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Monday, 25 June 2001
Page: 28420

Mrs CROSIO (12:38 PM) — Mr Speaker, at the outset I also thank the secretariat staff, Mr Peter Keele, Mr Phillip Allars from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ms Brenda Herd and all of the people involved in the briefings to us prior to our attending the IPU conference in Cuba and visiting Mexico. I would also like to put on the record our appreciation as a delegation for our embassy and our ambassador to Mexico and his staff, who I believe were second to none, not only in the way they looked after us but also in the way they took care of some of the concerns raised at the time.

I join the leader of the delegation, our colleague the member for Fairfax, the Hon. Alex Somlyay, in saying there were a number of concerns expressed by the delegation and, of course, at the following meeting with you, Sir, and the IPU parliamentary group. Some of the concerns deal with the funding of the IPU. As we are all aware, America has now pulled out. With it they have taken something like 15 per cent of the funding, and I think most of the IPU executive feel that the developed countries are going to pick that up. That is something which we as a nation must look at very carefully.

I commend the leader of the delegation for being forthright in saying that the 107th conference at Marrakesh should be on reform because, when we look at the reform, it means that if Australia as a nation wishes to again fight above its weight and participate in the conference, as we have done in the past, we have to look at what is intended in the future. They intend to have more than one meeting a year and to have the committees meet two, three and four times a year. Because of our geographical location, it is very awkward for Australia as a nation to participate. We are not just next door or a hop, skip and a jump from places like Geneva or New York or wherever they want to have the meeting. That is a difficulty we have to face. Along with that difficulty is the fact that you do not have an interconnection with what is going on at the next committee meeting when you have not attended the one preceding it. Those are some of the issues that we as a delegation have to consider very carefully.

A total of 123 countries took part in the visit to Cuba this time. As the leader of the delegation has stated, on the last day they debated right through and I think, from what my colleagues are saying, that in the end the debate went by exhaustion. The nations with the majority in terms of population were perhaps overruled by the smaller nations which say, `Let's get on with it. Let's vote on this and pass it.' Delegates and their nations must clearly understand that we are there to make sure that we have not only a macro but also a micro investigation into the finances, the finance structure, and particularly the destination towards which the IPU will be heading in years to come. I can only commend all of the delegates for their hard work. It was a very informative conference.

Our meetings in Mexico, as indicated by the leader, and the discussions with all of our members of parliament, were very frank and informative. We left with the very clear impression that Mexico is making steady progress and is prepared to undertake the necessary reforms to address many of its key concerns. The delegation concluded its visit in the historic city of Oaxaca, and it was certainly something to see over that Easter period. It was a very informative and worthwhile visit. I commend all the delegates and all of those who took part.