Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Delegation Reports

Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia

6:15 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia, which took place from 24 August to 4 September 2019. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

Leave granted.

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The delegation consisted of the delegation leader and member for Page, Mr Hogan; the member for Groom, Dr McVeigh; and me. We attended the General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly in Bangkok as observers. Australia and ASEAN enjoy not only a significant economic relationship but also strong government-to-government relationships and, most importantly, people-to-people connections. Australia's cooperative programs with ASEAN commenced as early as 1974, and the cooperation has expanded and adapted to match the progress, which has been significant, that all ASEAN countries have made since then. The delegation attended the plenary session of the assembly and was also invited to participate in dialogue sessions with AIPA member countries. The dialogue sessions had a particular focus on good regulatory practice, and the discussion also covered the relationship between member countries and Australia.

On the sidelines of the assembly, bilateral meetings were held with members of the delegations from Malaysia, Canada and the Republic of Korea. The delegation also met with the Secretary-General of AIPA to discuss ways in which AIPA is developing its relationship with some observer parliaments. The delegation considers that there is an opportunity for the Australian parliament to deepen its relationship with AIPA. For example, it could explore a dialogue series on specific issues such as road safety and marine debris.

For the first time, the delegation to AIPA was combined with regular country visits to ASEAN nations and, following AIPA, the delegation travelled to the Philippines and then Malaysia. In Manila, the delegation met with parliamentarians, businesspeople, researchers and the Australian ambassador and visited a project supported by Australian aid in the Pandacan district. A meeting with members of the Philippines congress was a good opportunity to share experiences among parliamentarians and committee members and learn more about the parliamentary system in the Philippines. A discussion with members of the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Philippines gave the delegation insights into the existing business relationships between our countries. The longstanding relationship between Australia and the Philippines is both broad and deep, and it includes strong people-to-people links. However, the delegation heard that the trade relationship is less strong and there is certainly room for growth in the economic ties between the two countries.

In Kuala Lumpur the delegation met with Malaysian ministers and civil society, received a briefing from the Australian high commissioner and finished with a visit to the Malaysian parliament to meet with the Speaker of the House of Representatives. A recurring theme of discussion was the Malaysian government's focus on reform, including parliamentary reform. Malaysia is looking at other countries to identify good practice and other resources that it can adopt or adapt. This includes Odgers and House of Representatives Practice.

In its conclusion to the report, the delegation considered that continuing to focus on and, where appropriate, deepen our relationship with ASEAN countries and their parliaments should remain a priority for Australia. Combining the delegation to AIPA with the regular visits to ASEAN nations followed a suggestion from the 2018 parliamentary delegation to Vietnam, Thailand and Brunei that ASEAN country visits should be timed to coincide with AIPA to maximise the delegates' interaction with regional parliamentarians.

The delegation considered there is a natural alignment between observing the AIPA General Assembly and visiting two of the member countries to see their parliamentary environment in practice. However, it is noted that the stay in Thailand was heavily focused on the assembly and there was therefore not the same opportunity for in-depth engagement with our Thai parliamentary counterparts as there was in the other two countries. The delegation thanks the hosts of the 40th AIPA General Assembly, the National Assembly of Thailand, the AIPA secretariat and Australia's diplomatic missions in Bangkok, Manila and Kuala Lumpur for developing the programs and for the support provided through the visits.

Those visits, six or seven months ago, seem like a lifetime away. We were able to travel the world easily and to deepen our already strong relationships. We will get back to that, and I encourage the parliament to continue its interactions with ASEAN and AIPA, because they are genuinely good things to do. They are not, as some in the media and other places would have it, jaunts. They are really hardworking, good endeavours which result in tangible achievements. The Malaysian parliament looks at the Senate practice in respect of estimates and wants to do some good work in that space. So I encourage all senators to contribute, where possible, on these delegations, because they're extremely worthwhile. When the world returns to normal, there should be more of them.

Question agreed to.