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Monday, 21 June 2004
Page: 30875

Mr JULL (1:09 PM) —I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 12th annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum held in Beijing, People's Republic of China, from 12 to 14 January 2004. The Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, the APPF, is an organisation which each January brings together members of parliaments from throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Delegates discuss matters of mutual interest, as set out in an agreed agenda. Formal resolutions are adopted on agenda items and this report provides the text to 25 such resolutions.

Australia has been an active participant in the forum since it was established in 1993 and many members and senators have now attended its annual meetings. We were fortunate this time that all four delegates—myself, the member for Oxley, the member for Stirling and Senator Ferris—were seasoned APPF delegates. This provided us with an understanding of the rules and practices of the forum which allowed us to make a sound contribution to a number of aspects of the meeting.

The subject matter for the forum included political and security issues, economic issues, and agenda items `Cooperation for the Stability and Prosperity of the Region' and `Future work of the APPF'. Australia prepared four draft resolutions covering: the political and security situation in the region; combating international terrorism; protection of the Pacific Ocean's biomass, including relevant multinational agreements; and cooperation on the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Following negotiation and amendments suggested by other countries, all our drafts were eventually adopted with three being jointly sponsored with other delegations.

The item entitled `Future work of the APFF' was of particular significance to this meeting. After 13 years service to the APPF, His Excellency Yasuhiro Nakasone resigned as president, following his retirement as a member of the Japanese House of Representatives. Mr Nakasone, a former Prime Minister of Japan and the founding President of the APPF, leaves a very great legacy. He was honoured by the unanimous decision to invite him to continue his association with the APPF by becoming honorary president. In this role he will advise the executive committee and provide continuity and leadership into the future. On behalf of this delegation and previous Australian delegations to the APPF, I place on record our gratitude to Mr Nakasone for the great contribution that he has made to the forum. We wish him well in the future.

The search for a replacement APPF president failed to identify a candidate who would agree to take on the role for the three years provided by the APPF rules. Accordingly, the rules were altered to provide for a rotating president. For the future, the host parliament of the next annual meeting will nominate both a president and a chairman of the annual meeting to serve for a year. The Parliament of Vietnam will provide the first annual president.

The APPF provides an important opportunity for Australian parliamentarians to press Australia's interests. This is done formally through our draft resolutions, but we also promote Australia's national interests during speeches in the plenary and in bilateral meetings with other delegations. In addition, APPF delegations have the opportunity to encourage other parliamentarians in our region to understand Australians policies and priorities through the numerous informal occasions which arise throughout the meetings.

In relation to activities other than those that took place in the plenary session, I pay tribute to the role played by the member for Stirling in her leadership of the Technological Working Group. This is the second year in a row that Jann McFarlane has chaired the group, taking over the role from the member for Oxley, Bernie Ripoll. The Beijing meeting of the Technological Working Group was significant for preparing and having adopted by the plenary a statement of its aims and objectives. The work done by the group in keeping a watching brief on the APPF web site will be most valuable in the future because, in the absence of a permanent secretariat, the web site is the contact point for information of the APPF.

Delegation leaders met privately with President Hu. The President told me that he was overwhelmed by the hospitality he received during his visit to Australia last October, particularly from senators and members following his address to them. He was very optimistic about future relations between China and Australia and stated that he felt very privileged to be able to address us from the floor of this parliament.

The Australian delegation also enjoyed a successful bilateral meeting with the Indonesian delegation; and we had an informal meeting in the form of a dinner party with the Thai group as well. I thank all members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Parliamentary Library, particularly Larissa Ashwin from the post in Beijing, Ms Brenda Herd from the Parliamentary Relations Office and in particular Judy Middlebrook, the secretary to our delegation, who as usual did a magnificent job. Finally I would like to thank my fellow delegates: they worked together as an effective team and represented Australia's interests very well. (Time expired)