For the next two years, other countries will take their lead from Australia when they are urged to act on matters of global importance. We have the opportunity to make a substantial contribution to creating a better world for all people.
However there are already signs that we are compromised and could be predisposed to squander that opportunity.
Earlier last week Australia acted in a shameful manner when we cynically ratified the international treaty to ban cluster munitions only after the Federal Government created a loophole that will destroy its effectiveness.
Cluster bombs release many small bomblets over a wide area, posing serious risk to civilians both during and after they are dropped. For years to come, innocent Syrians will continue to be maimed by Russian-supplied cluster munitions being used in the current conflict.
Moreover, according to former Defence Force chief Peter Gration, the Bill enables the United States 'to stockpile cluster bombs in Australia' and 'transit cluster bombs through Australia either by ship or by plane'.
He was one of 47 eminent and expert Australians who signed an open letter warning the Defence Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney-General not to pass the legislation without removing the exemptions.
Malcolm Fraser wrote that the legislation is 'scattered with alarming loopholes that, to my mind, directly undermine the spirit and intention of the convention. These exemptions are unnecessary at best and add little or nothing to our national security. At worst, they run directly counter to the treaty's intent by setting a precedent which explicitly facilitates the ongoing use of cluster bombs.'
The legislation was passed in August, clearing the way for last week's ratification of the Convention, in compromised circumstances. Australia has set a regrettable precedent that is likely to be followed by other countries who look to our example when they introduce their own domestic legislation to ratify the treaty.
Australia is hardly leading other nations towards a better world. We are not the fine global citizen Bob Carr says we are. If the Security Council seat is intended as a reward for exemplary conduct on the international stage, we don't deserve it.