DFAT seeks funding for UN seat bid

DIPLOMATS have made a bold $34 million pitch to win extra resources in readiness should Australia win a prized two-year stint on the United Nations Security Council.

With the campaign set to go to a final vote in the early hours of Friday, the Foreign Affairs Department has made a confidential budget submission to the government to fund up to 20 more staff.

The Age has learnt the plan is intended to boost the New York embassy and headquarters in Canberra, as well as several key diplomatic missions around the world.

Labor has already spent $24 million on the campaign and the extra money is seen as essential for Australia to credibly serve on the council.

Australia's diplomatic network has progressively been run down over the past decade, ranking it among the smallest of developed countries.

Yet despite entering the race several years late, there is quiet confidence Australia has secured enough support to win one of two seats on offer in a three way tussle with European rivals, Finland and Luxembourg.

But the secret ballot means no one is willing to predict the final result against the risk that ledges of support fail to materialise into votes.

Australia lost its last campaign for the council in 1996 under the Howard government despite a widespread belief it had enough support.

Finland has declared it is hoping to win a seat in the first round of voting by securing support from the two-thirds majority of the 193-strong UN membership.

''The goal is realistic, but difficult,'' Finland's ambassador to the UN, Jarmo Viinanen, told Finnish media overnight.

Australia held a special reception for all UN representatives on Monday night in New York, attended by Foreign Minister Bob Carr and parliamentary secretary for Pacific affairs, Richard Marles.

Luxembourg was set to hold its reception overnight and Finland tonight.

The complex ballot - where every country has an equal vote, making tiny nations such as Tuvalu equal to China - will go on for as many rounds as required until two candidates win the necessary 129 votes.

The Foreign Affairs submission for extra funds to the government's powerful Expenditure Review Committee was first put forward last year, but was put off until Australia won the vote.

Eight new jobs were advertised in August to bolster Australia's representation in New York, including two senior roles with salaries in excess of $220,000 and accommodation.

Depending on the outcome of the ballot, the submission is now expected to be considered in the next fortnight after Prime Minister Julia Gillard returns from overseas.

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