Wednesday, 4 May 2016
But the other aspects of the job I think are just as important and need to be more known. Firstly, there is the job as a minister. Within certain pieces of legislation, that is how the Speaker is referred to—and the Presiding Officer equally in the Senate—in running departments to run this place. There were very big issues that had to be solved in this building, about which I still cannot talk—big issues that were departmental issues and had to be dealt with.
Then there is the question of the international role and the diplomacy side, receiving ambassadors and attending various international conferences like the IPU and like the Pacific conferences, where our influence is so important, reaching out to women members of parliament, which was equally important, and assisting them with the troubles that they had.
I also had the opportunity to be of assistance with our very important free trade agreements. I was going to Japan and to Korea. I had spoken with Andrew Robb and said that, if I could be of any assistance in getting those through their parliaments—that is, the Japanese and Korean parliaments—before Christmas, I would be honoured if I could assist in that way. Andrew briefed me, and I had a meeting with Prime Minister Abe in Japan and talked very much about the importance of those agreements going through before Christmas because advantages flowed from that. They were very concerned about the TPP at that stage and thought that perhaps that would be enough. I was able to talk with them and say, no, it was important that this agreement had advantages for both of us.
And then I went on to Korea, where the Koreans were very much concerned with a very bad ferry accident where 300 people had drowned, and they really were not interested in our free trade agreement as members of the parliament. And that is the difference. When a member of the executive speaks to a member of the executive, that is where the parlance takes place. But, when you go as the Speaker, you are talking to members of parliament, and it is a very important aspect that can be used in so many ways. So I was able to talk with the leaders of different parties in Korea.
I am pleased to say that both those agreements were signed before Christmas, and I had a little bit of influence in that. I would not for a moment think it was anywhere near the magnificent work that Andrew did, but I am saying that that diplomatic role in the Speaker's role is a very important one.
Equally, in South America, when I was there and I was in Peru, I got on very well with the speaker, who was very close to the parliament. She gave me an undertaking that they would indeed support us with regard to the Great Barrier Reef because we had supported them with regard to Machu Picchu. It did mean that I had to walk around Machu Picchu again, but I did it.