Monday, 15 June 2020
Australian Parliamentary Delegation the 40th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand, and to the Philippines and Malaysia
I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 40th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Bangkok, Thailand, and to the Philippines and Malaysia. I am pleased to present the report of the delegation to the 40th general assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.
Last year, the member for Groom, Senator Gallacher and I visited Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia. Our trip had two aims. Firstly, we were observers at the 40th General Assembly of AIPA. Secondly, our visit formed part of the annual program of parliamentary visitors to ASEAN countries. We began at the AIPA general assembly in Bangkok. AIPA can trace its origins back to 1977. It was created to contribute to the attainment of ASEAN goals and aspirations through interparliamentary cooperation. The general assembly is held annually and Australia participates as an observer. This general assembly, which was hosted by the National Assembly of Thailand, had the theme of advancing parliamentary partnership for sustainable community.
As delegation leader, I was honoured to make a statement to the first plenary session of the assembly. I spoke not only about the significant economic relationship with Australia that ASEAN enjoy but also about our strong government to government relationships and people to people connections. Since Australia's cooperation programs with ASEAN commenced in 1974 cooperation has expanded and adapted to match the progress ASEAN countries have made over this time.
As well as attending the plenary sessions, we met formally and informally with other parliamentarians. A dialogue session focused on deregulation and gave us the chance to hear from AIPA member countries about their relationship with Australia and some of their priorities. We also held bilateral meetings with representatives from South Korea, Canada and Malaysia. And throughout the assembly we met parliamentarians from many other countries. We also met with AIPA's Secretary General, The Hon. Sunthornvut, who was concluding his term, and learnt more about the history of AIPA. The Secretary General shared with us the hope that AIPA could build deeper relationships with observer parliaments such as Australia.
After AIPA concluded, we travelled to Manila. Here we met with members of the Philippine congress and learnt more about their parliamentary system. We also met with Stratbase ADR Institute, an independent strategic research organisation, and with the local Australia New Zealand chamber of commerce. The Philippines has both broad and deep links to Australia, including strong people to people links. However, we heard from the chamber of commerce and from the Australian embassy briefings that there are opportunities for a stronger trade relationship between our two countries.
The final part of our program was spent in Malaysia. Over the course of our two days in Kuala Lumpur we met with ministers, other parliamentarians and civil society and had briefings from our own High Commission. Malaysia has had a longstanding relationship with Australia as an important trading partner. It has been undergoing a significant period of parliamentary reform, and we heard about the diverse resources that the Malaysian lower house is drawing on to develop its own practices and procedures. This includes our own House of Representatives Practice.
We concluded our time in Kuala Lumpur with a visit to the Malaysian House of Representatives, where I enjoyed meeting the Speaker again and had the opportunity to observe the public accounts committee hearing and tour the parliament. On behalf of the delegation, I would like to thank the Malaysian speaker and all the other people who met us during our visits to each of the three countries; the National Assembly of Thailand; the IPA secretariat; and Australia's diplomatic missions in Bangkok, Manila and Kuala Lumpur for the support provided during our visits.
This was the first time the delegation to IPA was combined with the regular country visits to ASEAN nations. This followed a suggestion from the 2018 parliamentary delegation to Vietnam, Thailand and Brunei that ASEAN country visits should be timed to coincide with IPA meetings to maximise the delegations' interaction with regional parliamentarians. Our delegation agreed that there is a natural alignment between observing the IPA general assembly and then visiting two of the member countries to see their parliamentary environment in practice. Our engagement with parliamentarians in the Philippines and Malaysia were richer because the meetings were held during IPA. However, I wanted to note for future planning that our stay in Thailand was heavily focused on IPA, so there was not the same opportunity of engagement with our counterparts in the hosting country as there was in the two other countries.
The delegation also saw an opportunity for the Australian parliament to develop a more formal engagement with IPA such as through a strategic dialogue on a matter of common interests—say, marine debris or road safety. This could help our parliament to deepen its relationship with IPA. I commend the report to the House.