Labor’s UNAA report card: good overall, but two serious failures

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The United Nations Association of Australia publishes a periodical United Nations Report Card, which details Australia’s performance and participation in the UN. The 2013 Report Card, edited by Professor Alex Bellamy, focused on the performance of the Labor Government 2007-13. Each author assessed Australia’s performance across a number of specified criteria and awarded a grade from A to F.

The Report Card overall paints a positive picture of the past Government’s performance. The great failure, concerning Refugees and Asylum Seekers is all the more stark. The authors write:

We have given the Australian Government an ‘F’ on the topic of refugees and asylum seekers due to the serious questions that remain about the compatibility of government policy with our domestic and international legal obligations. The Australian Government also scores poorly on the issue of climate change given our dependence on fossil fuels and the uncertainties over our commitment to reducing emissions compared to many other developed countries.

2013 Report Card Grades on the Australian Government’s performance in the United Nations

SUBJECT GRADE COMMENT
UN Security Council and General Assembly

A

It was significant, and a credit to Australia’s diplomacy, that
we were elected to the Security Council on the first ballot with 140
votes in October 2012.
Human Rights

B

Australia has been a strong advocate across a broad range of issues.
Humanitarian and Development Aid

B

Australia’s record on overseas aid is very mixed.
Climate Change

D

Australia must raise its mitigation ambition, increase its share of international climate finance and develop a transformative national energy policy.
Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding

B

Australia has demonstrated a clear preference for deploying forces outside the UN framework.
Disarmament

B

Australia has had a mixed history with nuclear weapons and has
demonstrated a lack of consistency both internationally and
domestically.
Indigenous Peoples

C+

Some positive steps have been taken toward implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 
Gender Equality

B

Australia is an active participant in UN Forums on gender equality,
including the Commission on the Status of Women and the Convention.
Refugees and Asylum Seekers

F

Australia’s response to asylum seekers has been marked by increasing hostility and a near-total absence of any concern.

The United Nations Association of Australia’s goals are:

  • to promote among Australians greater awareness of the purposes of the United Nations, and
  • to ensure that the Australian Government fulfils its obligations as a member-state of the UN.

Australia’s representatives were amongst the most committed participants in negotiation of the UN Charter at San Francisco in 1945 and Australia was one of the founding members of the Organisation. The preamble to the UN Charter says that “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . . to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights . . . to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, . . . have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”