MARIUS BENSON: Bob Carr, you've had your meeting with Ban Ki-moon, your first meeting as Australia's Foreign Minister with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
BOB CARR: Yes, I told the Secretary-General that we were proud to be a good citizen. He in fact said that we were an exemplary citizen of the UN, and I think every Australian can be proud of that participation in peacekeeping, our contribution to good causes, but above all, our support for his priorities — sustainable development and climate change, conflict prevention, avoiding wars, and the advancement of women. He's called them the imperatives of this century, and he knows that he's got Australia's support on each of them.
MARIUS BENSON: And apart from the good will, and those general issues, were there specifics — obviously at the moment the world's attention in terms of the United Nations is directed on Syria. Was that something under discussion?
BOB CARR: Yes, I gave him Australia's full encouragement for the initiatives he's taken on Syria. I was able to announce to him an Australian humanitarian assistance program which includes $3 million of food assistance through the World Food Programme, and we stand ready to do more.
MARIUS BENSON: There is a divided opinion about the latest Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria — some say it's dead now, and others say it's still a live option.
What sense did you get from the Secretary-General, or did you give to him?
BOB CARR: Well the Secretary-General left me to go to meetings about this subject. He'll be receiving the reports and seeing the report goes to the Security Council on Thursday. By then it will be clear whether there's been any response — it seems there will be none.
MARIUS BENSON: So you're quite pessimistic, he was quite pessimistic?
BOB CARR: Well it certainly looks like the deadline is being passed without the commitment that has been sought, and that is deeply depressing.
MARIUS BENSON: Mr Carr, one of the focuses for Australia's energy in the United Nations in recent years has been our bid for a temporary seat on the Security Council. That vote comes up later this year. Was that something you discussed?
BOB CARR: I told the Secretary-General that of course we were standing for that seat, and he said in diplomatic language we had a strong case.
MARIUS BENSON: And there is talk in diplomatic circles that Australia's running about third at the moment. How optimistic are you about Australia's chances of getting that seat on the Security Council?
BOB CARR: I'd be very careful about putting a figure on it. We know it's competitive. We know it's close.
I mentioned something else Marius — in my first speech to the Senate, I spoke about the condition of the world's oceans. We may be on the verge of registering very, very disturbing evidence about the health of the ocean, the assault on the quality of the oceans represented by all the carbon being absorbed in them, the evidence of ocean acidification, right through to evidence of over-fishing.
Now the Secretary-General greatly encouraged me by saying that he will present an oceans compact to the Rio+20 summit in the middle of the year. I told him we wanted to see the small island states of the Pacific, and other less developed countries participate fully in the summit, because they bear witness to the living reality of climate change.
MARIUS BENSON: I'll leave it there. Bob Carr, thank you very much.
BOB CARR: Thank you Marius.
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