re doing to get in there and win – I’m playing the same role on a very different stage.”
The prime minister’s lobbying will be a focus of her time at Leaders Week when she will meet with some of her 140 global counterparts and make her first address to the General Assembly on Wednesday.
“We do have the support of many places around the world but it’s tight and it’s tough and so I’m here personally to advocate for our election to the Security Council,” Ms Gillard said of Australia’s 2013-14 Council seat campaign, which has cost $24 million over five years.
The prime minister’s campaigning in New York is supported by Foreign Minister Bob Carr.
“We’re a creative little power, we’re a good global citizen (and) we believe we punch above our weight in terms of aid programs and contributions to peace keeping and nation-building around the world,” Senator Carr told the Seven Network.
However, Ms Gillard’s push has not attracted bipartisan support, with Tony Abbot querying whether the focus should instead be on the foreign policy issues dominating in Australia’s region.
“Instead of swanning around in New York talking to Africans, she should be in Jakarta right now trying to sort out the border protection disaster,” Mr Abbott told Macquarie Radio on Monday.
“The problem with this whole Security Council bid is that it costs money.
“Worse, it’s distorted our priorities over the last few years as so much time and effort goes into this and not into managing the relationships that are absolutely vital to our future.”
Mr Abbott’s comments brought a swift and sharp rebuke from Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan, who pointed out that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also is in New York.
“This is yet another example of reckless negativity from the leader of the opposition, in complete defiance of the facts and common sense,” Mr Swan told reporters in Canberra.
“Mr Abbott ought to retract his statements immediately. He ought to apologise for them.”
Australia has not held a seat on the council since the 1980s. If the government’s campaign is successful it will sit on the council for two years from early next year.
Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull says he hopes the government’s bid is successful but Liberal MP Steven Ciobo predicts it will “come to naught”.
Former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans says the campaign has done good things for Australia’s international reputation, even if it ultimately proves unsuccessful.
Australia must win the support of two-thirds of the 193 UN member nations to secure one of two seats up for grabs in its category. New Zealand, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates are among the nations to publicly declare support for Australia’s bid.
But given the voting will be conducted by secret ballot, it’s impossible to say for sure how much support Australia can actually count on. — with AAP