The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, will focus heavily on African nations while in New York this week as she leads the final concerted push for Australia to win a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
She is scheduled to arrive in New York this morning for the annual four-day UN General Assembly and will lead lobbying efforts with the backing of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, and his parliamentary secretary, Richard Marles.
Under a process begun in 2008 by the then prime minister Kevin Rudd, Australia is vying for one of the 10 non-permanent seats for 2013 and 2014. The vote of the 193 UN members will be on October 18 and 128 votes are needed.
Australia - which has served four times on the Security Council, the last time in 1986 - belongs to a bloc known as Western Europe and Others Group. It is competing with Luxembourg and Finland for one of two spots allotted to that bloc.
''It's a very difficult and close race,'' said an official familiar with the bid. ''We are competitive but we can't afford to be complacent.''
Most world leaders, including the US President, Barack Obama, will be in New York. Ms Gillard is planning up to 10 bilateral meetings with African leaders. She will use her address to the General Assembly, scheduled for early Thursday morning Sydney time, to showcase Australia's commitment to the organisation of which it was a founding member.
African nations have 54 votes and Ms Gillard cancelled an invitation to travel to a summit of African leaders in early July because the carbon price had just been introduced. This was considered, in diplomatic circles, not to have helped Australia's chances.
Her schedule includes meetings with the new President of Egypt, Mohammed Mursi, as well as the leaders of Malawi, Liberia and South Africa. She will also attend a meeting looking at the plights of Mali, Niger and Mauritania.
Australia has been spending more of its aid budget in Africa in an attempt to win the UN seat.
In her address, Ms Gillard is expected to point out Australia has contributed 65,000 personnel to UN peacekeeping missions, is the 12th-largest contributor to the UN's budget and has the world's 11th-highest foreign aid budget.
She is also scheduled to met the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.