Thursday, 4 April 2019
Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 27th Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum
I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 27th Annual Meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, held in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from 13 January to 18 January 2019. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
I had the honour of participating in the delegation, which was led by the President of the Senate, and also included the members for Lalor and the member for Perth. The APPF is an assembly of members of national parliaments in the Asia-Pacific region and has met each year since 1993 to discuss matters of mutual concern. The forum draws together parliamentarians from countries in Asia and those in and bordering the Pacific Ocean on both the western and eastern sides. Those countries include Australia's major trading and strategic partners and those with which we have strong social and cultural ties. It remains in Australia's interests to build and sustain relationships with parliamentarians from these countries and to maintain institutional links between our parliaments. Each conference is structured around a number of plenary sessions and working groups and a drafting committee that considers a range of resolutions arising from the discussions. Participating countries submit draft resolutions that form the basis of the discussion sessions, and subsequent conference resolutions are finalised through a consensus. The sessions were under the recurring themes of political and security matters, economic and trade matters, and regional cooperation.
The four draft resolutions forwarded by the Australian delegation reflected the interests of delegation members. Senator Ryan spoke on combating terrorism and transnational crime in the region. The member for Lalor spoke on the importance of men and women having equal access to education and technical training in order to achieve sustainable growth; the member for Perth spoke about the need for parliaments of the region to work together to address the impacts of climate change; and I spoke on the need for the region to have strong institutions that can promote trade and investment growth. In particular, I noted the potential of e-commerce to allow microbusinesses in rural areas to market directly into major centres.
The President of the Senate was also co-chair of the drafting committee that reviewed the consensus resolutions and placed its imprimatur on their final form. The Australian delegation was relatively small in comparison with delegations from some countries. Nonetheless, we submitted draft resolutions on all themes, spoke in each plenary session and were active participants in all the working groups and on the drafting committee.
APPF meetings provide an ideal opportunity for Australian parliamentarians to meet their colleagues from around the region and to develop strong networks while discussing matters of mutual concern. On behalf of the delegation, I would like to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for assistance with briefing papers for the forum meeting and for the support provided in Cambodia.
Of course we must all thank our very generous hosts, the Senate and National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The forum organisers went to great lengths to ensure that the forum progressed smoothly and was a success. Members will be interested to know that the Presiding Officers have agreed that Australia will host the next annual APPF meeting, in January next year, here at Parliament House. This cements Australia's long involvement with the APPF, the parliament having hosted the forum in the year 2000.
Australia participation in the APPF has enjoyed ongoing bipartisan support and the active involvement of both members and senators over the decades. We look forward to senators and members of all parties coming together again to represent the Australian parliament at the 28th APPF, here in Canberra in January 2020. I commend the report to the House.