Syria and the plight of those being wounded in the civil war will be Australia's first priority as a member of the United Nations Security Council after it pulled off a stunning victory in a ballot in New York yesterday morning.
Immediately after Australia secured 140 out of 193 votes to win the seat for 2013 and 2014, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, told the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, that Australia's first priority would be to secure medical care for those being wounded in Syria. Senator Carr told Mr Ban that Australia was not naive enough to think that it alone could pressure China and Russia to stop vetoing a UN intervention in Syria to end the conflict. But that it believed it could at least persuade the council to adopt measures allowing doctors and other medical workers to do their job.
Doctors, hospitals and patients are being targeted and Australia will push a three-point plan seeking agreement from both sides to stop.
A neutral third party such as a non-government organisation, would monitor the implementation of the agreement.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, also singled out Syria as a priority as she declared the win ''a great day for Australia'' and a ''victory for Australian diplomacy''. She saluted Kevin Rudd for starting the bid in 2008 and driving the process.
Australia, Luxembourg and Finland contested two spots. Finland, the favourite, missed out.
It's the fifth time Australia will have sat on the council and the first time in 27 years. Strong support among the 53 African nations, as well as the Caribbean, was believed to be crucial, and Australia also won the support of both Iran and Israel.
Ms Gillard said Australia would have its own voice on the council and it was ''infantile'' to suggest that it would have to choose between China and the US, two permanent members often on opposing sides of key issues such as Syria.
''We have a strong defence alliance with the US and we have a robust relationship with China,'' Ms Gillard said. ''Let's not create a world of silly analysis and false choices. That's not the world we live in.''
She disagreed with the media baron Rupert Murdoch, who tweeted ''no Aussies care'' about being on the Security Council. ''I think Australians care about our soldiers in Afghanistan,'' she said. ''They care about the mission there and they care about its future and that will be on the table at the UN Security Council.''
Similarly, Australians cared about East Timor, and events in Iran and North Korea, Ms Gillard said.