Monday, 22 February 2010
Parliamentary Delegation to the United States of America
I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the United States of America in September-October 2009. Between 26 September and 11 October 2009 I was honoured to be the deputy leader of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the United States, certainly one of the great allies that are so important to this country. This was the first Australian parliamentary delegation to the United States since the inauguration of President Obama. In fact we had the privilege of being in the White House on the morning that it was announced that President Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize. So it was an extraordinary visit in that regard—but more on that later. The visit was an opportunity to highlight the importance with which Australia regards its mature relationship with the United States and also an opportunity for delegates to examine United States innovations and approaches to a range of domestic and international policy challenges.
At the outset I would like to acknowledge and thank my fellow delegates for their contribution to the success of the trip. I can say in all honesty that we all worked very hard. The delegation was led by the President of the Senate, Senator John Hogg, who did a wonderful job, and included fellow members of this House the members for Cunningham, Werriwa, Hasluck, Herbert and Moore. The delegation was also accompanied by Mr Gerard Martin, senior adviser to the President of the Senate and now, I believe, in Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Dr Shona Batge, the delegation secretary from the Department of the Senate. They certainly were of great help to the delegation.
I thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade staff in Canberra and in the United States for their assistance in putting together a varied and interesting program for the delegation. Our two-week program took us to San Francisco, Detroit, New York and Washington for an array of meetings designed to help the delegation to meet a predetermined set of aims and objectives. The topics of our meetings were wide ranging, but some key themes quickly emerged. In San Francisco many of our discussions centred on research and technological developments relating to renewable energy and green initiatives. This included electric cars, meeting over the internet and a visit to Google.
In Detroit, our focus was on the future of the car manufacturing industry. The global financial crisis and changing consumer demands and expectations have combined to make a once strong industry vulnerable, and the delegation was interested in options for renewal and diversification in the region. In some ways it was probably the most depressing area that I have ever visited in my life to see how that once great city had fallen on hard times with 30 per cent unemployment and very high crime rates. I know that people there are working very hard to correct that situation.
In New York, the delegation’s meetings included discussions on climate change, education programs and recovery from the global financial crisis. Finally, in Washington, we were able to meet with members of congress. I had the privilege of meeting with Congressman Steve King, a Republican, and we had a planned meeting time of about 20 minutes which stretched out to about an hour and a half. I certainly had a wonderful meeting. I was very pleased that Congressman King was able to extend his time for that meeting. We also met with representatives from the United States Department of State and International Monetary Fund officials, among others. There was also an opportunity for each delegate to pursue individual meetings in areas of specific policy interest, and I would particularly like to thank staff at Australia’s embassy in Washington for facilitating these meetings.
On behalf of my fellow delegates, I acknowledge and thank all those individuals and organisations who generously made themselves available to meet with the delegation and assist us in fulfilling the aims of our visit. (Time expired)