THE federal opposition's negativity towards Australia's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council is being used against Australia by its rivals as the lobbying intensifies before the October 18 vote.
While the government won't admit it publicly, sources intimate with the lobbying process have confided the attitude of the Coalition has been detrimental.
''It does hurt,'' one senior official said. ''It is being used against us by opponents who say 'Australia isn't committed'. We're the only country where the opposition has spoken negatively about the bid. It's very odd.''
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, used her inaugural address to the United Nations General Assembly yesterday to advance Australia's case and was applauded afterwards.
Her speech stressed several strengths, including Australia's generous aid program and its strong peacekeeping record which including nation building.
Ms Gillard, due to fly home early this morning, was scheduled last night to visit New York's Ground Zero to pay her respects to those who died there, including 10 Australians. ''It will be a solemn reminder of our responsibility to fight terrorism and its causes, and of the importance of our mission in Afghanistan,'' she said.
Australia, Luxembourg and Finland are competing for two of the 10 temporary spots on the 15-member Security Council. It will be decided by a ballot of the UN's 193 member nations next month. Publicly and privately, the government and its officials say the vote is too close to call. The Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, who by yesterday had met officially with 26 foreign ministers in three days, said Australia had stitched up the votes of 14 Caribbean nations.
If successful, Australia would have a seat in 2013 and 2014. If the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, wins the next election, much of Australia's tenure would be under a Coalition government. The Coalition initially opposed the bid, saying it was a waste of money and would risk Australia having to compromise on foreign policy to woo votes. Its position since has been lukewarm and ambivalent.
The opposition's foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, now argues the Coalition supports the bid but disagrees with the way it has been conducted.
At the same time, Mr Abbott berated Ms Gillard for going to New York this week and ''swanning around with Africans'', saying she should have gone to Jakarta instead to talk about boat people with the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. But President Yudhoyono was also in New York attending the General Assembly. Ms Gillard and Dr Yudhoyono sat together yesterday at a meeting.
In a reference to China and Russia, the two permanent members of the Security Council which stand by he Syrian dictator, Bashir al-Assad, Ms Gillard said the UN must unite over Syria and act decisively to end he suffering of its people.