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Monday, 14 October 1996
Page: 5277

Mr NUGENT(12.57 p.m.) —I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 42nd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 14-25 August 1996.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a longstanding organisation of parliaments throughout the Commonwealth. It meets on an annual basis in different parts of the world. I had the honour to lead the Australian delegation from the federal parliament in August in Kuala Lumpur.

Prior to the main conference, there was a meeting of the executive committee. I acted as the alternate delegate at that executive committee meeting. There was also a small countries conference. There are a lot of small countries within the Commonwealth of less than 400,000 people. They hold their own conference in addition to the main conference, dealing with matters that are particularly relevant to many of our smaller Commonwealth neighbours.

In addition to the small countries conference, the main conference, at which I was joined by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Price) and other delegates from this parliament who will speak after me, we had the general assembly. Apart from the routine business of the general assembly, where things like accounts, publications and all the routine business are dealt with, the most exciting and interesting part was the election of the chairman of the executive committee. Ms Billie Miller from the Caribbean was elected as the new chairman of the executive committee for the next three years.

There were a number of plenary sessions. There were women's session and also panel sessions. My colleague who is going to speak after me, the member for Chifley, was one of the panellists. All members of the Australian delegation were able to take part in those various sessions.

We were also pleased to have a speech from the Commonwealth Secretary-General. He is a most impressive individual and makes a point of coming to every CPA conference and meeting with the delegates. Up until now, our standing delegate of the executive committee has been Senator Jones. He is no longer in the parliament and I acted in his place on this occasion. The Speaker will become the ongoing delegate for the balance of Senator Jones's three-year term.

I was also pleased at the conference, on behalf of the Australian parliament, to offer Australia to act as host at the 2001 conference, which was approved at the general assembly. This country will be hosting the CPA conference in the year 2001. One cannot go to these things without being conscious of the huge effort put in by host countries to CPA conferences, and Malaysia was no different.

In the Malaysian parliament, the Malaysian Speaker was the President of the CPA this year. The Malaysian hosts went to incredible lengths to make all the delegates welcome. They looked after us well: we not only increased our waistlines considerably at all the various formal lunches and dinners but also went out on trips, around the conference period, to learn more about the country—a very enjoyable and worthwhile exercise.

It is important to place on record two sets of thanks: Ms Anne Hazelton, a member of staff in this parliament, came with me to the executive meeting, stayed on through the balance of the conference and provided me with invaluable support in that secretarial role; and Mr Jim Pender, the formal secretary of the delegation, was there throughout the conference and gave his usual incredible support. I would like to thank both of them. Mr Pender went on with me and other mem bers of the delegation on bilateral visits to India and Pakistan, which will be the subject of separate reports.

The next CPA conference will be held in September 1997 in Mauritius. I would just like to very briefly mention that the South African delegation went out of their way to seek contact with the Australian delegation and to urge us to make sure that we developed good bilateral relationships, which I would commend to the parliament.

Finally, as my time has almost concluded, it seems that formal motions of business at CPA conferences may not be the things that you get the best value from. Where you really get value is from the contacts that you can make around the world in other parliamentary democracies. It was an honour and a privilege for all of us who attended that conference. We look forward to attending many more in the future.