United Nations Update One – “Welcome”

9 October 2015

As some of you might be aware, I am currently in New York as part of an Australian federal delegation to the United Nations (UN).

This annual delegation has operated for decades and typically runs from September to December.

It is also a bi-partisan affair, with one federal politician from the government and another from the opposition selected to participate.

This year, myself and Wayne Swan have been selected.

These delegations provide an important opportunity for serving federal members of parliament to participate in the operations and affairs of the United Nations General Assembly and the six international committees that direct the Assembly and the UN Security Council.

It is my intention to publish a series of short reports on the affairs of the UN while I am in New York.

These reports will focus on the impact that UN decisions (or failures to make decisions) might have on Australia.

I look forward to sharing these with you over the coming weeks and months.

My arrival at the UN has coincided with what is known as “Leaders Week.”

It is a time when dozens of heads of state from the 193 participating nations of the UN converge on New York for the opening of the annual sessions of both the General Assembly and the Security Council.

As you can imagine, each of these leaders bring their own throng of advisers, journalists and photographers which makes for a hectic and crowded week.

I know the efforts of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the UN have received significant media attention in Australia this week.

Whilst both the Assembly and the Security Council convene frequently throughout the year, “Leaders Week” is regarded as the “high” level period where leaders can adopt, amend and or ratify decisions that have been made by the various UN bodies and committees throughout the year.

It will come as no surprise to many that my strong policy focus during my time at the UN will surround matters of agriculture and, more broadly, trade, as well as decisions that could impact on our national security or might require Australia to send troops or peacekeepers into conflict zones.

I have also made a personal commitment to contribute to any debates about reducing violence against women and children across the globe.

Parliamentary delegates have been given unfettered access to the operations of the Assembly, the Security Council and the Committees and it is my intention to make good use of that gift.

We are able to make contributions to the various debates and I will be given occasions in the coming weeks to make speaking contributions to the various organs of the UN.

Parliamentarians are expected to make contributions to debates and decisions that shape the future of our nation.

These can be policies that will impact on the opportunities of future generations, such as when we create laws that govern how we will utilize our precious natural resources over the coming decades.

These can also be arduous decisions that impact countless individuals and families seemingly overnight. For example, I am thinking of any proposal that commits our troops and personnel to theatres of conflict many thousands of kilometres from Australia.

The question is often asked – “Why should we get involved?”

Long before I entered the political arena, it has been a question I have frequently asked myself.

Having now spent dozens of hours in the General Assembly and the Security Council, I can understand just how complex and complicated is the answer.

Whether international security, humanitarian considerations, defence and trade relationships or simply the impacts of globalization on our everyday life, watching the debates and discussions in the United Nations building during my first days in New York has already left me with the distinct impressions that the geo-political affairs in other parts of the world have a real, direct and present impact on Australia.

I hope to share more of my reflections on why we should be paying attention to what takes places at the UN in these forthcoming updates.