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Monday, 20 September 1999
Page: 9906

Mr FORREST (12:38 PM) —Mr Speaker, I wholeheartedly endorse your remarks. It was a very humbling experience and a privilege to participate in the forum with you and Mr Crean, the member for Hotham. Over the last few weeks, as we have all wrestled with what is happening to a near neighbour, I have been thinking a lot about the discussions we had with our South-East Asian parliamentary colleagues. I am mindful of a resolution that we considered at the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum on a culture of peace. It was submitted by the Peruvian delegation—which had some very difficult problems with some of their northern neighbours—the Indonesian delegation and the Thai delegation. The resolution stated:

. . . Urge the governments of the Asia Pacific region to take measures aimed to promote the pacific solution of their conflicts, thus rejecting all forms of violence. . .

The resolution continued:

. . . Call on all the organizations, governmental and non-governmental, public and private associations, and groups interested in promoting a change in social values and attitude towards peace, to support all the efforts intended to prevent the emergence of armed conflicts, or their worsening, by encouraging the fulfillment of the agreements reached at peace talks.

Having established some personal relationships with not only members of the Indonesian delegation but also many other delegation members, I am mindful of the importance of participating in these kinds of forums, specifically in a region which is of vital interest—South-East Asia, although this forum includes all the parliaments in the Pacific rim. Two members of the Mongolian delegation reminded me that the then trade minister, the Hon. Tim Fischer, had even made his presence felt in Mongolia. They referred to `the man who always runs from place to place'. Those two Mongolian delegation members have been conducting email contact with me ever since, and I think that is for the good of both our nations. It is part of the building of goodwill and understanding that we can share with various mutual interests.

Mr Speaker, there is one element of the forum that you did not refer to. What left a very strong impression on me was the enormous effort that Mr Sandoval made in allowing technology to be available to all members of delegations. I remember making use of that technology and not making one single phone call to my office during the week we were there. I approved an advertisement for the placement of a staff member in my office and correspondence without the need for verbal contact which, with the 15-hour time difference, was very difficult. I was so impressed that I wanted to make sure the remarks from the Australian delegation were recorded in the discussion on technology. This is one of the things that we need to use, and not just within Australia, to bridge the gap created by the tyranny of distance. It is certainly a tool by which we can communicate readily with those nations whose daylight hours are the opposite from our own.

I would like to add my appreciation to Rajan Venkataraman from the Australian embassy in Santiago in Chile. He came all the way to Peru to give us support because at that stage there were no embassy facilities in Peru. He was a particularly knowledgeable Australian and a great asset for us to have in a very important region of the world in terms of market access. I was very appreciative of the opportunities he took to assist me in promoting the export effort of commodities and industries in my electorate.

Mr Speaker, I conclude my remarks by thanking you for your company and your leadership of the delegation, which was an inspiration. I am particularly mindful of the responsibility that is now upon you to ensure that, when we host the delegation in January, all delegates return to their respective countries as impressed as we were with the seventh annual meeting.