JOANNA MCCARTHY, REPORTER: The vote was predicted to go down to the wire but defied all expectations.
UN SECURITY COUNCIL ANNOUNCER: Australia 140.
BOB CARR, AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: It is always good to see Australia win. And this was big juicy, decisive win. And it's very, very sweet.
JOANNA MCCARTHY: A victory all the sweeter for the difficulty of the task. Australia entered the race four years behinds its competitors and, as it learned after its failed bid for a seat in 1996, votes promised can often fail to materialise.
This time around, Australia dispatched a swag of envoys to Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, and wined and dined more than 100 UN ambassadors on Australian shores.
The country was sold as a key global player, a major aid donor, an actor on climate change, and a leading contributor to peacekeeping missions, especially in its own backyard.
BOB CARR: It's a vote of confidence in those Australians who have worked as volunteers, servicemen, police officers overseas and the Solomons, in Bougainville and East Timor, and in Cambodia.
JOANNA MCCARTHY: But victory has come with a price tag: about $25 million on the campaign as well as a big boost in aid funding for sub-Saharan Africa.
The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has dismissed the bid as a waste of money, but he's the one likely to be setting Australia's foreign agenda if, as the polls predict, he wins power next year.
TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN OPPOSITION LEADER: A win is a win. I welcome it. Let's hope we put the next two years on the Security Council to good use.
JOANNA MCCARTHY: Australia says its key priorities on the Council will include Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and North Korea.
And when it comes to its strategic alliance with the United States, and its economic ties with China, Julia Gillard denies there's a conflict.
JULIA GILLARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have a strong defence alliance with the US. And we have a robust relationship with China. And I know that it's fashionable in some parts of the media to talk this relationship down. That analysis is infantile. We are engaged with China deeply at every level.
JOANNA MCCARTHY: Australia will be joined on the council by South Korea, the newly elected member for Asia, which says it will be pushing for action on Pyongyang.
KIM SOOK, KOREAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UN (translation): More relevant to us is the peace within the Korean peninsula and North Korea's nuclear arms. These are a few of the issues that we are following closely.
JOANNA MCCARTHY: Just how much a non permanent member can really achieve is debatable, given the veto power wielded by the big five.
But Australia hopes this will be its chance to shape the global agenda, and along with its membership of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) and the G20 firmly establish itself as the creative middle power it proclaims to be.