Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly
I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the 127th conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Quebec City, Canada, from 13 to 28 October 2012 and the bilateral visit to Argentina. I ask leave of the House to make short statement in connection with the report.
Between 13 and 28 October 2012, it was my pleasure to lead the Australian parliamentary delegation that attended the 127th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. Prior to the assembly, the delegation undertook a bilateral visit to Argentina.
This report details the work undertaken by the delegation at the IPU and on the bilateral visit to Argentina. The bilateral visit provided an opportunity for the delegation to engage on issues of significance to Australia and to Argentina, including free trade, nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, renewable energy and strengthening of the parliamentary relationship. Argentina is a very interesting country and was compared with Australia in the early 1900s, both being countries of great potential. Argentina certainly has great potential now. It has had 30 years of democracy since what were referred to as the 'dirty wars', and we wish it well in the future.
The Australian delegation participated fully in the work of the IPU throughout the 127th assembly, taking part in various debates and meetings and acting as chairs of plenary sessions and workshops. I contributed to the assembly's special debate on citizenship, identity and linguistic and cultural diversity in a globalised world, during which I was able to emphasise the various ways in which Australia has sought to recognise and celebrate its diversity and multicultural society and ensure that all members of society have a voice in Australia's democratic system.
Once again, the Australian delegation was sought after to take an active leadership role in the work of the assembly, reflecting the high esteem in which Australia, the Australian parliament and parliamentarians are held. Senator Ursula Stephens participated in the work of the third standing committee, which discussed the use of media, including social media, to enhance citizen engagement in democracy. Mr Patrick Secker and I participated in the work of the Second Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade, where we both spoke on the theme of fair trade and innovative financing mechanisms for sustainable development. Senator Sue Boyce participated in the work of the first standing committee, which discussed the theme 'Enforcing the responsibility to protect: the role of parliament in safeguarding civilians' lives'. Mr Joel Fitzgibbon, with support from Mr Jenkins and Mr Secker, chaired an informal meeting to discuss the formation of an international network of whips and others with organisational responsibility within parliaments as a focus point for democratic processes around the world. Mr Fitzgibbon and Mr Jenkins participated in the work of the IPU on the United Nations committee of the IPU, and Mr Jenkins participated in the committee's roundtable discussions on multilateralism and the role of parliamentary democracy. In the discussion on the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples five years on, he chaired the workshop in that area.
There are many issues within the IPU that were dealt with, especially one about gender-sensitive parliaments. Many parts of the world do not have many women, if they have women at all, as representatives. Those are being focused on by the UN and also the IPU. I think we have issues within our own region which need to be identified and we need to make sure that we are aware of that within Australia and the Australian context generally.
The Australian and New Zealand delegations held a lunch with delegates from Micronesia, Timor-Leste and Tonga to discuss the engagement of Pacific Island parliaments in the work of the IPU. The Australian delegation also had a bilateral discussion with members of the delegations from Ireland and Serbia. We have a lot of history with Ireland with migration to Australia and the formation of the country.
On behalf of the delegation I express my sincere thanks to the parliament of Canada for the great assembly they put on. It was very effective and very efficiently run. Australia has so much in common in policy terms with Canada and it is always a pleasure to go there and spend time with their MPs.
The delegation undertook a bilateral visit to Argentina, as I mentioned. That was a comprehensive program meeting with Australian businesses in Argentina, particularly in the mining sector and the energy sectors. The delegation was welcomed and we had very good, frank discussions on those issues. Argentina does not seem to have the history of mining that we have, though it has great potential to do so and has some very successful mining taking place. The delegation would like to acknowledge Senator Sonia Escudero for the time and the assistance which she extended to the delegation during its stay. She is certainly a great friend of Australia. The delegation expresses its sincere appreciation to the Argentine parliament and the government of San Juan province for providing such a rich and engaging program for the time that we spent with them. It was very stimulating and there were great discussions with the provincial government. They are certainly go-ahead, looking to use innovation and especially knowledge and data to help formulate their policy positions.
I would also like to acknowledge the support given by our diplomatic representatives in Canada and Argentina. Both missions are to be commended for their work and careful attention to detail to make the delegation's visit a success. The previous speaker mentioned the opportunities for Australia and, being a member of the foreign affairs committee, I think its report brought down in this parliament gives us a direction for new opportunities and new posts where Australia needs to be putting its energy and money for the future and for where we will be in the world and what is in the interests of the country.
I also express gratitude to the ambassador to Argentina, Patricia Holmes, and her staff at the Australian embassy for their part in arranging the delegation's program, the briefings and arrangements. They were particularly good and I thank her very much. I also thank Mr Lucas Robson, first secretary to the Australian high commission in Ottawa, for his advice and practical assistance in Quebec. It helped us a great deal.
The delegation wishes to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Parliamentary Library for comprehensive and formal written briefings prior to the delegation's departure. Special thanks go to the International and Community Relations Office for its logistics work in getting us organised. To Jeanette Radcliffe, secretary to the delegation, I offer special thanks for helping us get through and keep a direction of what we were doing. Finally, I would like to thank my fellow delegates for their participation in this delegation. It was a very full program with 12-to-14-hour days and early geopolitical meetings starting at eight every morning. You never go backwards in those meetings. So I thank them for their hard work and commend the report to the House.