Australia should stick to its principles

August 30, 2012 by Julie Bishop
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The decision of the Australian government to dispatch two senior officials to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Iran is a mistake…writes Julie Bishop.

Julie Bishop

At best it will send mixed messages to the regime about the commitment of the Australian government to the sanctions that have been imposed against Iran.

At worst it will hand the regime a propaganda victory domestically and perhaps internationally that international efforts to isolate Iran are waning and that governments of some western democracies are prepared to engage.

The test is whether Australia would have sent to Iran the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Joanna Hewitt and the Ambassador to the United Nations Gary Quinlan in the normal course of events.

In other words, would these senior officials have been sent to Iran if Australia were not engaged in a campaign seeking support for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council?

It is hard to think of a scenario where the answer to that question would be other than in the negative.

To put the Government’s decision in context, Iran is currently subject to one of the most severe range of sanctions imposed on any nation over the past 50 years.

Australia has supported the imposition of the UN mandated sanctions, including:

·         a ban on sales of certain goods and technology related to nuclear technology, ballistic missiles and other weapons;

·         a ban on the provision of technical assistance, training, finance or other forms of support;

·         the suspension of all business relationships; and

·         the prohibition of dealings with certain individuals associated with the regime and travel bans on regime officials.

In addition, Australia has imposed an additional 10 autonomous sanctions against the regime that include:

·         a ban on sales of a wide range of goods directly or indirectly associated with weapons development;

·         a ban on the purchase of Iranian oil or oil products;

·         a ban on investment in the Iranian oil and fuel sectors; and

·         tougher travel bans on Iranian officials.

Having imposed strict travel bans against senior Iranian officials, it is farcical for Australia to then dispatch two senior officials to travel to Tehran.

The Government has failed to explain why the Australian Ambassador to Iran, Marc Innes-Brown, is deemed incapable of representing Australia at the NAM summit.

Had the government instructed Mr Innes-Brown to perform this duty it would not have raised eyebrows.

He is already stationed in the country and is an experienced diplomat, having served as Australia’s Ambassador to Iraq and First Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Washington.

His presence at the NAM summit could hardly have been portrayed by the regime as a diplomatic coup.

Yet a special visit from Ambassador Quinlan and Special Envoy Hewitt raises serious doubts about Australia’s priorities.

There are two key reasons why the Australian government should not have sent these high-ranking officials to Tehran this week.

Iran is unquestionably in pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.

There is a debate about whether Iran will take the final step and actually build a nuclear weapon but the consequences of such a decision would be disastrous for the region and the world.

If Iran built a nuclear weapon it would trigger a regional arms race with unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences.

Israel believes that Iran represents an existential threat in that Iran has threatened to destroy the entire Israeli nation

These concerns have been magnified recently by a number of bellicose statements with regard to Israel.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “the existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity” and that Israel was a “cancerous tumour” that needed to be excised.

Iran’s propaganda war is in full swing.

There are reports from Tehran that delegates to the NAM summit are being offered shuttle bus rides to the very nuclear facilities that are the subject of the current UN sanctions.

Further the Iranian regime reportedly put on display at various summit venues the vehicles in which Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated.

While the regime claims it is not pursuing nuclear weapons technology, it refuses to allow unfettered access to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

This has led to a standoff and steadily increasing sanctions.

It has also led to repeated threats of a military strike by Israel, perhaps with the support of the United States.

This volatile climate makes it vitally important that Iran is under no illusion about the commitment and solidarity of the nations aligned against it and the united opposition to its nuclear development program.

In the current climate, it is hard to see how the dispatch of two senior Australian officials can be anything other than counter-productive.

Australia’s international standing and principles should not be compromised by the Government’s pursuit of a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Julie Bishop is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the  Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Shadow Minister for Trade


5 Responses to “Australia should stick to its principles”
  1. Lynne Newington says:

    If expedient enough, it would apply to any government, “clerical” or other, although the latter as I know it can claim diplomatic immunity from anything.
    Something Australia couldn’t do on an international platform.
    As far as ~Not In My Name~ that can be changed to, whether yours or mine, if necessary.
    Another ringing slap in the face for whosoever.

  2. Rita says:

    Australia should be ashamed for its presence at this event. NOT IN MY NAME.

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    That’s just what Pope Benedict has called for: A New World Order.
    I wonder what good it would do and for whom?

  4. Rita says:

    The Non-Aligned Movement Conference In Tehran – A Show Of Strength Against The West; Kayhan: The Conference Is A Golden Opportunity For Neutralizing Sanctions And Instituting New World Order, And ‘A Ringing Slap Not Only To Israel’s Face, But Also To The Face Of The U.S. And The Entire 5+1’

    Source: Memri – Middle East Media Research Institute,

    Our Government should be ashamed!

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