Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Parliamentary Delegation to the 133rd Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Geneva
I present the report of the Australian delegation to the 133rd Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 October 2015, and I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
I am pleased to present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation that participated in the 133rd Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 17 to 21 October this year. It was my privilege to lead this delegation, which also comprised the member for Berowra, Mr Ruddock, who is present in the House, Senator Sterle and Senator Lines. As the assembly occurred while the Australian parliament was in session, the member for Forrest and Senator Bernardi were unable to attend due to parliamentary commitments, so the member for Berowra and I were asked to join the delegation for the assembly.
As the report confirms, this was a hardworking and successful delegation, and all members played an active role at the various proceedings of the assembly. The delegation attended all formal meetings of the assembly and its governing council and participated in meetings of the Asia-Pacific and Twelve Plus geopolitical groups, as well as participating in the meeting of women parliamentarians.
During the assembly, Mr Ruddock and I both spoke in the general debate on the topic of the imperative for fairer, smarter and more humane migration. Another important item of business at the assembly involved two sessions of the meeting of women parliamentarians, which Senator Lines and I attended.
Once again, we were able to participate in the work of the various standing committees. Members of the delegation attended an important debate as part of the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development and Trade on ensuring lasting protection against destruction and deterioration for the tangible and intangible cultural heritage for humanity.
I was able to contribute to the work of the Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights and drafted a resolution on the freedom of women to participate in all political processes fully, safely and without interference: building partnerships between men and women to achieve this objective. I am pleased to report that, following a ballot, this resolution was adopted and will be further considered at the next assembly in March 2016.
It is important to acknowledge the contribution of my colleague, the member for Berowra, the Hon. Philip Ruddock MP. Mr Ruddock was asked, at short notice, to be part of the delegation, but, due to other commitments, was not able to arrive in Geneva until after the assembly had commenced. Nonetheless, Mr Ruddock was able to join me in contributing to the general debate on migration and, in his contribution, drew on his experience as a long-serving immigration minister and Attorney-General. He also made a significant contribution to an important panel discussion on parliamentary action in meeting international commitments to counter terrorism.
One of the key benefits of every assembly is the opportunity for delegates to participate in formal and informal discussions and meetings with a wide range of representatives from other parliaments and international organisations. The Australian delegation held a formal meeting with our Swedish counterparts at which we received a detailed briefing on the challenges that Sweden is currently facing in providing assistance and support to the large influx of migrants arriving at its borders.
Since 2010, the Australian and New Zealand delegations have facilitated meetings of delegations from the Pacific to discuss issues of mutual interest and build on capacity-building activities undertaken through regional parliamentary forums. Once again, this meeting took place, and, while the number of Pacific region nations attending this assembly was less than in previous years, useful discussions were still held with the delegations from Fiji and Timor-Leste.
The challenge that the parliamentary delegations from the Pacific face in attending IPU assemblies was the subject of discussions with the IPU Secretary-General, Mr Martin Chungong. At the same meeting, Mr Ruddock briefed the secretary-general on the work of the Human Rights Subcommittee of the Australian parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade in relation to referrals from the IPU to the Presiding Officers, concerning possible abuses of the human rights of parliamentarians. Following this successful meeting with the secretary-general, Mr Chungong asked Mr Ruddock to share this information in the plenary meeting of the Governing Council the following day, and this contribution attracted interest from other delegates.
The IPU Assembly continues to offer a unique opportunity for delegations and individual parliamentarians to meet and discuss issues of mutual interest, to develop an understanding of different parliamentary models and to strengthen parliament-to-parliament relationships. On behalf of the Australian travelling party, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this successful delegation. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the support provided by Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization, Mr Hamish McCormick, and his staff in Geneva. I would also like to extend the delegation's thanks to officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra and to staff of the Parliamentary Library for providing comprehensive and timely briefing materials prior to the delegation's departure.
Thanks are also due to Mr Brien Hallett, who so ably served and supported us during our visit to the Assembly. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Mr Russell Chafer, Mr Geoff Barnett and other staff of the International and Parliamentary Relations Office for the high standard of support provided to the delegation. Finally, I thank my fellow delegates for their thoughtful participation in the delegation's meetings and their commitment to our program of work. I commend the report to the House.