Wednesday, 6 December 2017
137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference
by leave—I table and present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the 137th Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference held at St Petersburg in the Russian Federation on 14 October to 18 October. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.
That the Senate take note of the document.
In speaking to this report, I thank the secretariat, who accompanied the delegation to St Petersburg in October. I also should acknowledge my co-delegates, Senator Ketter and Mr Josh Wilson, both of whom made significant contributions to the assembly in St Petersburg. The assembly comprised some 829 parliamentarians from all over the world from some 155 member countries, including 146 presiding or deputy presiding officers. Unfortunately, our presiding officers could not be there because parliament was sitting in Australia, so I had the honour of leading the delegation.
It's a real privilege and an honour for Australian parliamentarians to be at these conferences. You do come away realising just how very lucky we are to live in a country like Australia which has rule of law. Some of the delegates who spoke at the conference gave the impression that they didn't know whether, when they got off the plane when they got home, they would be thrown in jail. Some of the challenges under which parliamentarians around the world work is a real eye opener to those of us in Australia who understand a civilised country that follows the rule of law.
There were a number of general debates. The topic of the general debate was promoting cultural pluralism and peace through interfaith and interethnic dialogue, which both Senator Ketter and I spoke to. I might say that Senator Ketter, in his typical approach to these sorts of things, was forthright and honest. He gave a very clear exposition of his view on that—and, I might say, it was Australia's view as well. It wasn't a view that might have been universally accepted.
There was a motion on the problems in Myanmar, particularly as they relate to the Rohingya people. This was the urgency motion selected by the assembly to deal with. A number of urgency motions were put forward, all of which were quite important, but it was the one on Myanmar that achieved the support needed to make it the urgency debate. I was nominated to the drafting committee of that motion. It was a motion promoted by a number of countries, including Morocco, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Kuwait, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sudan and Turkey. They all had individual motions but agreed to join them. The drafting committee then had to try and bring the motion to something that might achieve support across the assembly, which it did.
The Australian delegation took the opportunity while we were in St Petersburg to have bilateral meetings with the Republic of Belarus and with Singapore. The latter was particularly related to the strategic partnership between Australia and Singapore and, as far as I was concerned, particularly the expansion of the training of Singapore troops in Australia at Rockhampton and Townsville. We also had a meeting with the delegation from Israel. Interestingly, the young lady from the Knesset who spoke to us and who was part of the Israeli delegation was until a couple of years previously an Australian citizen and had spent most of her life in Australia. She'd returned to Israel and got herself elected—