House debates

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Delegation Reports

Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia

10:40 am

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Scullin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia from 7 to 19 April 2013. I seek leave to make a very short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

I thank the House. This was the ASEAN delegation—that is why we went to those three countries. I am proud that, in another guise in this place, myself and the President of the Senate, John Hogg, decided that there should be a rolling program of delegations to ASEAN countries throughout the life of this parliament. I hope that this continues.

These are three countries with which we have very good relationships. In Vietnam, we were able to go to the Mekong Delta, which is of course a great potential food bowl. They really are happy to receive the assistance of our great agriculturalists. I see the parliamentary secretary and the shadow minister at the table. Australia should really be proud of the way in which it can share its technology in agriculture not only with our region but throughout the globe. I know that this is a bipartisan thrust in this place and that it will continue.

With Singapore we have such a great relationship. The delegation got to meet two very powerful women members of parliament: the Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grace Fu, and the new Speaker, Halimah Yacob. It was just terrific to be able to speak to those two.

Then we moved on to Indonesia. Despite all the political to-ing and fro-ing across this chamber, our relationship with Indonesia is at its highest point and very strong. I just hope that when the new administration comes in, post Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, it continues to be. We had a meeting with Vice President Boedion; we have the advantage, of course, that he was educated in Australia. They know and understand us. We were lucky enough to go to Surabaya. Can I urge anybody that is a decision-maker in the future for Australia to see the potential of Surabaya as a place we really should do business and get to understand.

Finally, I have to mention that in Indonesia we met with the speaker of the Upper House. I am saddened to report to the chamber that Taufiq Kiemas died earlier this month. Taufiq Kiemas was the husband of former President Megawati. He was a substantial political figure—that has been recognised; and President Yudhoyono has paid great respect, even though he and Megawati are political opponents. Taufiq really played his role in the emerging parliamentary democracy in Indonesia, and it is a sad note to realise that a man who gave so generously of his time back then in April is no longer with us.

In conclusion I congratulate Senator Alex Gallacher from South Australia who, while a junior in the time he has spent in parliament, was such a terrific leader. He had to put up with not only myself but the member for Moore and the member for Hinkler. We were a really solid delegation and drew on the experiences we have had in this place to try to ensure the continuing strong bilateral relationships with these three ASEAN countries and, through that, the continuing strong parliamentary relationship between ASEAN countries and Australia. I thank the House for allowing me this indulgence.