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Australia Backs India & Japan Security Council Bid

Australia Supports India And Japan’s Bid For UN Security Council

By Andreas von Warburg reporting from New York

The newly-elected Australian government is front-footing its stance on a controversial debate on reform of the United Nations Security Council - favoring India and Japan as new permanent members with no veto power.

“The United Nations needs to be modern,” Australia’s new Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a television interview with Barrie Cassidy of ABC1's Insiders. “It's not just the non-permanent membership of the Security Council. We think the permanent membership should be changed to reflect the modern reality, having on the permanent membership Japan, for example, and India, for example.” (File image of Australia's foreign minister, Stephen Smith by Selwyn Manning.)

Earlier in March, the new Government announced that Australia is officially seeking a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the 2013-2014 term, after an absence of 27 years.

To the question: “Will that be part of your negotiating process, then, you will be arguing for the inclusion of India and Japan as permanent members, as you go about trying to win a seat as a non-permanent member?.” Foreign Minister Smith replied: “We're not going to compromise foreign or public policy to buy or win a vote. Those points about modernization of the Security Council and our view that India and Japan should be permanent members, Mr Rudd, the Prime Minister and I have made those points publicly and privately before, and we'll make them again.”

Smith, who was sworn in as Minister for Foreign Affairs on December 3, 2007, said Australia needs to play a stronger role in international affairs and has a responsibility to be more involved in the world.

“I don't think we punch above our weight,” he said. “I think we can do and have to do more.” He pointed out that “Australia sat round the table at the Security Council's first meeting.”

“We sat round the Security Council table the first time the United Nations commissioned a peacekeeping force in the Suez,” he continued. “We sat round the Security Council when South Africa was expelled on the basis of apartheid.”

Smith stressed that Australia has the potential of being a major player in world affair.

“We think Australia can be a significant country with a modern outlook, taking a modern view to the United Nations,” he said. “Of course we accept the United Nations is not a perfect institution. That's why we want to put our shoulder to the wheel and start arguing for modernization of the United Nations, more effective and more efficient peacekeeping arrangements. We want to return the United Nations to a rightful central place in international affairs, just as we want to return Australia to its rightful place in international affairs, whether that's in the Asia Pacific region or whether that's in multilateral institutions, like the United Nations.”

In 2003, then-Prime Minister John Howard proposed a revamping of the UN Security Council to include a permanent seat for the world's largest Islamic nation, Indonesia, as he then outlined in an interview to The Bulletin, the Australian news magazine that closed down earlier this past January after almost 130 years of publishing. In Howard’s plan was meant to transform the UN Council in a three-tiered body, replacing the existing two-tiered system, which has five permanent members and 10 two-year rotational seats.

The three-tiered plan was first introduced by Italy in an effort to build on the momentum and bring the reform process of the Council to a final stage after decades of debating the issue.

In Howard’s plan, Indonesia would have joined India, Japan, Germany and Brazil – the so-called G4 – to form the second tier with permanent seats but no rights of veto, unlike the existing permanent members, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, known as P5.

“But I don't think it's terminal,” Howard told the magazine back in 2003. "There may be a greater momentum towards some kind of reform of the Security Council. I see merit in a Security Council that has three layers, the five permanent veto members – none of them are going to give it up – with five permanent non-veto members, then five that keep changing every year. The five permanent non-veto members would be, say, Japan, India, Brazil, Germany and Indonesia, an Islamic country.”


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