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Wednesday, 28 June 2000
Page: 18535


Mr BAIRD (9:45 AM) —It is my pleasure today to speak on the recent Australian parliamentary delegation to the European institutions in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg which I had the privilege to lead. It ran from 11 to 16 June. I give my special thanks to my colleagues who accompanied me on the trip—Martyn Evans, Harry Jenkins, Senator Julian McGauran and Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja—and to the secretary of the delegation, Claressa Surtees. It was a very harmonious delegation and we learnt much from the visit. The assistance that was provided by the Ambassador, Don Kenyon; the Deputy Head of Mission, Justin Brown; the Minister-Counsellor (Agriculture), Peter Thomas; the First Secretary, Janaline Oh; and the Third Secretary, Max Wang, was also much appreciated. The latter two, in particular, went out of their way to assist us in every possible way during our visit.

We had very useful discussions. Firstly, we had discussions with the President of the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Luzius Wildhaber, ranging over the full gamut of activities in which they are involved, the difficulties of establishing priorities with a very significant increase in the demand on the court, and the way in which they may need to make decisions in the future and prioritise where they move. We also had discussions with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Dr Walter Schwimmer. That was interesting in terms of the problems that confront them as the council enlarges following the demise of the Eastern bloc and those countries becoming part of Europe in general.

We had our most significant discussions with the European Delegation for Relations with Australia and New Zealand. Those discussions were hosted by Mr James Nicholson, the delegation chair. During our visit we discussed many issues of importance. I list amongst them the issues that Harry Quick mentioned: GMOs, climate change, Timor, Fiji and asylum seekers. All of us gained from those particular discussions. We will be turning in future times to talk about those issues.

There were other issues that were important. We visited the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg and understood the pressures on it as it is the court of final deliberations in terms of Europe. Europe is changing and evolving very much. It is our largest commercial partner in trade and investment. This parliament needs to continue the dialogue with the European parliament as we grow and expand as a nation.