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In SC Race, Australia Self-Reports Its Spending, Finns & Luxembourg Not Yet

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 24 -- As Australia, Finland and Luxembourg have competed for months for two seats on the UN Security Council, Inner City Press has covered the twists and turns, down to Finnish chocolate bars with Martti Ahtisaari's face on them, Australian receptions about peacekeeping and Luxembourg showing up any- and everywhere to speak about peacebuilding.

  Now that the annual UN General Debate has begun, the three competitors enter the home stretch. Australian prime minister Julia Gillard is under some fire back home, at least from Tony Abbott, for spending too much. The figure is alternately presented as $24 million (SBS) or $40 million (The Australian - behind a pay wall upon a second visit).

  But late in the Rule of Law speeches in the General Assembly hall on Monday night, Australia's representative said his country has spend fully $300 million promoting the rule of law, and cited its work in the peacebuilding configurations on Burundi, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

  How does this $300 million compare to the much lower estimates of spending seeking a Security Council seat?

  Australia is not the only place there seems to be a decrease in transparency and openness. Finland, which seems poised to win a seat due to being perceived as non-aligned, this week offered a slew of reporters the chance to interview its president, Sauli Niinisto.

  But faced with a yes from the Press, clarification was sought: "can you please specify your topic?" To Inner City Press this seems bad form, seeming to condition access on what will be asked.

   The reply was simple: "Finland's run for a Security Council seat, against Australia and Luxembourg. Also possibly disarmament." But even with this additional "gimme" topic, it has not happened yet. Finland will probably get a seat. But will they disclose how much they spent? Will Luxembourg? Watch this site.

UNGA footnote: in order to at least try to get answered Australia's $24 million to $40 million range, the September 25, 3:30 pm stakeout by Australia listed by the UN Media Accreditation & Liaison Unit in its night-before Media Alert lists "Press Encounter: H.E. Mr. Michael Spindelegger, Prime Minister of Australia." Would that be Austria? Or Gillard by another name? We'll see.

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