House debates

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Statement by the Speaker

Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum

11:28 am

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

For the information of honourable members, from 13 to 16 January this year, our parliament hosted the 28th annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, known as the APPF, here at Parliament House. The APPF includes parliamentarians from countries in the Asia-Pacific region with which Australia has strong economic, social and strategic ties. It provides a platform to promote a stronger regional identity and cooperation focusing on peace, freedom, democracy and prosperity. The countries attended include Australia's major trade and strategic partners in Asia and those bordering the Pacific Ocean, on both the western and eastern sides. Over 340 delegates and participants from 19 APPF member countries and 10 observer nations attended the meeting. It was particularly pleasing that parliamentarians from a number of smaller Pacific island countries were able to attend, some with the financial assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Australian Parliament was very well represented by a delegation of 27 members and senators: the members for Dawson, Newcastle, Lyne, Moore, Perth, Solomon, Curtin, Page, Cooper, Groom, McEwen, Hinkler, Lalor, Bean, Calwell, North Sydney and Menzies, as well as Senators Askew, Bilyk, Ciccone, Fawcett, Hughes, Rennick, Dean Smith, Stoker and Van.

The delegation was led by the member for Menzies, the Father of the House, the Hon. Kevin Andrews MP. The delegation and the forum more broadly benefited from the member for Menzies's extensive experience as a parliamentarian, and he fulfilled an incredibly important role chairing the drafting committee of the conference. The President of the Senate was represented by the Deputy President, Senator Sue Lines. I am particularly grateful to her for her work, and I'm grateful to all my parliamentary colleagues for giving up their time during mid-January to come and participate at the important conference.

Under the theme 'Parliamentary partnerships for 2020 and beyond', delegates discussed gender equality, political and security matters, economic and trade matters and enhancing regional cooperation. For the information of the House, I'm going to table the meeting outcomes, which are the joint communique, the report of the meeting of women parliamentarians and the 19 resolutions agreed by the meeting. Members of the Australian delegation filled key positions chairing the plenary sessions, the working groups and the drafting committee that finalised the forum resolutions and communique. Delegation members played a critical role in promoting Australia's position in the final resolutions.

The meeting also expressed its condolences to Japan over the recent death of APPF Honorary President, the Hon. Yasuhiro Nakasone. I'm honoured to have been appointed as President of the APPF until the next meeting, to be held in South Korea in January next year and, in this role, I've been tasked with reviewing certain aspects of the APPF rules and organisation. Many visiting delegations expressed their sympathy over the awful bushfire situation but felt that the conference had been a great success despite Canberra and Parliament House being surrounded by smoke on many of the days.

I want to again thank the members and senators for their contributions. Without their help, the conference would not has been the great success it was. I table the required documents.

11:32 am

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—I congratulate you and all the officials and office-bearers of the parliament for the wonderful APPF conference which was held here in Canberra in January. This was a very significant event for countries that border the Pacific. Now in its 28th year, this conference brings together members of parliament from all of those Pacific rim nations. Importantly, this year it brought together—as you said, Sir—delegations of observers from many of our Pacific island partner countries. It shows an opportunity for this parliament and, through this parliament, the people of Australia to reach out not just to the nations that are well formed and have been part of this organisation for such a long period of time but also to our Pacific neighbours. I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on the chairing of this conference here in Canberra, with some 300 delegates from some 19 member countries and 10 observer countries. I also congratulate the other members of the Australian delegation—including Senator Lines and Senator Dean Smith, who co-chaired the drafting committee with me—for the work that was undertaken during the conference.

I make this broad observation, Mr Speaker: in the world in which we are at the present time and the one which we are increasingly moving into, the role of the Australian parliament and the role of individual parliamentarians in playing a part in the national and international diplomacy which is required of this country is going to become more and more critical into the future. Conferences, seminars, meetings such as the APPF and other occasions in which Australian parliamentarians join with others, such as the ASEAN meetings and visits to other countries, I believe have perhaps been undervalued by the parliament broadly in terms of the contribution we can make to our national prosperity and national security. And I think we, as a group—if I can say that, Mr Speaker—need to rethink, on a bipartisan basis, our role in terms of parliamentarians in our outreach, particularly to those countries and nations within our own area. For example, there's currently a renewed emphasis on the countries of the Pacific and Australia's role in relation to those countries. And there's a real place for members of this parliament, on perhaps a more-organised basis than we have used in the past, to look at our role as, in effect, diplomats for Australia and how we can advance the interests of this country, the national interests of Australia, in terms of our relationship with those within our immediate area.

We know that the world in which we live has become much more uncertain than it was even five or 10 years ago. That's unlikely to change. Those trends are there, and it's likely that they will continue into the future. So we, individually as members of parliament and also in the context of this particular discussion—as members of delegations that go to these countries and these events—can play a much greater role. I think there's a role there for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to be more engaged in an interface with us as members of parliament in that regard, and I thank the department for the advice they gave, particularly to me as chair of the drafting committee, during that process.

I will cease there. I was once told by a judge, when I was at the bar, 'Your argument is not enhanced by its repetition'! So I won't repeat it, except to say that this is very important. I congratulate you, Sir, on becoming the president, following the tragic death of Mr Nakasone, the former Prime Minister of Japan, who was the powerhouse in starting this organisation almost three decades ago. He was the honorary president for many, many years. But, with his death, some changes to the constitution and the rules have meant that you, Sir, are now the president at least for the next year, and of course there'll be another conference in South Korea probably in the early part of 2021. I hope there will be a well-attended Australian delegation to work on this important relationship that we have with all the countries of the Pacific. Thank you.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Menzies and, again, on behalf of the House I want to thank the member for Menzies for his contribution, which really did help make the conference a great success. As I said, as Father of the House, your extensive experience not only was of benefit to the Australian delegation but, importantly, was something that those visiting parliamentarians valued as well, particularly during the drafting committee. I want to also grant indulgence to the member for Lalor and thank her, in advance of her speech, for everything she did, and I give her indulgence to address the floor.

11:37 am

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

on indulgence—It's a little bit like a self-congratulatory club! But thank you, member for Menzies, for the work you did in leading the delegation. It was an absolute honour to be part of a delegation hosting the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in its 28th year. I want to congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on taking on the role and on your election as president. And, while the 28th APPF covered a raft of topics, as you've both mentioned, I want to raise the important work the forum did for women in our region. For the second time, the APPF hosted a meeting of women parliamentarians. This meeting had many speeches, including from the first female Speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives. The central meeting was chaired by our own Deputy President, Senator Sue Lines, who did a superb job across the conference reaching out to other women and reaching out to other countries to ensure that we were building relationships outside of the conference room through the working parties.

Among the other important things that happened there was that the delegates noted that, while member countries were making progress in this space for women, there is still more work to be done—in economic participation, in education and health, in political empowerment in particular and of course in eradicating violence against women. The APPF passed three resolutions particular to women: promoting gender equality for a sustainable development and shared prosperity; realising the 2030 agenda for sustainable development; improving access for women and girls to education, innovation and technology—and I know my colleagues here today are interested in that space—and also promoting gender equality and women's empowerment in decision-making at all levels in our countries.

These resolutions were drafted by the working group of the women parliamentarian meeting that was chaired proudly by the member for Calwell, a long-serving female parliamentarian here. This also calls on the APPF to consider its own rules to ensure gender equity in the executive committee. This was a pivotal moment in the history of the APPF, and the women's meeting, which has only been running for two years, worked collaboratively to have that agenda item progressed. I look forward, Mr Speaker, as do my colleagues, to working with you as president to progress this agenda at the 29th APPF in the republic of Korea in Seoul. I will also mention the importance of having our Pacific neighbours there with observer status at this conference. We also on this side look forward to working with you, Mr Speaker, as president to ensure that their participation is enhanced and that they're supported.

The wonderful achievements can be attributed to the fact that this APPF had over 40 women parliamentarian delegates, including an all-female delegation from Mexico that was an absolute delight. As someone who has been to previous conferences, particularly one conference where sadly I was the only female in the Australian delegation, it was an absolute pleasure to work with so many of our colleagues across the chamber at this conference. I was pleased to see the respect that the Australian female parliamentarians were given in our briefings and the support we were given by the member for Menzies and from you, Mr Speaker, in pushing our agenda forward. I look forward to perhaps participating in the next APPF conference. I'd join with both of you in thanking all of the staff from this parliament and all of the public servants in the department of foreign affairs who worked so hard to make what could have been a compromised conference so successful.

11:41 am

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank both the members for Lalor and Menzies. A final point I'll make now, which the member for Lalor and the member for Menzies aptly made, is that it couldn't have been possible without the delegation but also critically without the work of members of the Department of the House of Representatives, Department of Parliamentary Services and Department of the Senate. It might interest honourable members—and of course we want to thank them, and I want to thank them, and we've done that privately—that quite a number of members volunteered their time to be part of the conference through January, and they deserve a very big congratulations and recognition for that wonderful contribution. I thank the House.