Flat White

We need to talk about the United Nations – and the drought

26 October 2019

4:01 PM

26 October 2019

4:01 PM

You have a nice place on the beach. You’re a generous host.  You’ve been gracious to numerous people in the neighbourhood as well as unexpected or last-minute guests.  Nevertheless, one such guest decides to criticise your home, saying you should be doing more for the neighbourhood, meaning spending more money which you, a hardworking Australian, has to first make.

Worse, this guest is followed by another — let’s call her Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Patricia Scotland — who takes it upon herself to invite her friends to an event at your place, without even bothering to tell you what she’s done.

This actually happened at a UN event in New York last month, and it earned a swift, succinct response from Foreign Minister Marise Payne who called out Scotland for inviting up to 53  international leaders to a cricket match,  ‘Peace on the Crease’, in Adelaide on December 5, parliament’s last sitting date for the year, without bothering to let Australia know. She wrote:

It is inappropriate for the Commonwealth to issue invitations to dignitaries and leaders of government to visit Australia, without having engaged in the basic courtesy of properly consulting the Government of Australia … I request that you not issue any invitations to heads of government or other dignitaries to attend the ‘Peace at the Crease’ event.

Any event involving visits by foreign leaders to Australia creates significant security, protocol, programming and logistical issues on which neither you nor the Commonwealth Secretariat has sought advice. I also note the previously mooted date falls within Australian parliamentary sitting schedules.

Bravo Minister.

Hopefully, Scotland was diplomatic enough to issue an apology,  tail between her legs, but we’re still waiting.


So it was bad timing for Liberal Andrew Laming, Member for the Queensland seat of Bowman — long regarded as one of those empty vessels who make the most noise — assisted by Labor MP Sharon Claydon,  Member for Newcastle, to convene another ‘event’ last Wednesday to launch the Parliamentary Friends of the UN and UN Agencies.   

When Flat White’s operative infiltrated the event, she chatted to two young Chinese academics from the University of Canberra, both of whom were eager to describe their last overseas conference,  courtesy of DFAT’s UN Alumni Network,  DFAT partner.

Laming, whose drought-ravaged electorate would probably appreciate the money spent instead on the sushi canapes and  teriyaki-beef satay that was served up in style by parliamentary catering, seemed to have missed his Leader’s (accurate) description of the UN  just a few weeks ago as an ‘unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy …that coercively seeks to impose a mandate from an often ill-defined borderless global community…’

The UN has long past its original post-war hopes and dreams of a peaceful, global community. Australia, one of the best-government nations on the planet, sits there alongside other member states such as Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, and Azerbaijan (and that’s just the As), all known for their dedication to the rule of law, economic and personal liberty and good global citizenship.

One huge difference – we’re substantially better off, economically, but UN vultures are circling.  Interestingly the UN Charter makes no provisions for a withdrawal by a member government – that is, we can’t actually leave the UN unless, as Wikipedia helpfully notes, under ‘customary international law there is the principle of rebus sic stantibus (“how things stand”)  under which a state may withdraw from a treaty which has no withdrawal provisions only if there has been some substantial unforeseen change in circumstances.’

We’re in a desperate drought situation.

That should be enough to call a temporary halt to funding the UN its taxes and its bureaucrats.

Working on a project in Vientiane, Laos,  the UN officer who’d asked me to lunch, drank three glasses of French champagne to my one glass of Lao Beer while she told me how terrible was her workload (“tres difficile”), and the long Business Class flights to Asia.

It’s terribly hard working for the UN — and even being a friend. Those canape and champagne events are hard yakka. And there’s never any drought of bubbly.

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