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Thursday, 13 March 2008
Page: 1772

The SPEAKER (4:06 PM) —I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the 53rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in India and to the Republic of the Philippines from 24 September to 5 October 2007. This report covers the Australian parliamentary delegation which attended the 53rd Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in India in September 2007 and then made a bilateral visit to the Philippines.

The annual conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a key activity in furthering the association’s aims of improving understanding and cooperation among Commonwealth parliamentarians and promoting the study of, and respect for, parliamentary democracy. The conference theme was Delivering Democracy and Sustainable Development. Six workshops and three plenary sessions addressed a wide range of topics around this theme. I had the opportunity to lead the discussion on global water and energy use and the President of the Senate, Senator Ferguson, led the discussion on the role, rights and responsibilities of the opposition.

Government members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Some have realised the significance of the date of the conference! I congratulate the Hon. Somnath Chatterjee, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and the Indian parliament as a whole for the success of the conference.

In the Philippines the delegation visited Manila and the island province of Bohol. Meetings were held with senior members of the Philippines congress, including our host, the President of the Senate, Senator Manny Villar, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jose de Venecia. We met a range of national and local officials. Key issues which were discussed were the bilateral economic relationship between Australia and the Philippines, including opportunities for increased Australian investment in mining and agriculture, development assistance, and security issues, including the threat from Islamic extremists in the southern Philippines. The delegation found the opportunity to explore these and other issues with our hosts extremely valuable.

I would like to thank the President for his leadership of the delegation and Senator Sandy Macdonald and Senator Kirk for their active participation and for making the delegation such a positive experience. I thank the Parliamentary Relations Office, the Parliamentary Library and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the assistance they provided to the delegation prior to departure. In India the staff of the Australian High Commission, led by High Commissioner John McCarthy, and in the Philippines the staff of the Australian Embassy, led by Ambassador Tony Hely, provided excellent support and advice. I realise that Mr Richard Selth, in preparing these notes for me as the Deputy Clerk at the table, did not mention himself, but he was the very able secretary of the delegation. I also thank Federal Agent Colin Elkins, who looked after our security in the Philippines and was an active participant in the collegial nature of the delegation. I thank the many Indian officials who contributed to the smooth running of the CPA conference, and I thank the staff of the Philippines Senate, who managed our program so efficiently. I recommend the report to honourable members.