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PM steps up the lobbying for UN Security Council

Date

Australian Financial Review chief political correspondent

View more articles from Phillip Coorey

<i>Illustration: Rocco Fazzari</i>

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

AUSTRALIA'S push for a seat on the United Nation's Security Council moves into overdrive today as Julia Gillard begins arm twisting African leaders and highlighting Australia's comprehensive peacekeeping record.

The Prime Minister, whose first full day in New York was all but wiped out due to illness, will lobby directly the presidents of Malawi, Egypt and Liberia today before addressing a UN summit on peacekeeping.

She will also have a bilateral meeting with Japan's Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda.

With less than a month to go until the vote, Ms Gillard will tell a UN peacebuilding summit that Australia's contribution to peacekeeping missions and its level of expertise in the area are more significant than most nations.

She will point out Australia has dedicated 65,000 personnel to peacekeeping missions since the UN was founded in 1945, and that its expertise in its own region left it better qualified than most to not only keep the peace but to help nations build.

Ms Gillard is being supported in New York by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr. Yesterday Kevin Rudd, who began Australia's push for the Security Council as prime minister in 2008, voiced his support.

''We're having a go. We're having a strong go and I think the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Bob Carr have been in there supporting it fully,'' he told ABC radio.

Mr Rudd said at the time he launched the bid that Australia would be lucky to win a seat and this sentiment is shared by those in the delegation to New York.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday the fact the vote was a secret ballot augured well for Australia because its hopes rested, in part, on other countries breaking pledges already made.

Australia, Luxembourg and Finland are competing for two spots and the latter two began their bids six years earlier and have bigger support blocs behind them.

''People will say, 'well Finland is a smaller country and Luxembourg is a tiny country' but the truth is the way in which people vote around the world is shaped by many, many different factors,'' Mr Rudd said.

''The Europeans for example tend to vote as one. Then of course you have a natural sympathy for small countries around the world by the forty of fifty micro-states around the world or small countries. It's a very, very complex procedure.''

Ms Gillard will tell the peacebuilding summit that of Australia's 22 closest neighbours, 20 are developing countries, giving Australia a real understanding of the relationship between security and development.

Australia had developed its expertise through such regional peacekeeping operations including in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.

Ms Gillard will also point out that $2 billion, almost half Australia's foreign aid budget, will be given to fragile or conflict-affected states this year to avoid them sliding back into instability.

Australia is vying for a seat on the council in 2013 and 2014 and the federal opposition, which may be in government by then, opposes the bid.

Senator Carr said this opposition was not raised during talks and he did not think it was hurting Australia's case.

But he blasted the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, saying he had a blinkered view of the world.

''He's too fixated on the Anglosphere,'' he said.

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