United Nations Security Council

A statement from the UN Secretary-General regarding the Turnbull government’s broken promises — both recent and historical — has been prematurely leaked to Crikey via funny man Ben Pobjie. Ben tells us it was leaked by the Sec-Gen himself, which is exciting, though why he chose to leak this information to a comedian and political satirist, we’re not sure. Such a move can surely only damage public trust in the veracity of the information presented. And we wouldn’t want that …


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has regrettably had cause this week to publicly voice our disappointment with the Australian government for its failure to honour an agreement struck over the resettlement of vulnerable refugees with family links in Australia. The United Nations cannot over-emphasise the distress and difficulty that the Australian government has caused by its reneging on this agreement. Unfortunately, the UN’s difficulties with the current administration in Canberra do not end there, and it is with a heavy heart that I here enumerate several other matters on which the Turnbull government has behaved less than satisfactorily towards our organisation.

The latest dispute over refugee resettlement is simply the latest in a series of contretemps in this area, following an agreement struck between Australia and the UN wherein Australia promised to make sincere efforts to resettle all asylum seekers, which was followed by an agreement for Australia to not make sincere efforts to resettle all asylum seekers, but to, at the very least, not imprison them indefinitely in island concentration camps, which was followed by the Australian government’s solemn promise to try, even while operating island concentration camps, to avoid creating a special new body specifically to act out the vivid fascist fantasies of certain members of Cabinet. Every one of these agreements has been violated, and we hold grave fears for the Don’t Give Dutton Absolute Power Memorandum Of Understanding.

The refugee issue is not the only one in which Australia has, in our view, failed to live up to its responsibilities. The UN has for some years been having ongoing discussions with the Australian government with regard to marriage equality, and while we do not seek to dictate policy in this area, there was certainly an understanding reached between us and Prime Minister Turnbull to the effect that his government would at the very least try to look like it knew what it was doing. In fact, I have a letter in front of me from Mr Turnbull explicitly promising to, quote, “avoid the issue devolving into a grotesque farce” — it is a profound disappointment to me that this commitment has been abandoned.

The news, I am afraid, does not get better from here. I had what I thought was a rock-solid pledge from Australia that in the treatment of its First Peoples, legislative and judicial authorities would try to act, if not benevolently, at least with some vestigial sense of shame. That, too, has gone by the wayside. As has the deal signed only recently that promises that the Australian welfare system will meet global standards of what the UN technically terms “working”.

There are a number of other promises the Australian government has made to the UN that have been broken, thus putting at risk the stability of the region, including: the promise to respect the independence of the Human Rights Commission; the promise to respect the independence of the ABC; the promise to keep Barnaby Joyce from speaking in public; the promise to withdraw Australia permanently from Eurovision; and, of course, the promise to adhere to the laws of mathematics. All of these violations pain the United Nations greatly, and we can only hope the Turnbull government will soon begin to take its responsibilities to the world community more seriously.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey