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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1857

Senator O'CHEE (1.13 p.m.) —Mr Acting Deputy President, as with other honourable senators, you will know that many things in this parliament are done on a bipartisan basis; that is, members of parliament from both sides of the chamber agree on certain matters and agree to pursue them together. One of those matters is that of parliamentary groups—for example, the Australia-China parliamentary group or the Australia-Germany parliamentary group. I am surprised therefore to read in Die Woche, which is an Australian German-language newspaper, an article on 7 June entitled `Gedanken uber die Zukunft', which translates as `Thoughts about the future'. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a copy of the article and my translation of that article—however rough that translation may be.

  Leave granted.

  The article read as follows

Article in Die WOCHE, 7th June, 1994


German-speaking Community on the Search for Solutions

Dr Andrew Theophanous, the Chairman of the Australian-German Parliamentary Group [Australisch-Deutsche Freundschaftsgruppe] has invited representatives of German [or German-speaking] Organisations, firms and federations to a think tank on the future in Melbourne.

Theophanous praised the contribution [lit, profit] of German immigrants to the construction of Australia. The Germans deserved recognition for that which they have done for Australia; how can we, by way of reciprocating towards that country, assist in solution of their problems?

So that the participants in this meeting have something to take away to a brainstorming session, give these people your thoughts [lit, more than enough]. An important question is related to citizenship; will those who become Australians remain German? Some feel they have forgotten Germany, others have difficulties in Australia in obtaining the recognition of their school leaving certificate or their professional qualifications, or have questions relating to superannuation and social security.

Alongside individual questions will be formulated the problems of German institutions in Australia. Again, the signs of fatigue [Ermudungserscheinen] and lack of young blood [Nachwuchsmangel] of the federations are to be lamented. Additionally a big problem is the financial state of sports groups, schools, training places, and retirement homes for the care of the sick and aged.

Those attending will be of the opinion that the think tank should unconditionally address [?] [fortgesetzt] these things. It would also be decided [whether] to elect a body [Gremium] which should work jointly with Dr Theophanous on possible solutions.

In this all Germans who are interested in the strength of the German-speaking community, and "Die Woche" readers, are invited to submit their ideas and suggestions for the information of the body. Please write to:

  Die Woche in Australia

  Caption: My Thoughts

  PO Box 36

  Bankstown NSW 2200

Subsequently there should also be organised, in a similar way, a meeting in Sydney. "Die Woche" will inform you of the date.

Die Woche—7th June, 1994


Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft auf der Suche nach Losungen

  Melbourne (MH)—Zu einem Gedankenaustausch uber die Zukunft der deutschsprachigen Gemeinde hatte Dr. Andrew Theophanous, der Leiter des parlamentarischen Ausschusses "Australisch-Deutsche Freundschaftsgruppe" (Australian-German Parliamentary Friendship Group) und Vertreter deutscher Organisationen, Firmen und Vereine, in Melbourne eingeladen.

  Theophanous lobte den Verdienst der deutschen Einwanderer un den Aufbau Australiens. Den Deutschen gebuhre Anerkennung fur das, was sie fur Australien getan haben; doch wie kann im Gegenzug das Land bei der Losung ihrer Probleme behilflich sein?

  Wie die Anwesenden dieses lokkeren Treffens in einem Brainstorming feststellten, gibt es derer mehr als genug. Eine wichtige Frage ist die nach der Staatsburgerschaft: Australier werden, Deutscher bleiben? Einige fuhlten sich von Deutschland vergessen, andere hatten in Australien Schwierigkeiten bei der Anerkennung ihrer Schulabschlusse und ihrer beruflichen Qualifikationen oder hatten Fragen zum Sozial- und Rentenabkommen.

  Neben individuellen Fragen wurden auch Probleme der deutschen Institutionen in Australien formuliert. Wieder einmal wurden die Ermudungserscheinungen und der Nachwuchsmangel der Vereine beklagt. Ebenfalls ein grosses Problem stellt die finanzielle Unterstutzung von Sportgruppen, Schulen, Ausbildungsstatten, Altenheimen sowie der Kranken- und Altenpflege dar.

  Die Anwesenden waren der Meinung, dass der Gedankenaustausch unbedingt fortgesetzt werden solle. Es wurde ausserdem beschlossen, ein Gremium zu wahlen, das die Probleme erfassen und gemeinsam mit Dr. Theophanous mogliche Losungsansatze erarbeiten soll.

  Da jeder Deutsche an der Starkung der deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft interessiert sein sollte, sind die WOCHE-Leser aufgerufen, sich mit Ideen und Vorschlagen an der Aufgabe des Gremiums zu beteiligen. Bitte schrieben Sie an:

  Die WOCHE in Australien

  Stichwort: Meine Gedanken

  PO Box 36

  Bankstown, NSW 2200

  Demnachst soll auch in Sydney ein derartiges Treffen stattfinden. Die WOCHE wird Sie uber den Termin informieren.

Senator O'CHEE —The interesting thing about the article is that one finds that Dr Andrew Theophanous, the chairman of the Australia-Germany parliamentary group, has invited representatives of German organisations, firms and federations to a think-tank on the future in Melbourne. The disturbing thing is that it appears that Dr Theophanous has done this in his position as chairman of the Australia-Germany parliamentary group. For the record, I checked with the Parliamentary Relations Office, and the Australia-Germany parliamentary group last met on 11 March. That meeting was to elect the officers of the body. Since then, there have been no meetings, and there have certainly been no meetings at which this matter has been discussed. I am very disturbed because I am a member of that group and, until last year, I was the secretary of the group.

  Some of the things Dr Theophanous tells the German community in this country that he seeks to address are issues such as the difficulty in obtaining recognition of school leaving certificates or professional qualifications and questions relating to superannuation and social security. Mr Acting Deputy President, I put it to you that these matters, important though they are, are not the normal province of a parliamentary group. The normal role of a parliamentary group is to manage relations between the Australian parliament and the parliament of the relevant country.

  Dr Theophanous is abusing his position as chairman of this parliamentary group for his own political advantage and for the political advantage of the Australian Labor Party. To do that destroys the very basis on which this parliamentary group is formed—a basis of bipartisanship. It is the most despicable, demeaning act that he could possibly do as chairman of the group. I am very disturbed that he should take this course of action without any consideration of the interests of other members of the group. There have been no meetings to discuss the matter, none of the other members of the group have been advised of it and, until I first read about this in May, nobody new anything about it at all. More importantly, as this bipartisan group has members from just about every party in this parliament, it is disturbing that he seeks to convene these meetings in the name of the parliamentary group without inviting any other member of the group to attend.

  Accordingly, I feel very strongly that there is only one course of action Dr Theophanous can now take in good faith, that is, to resign as chairman of the parliamentary group. He has grossly abused the position. He has put the bipartisan nature of the group at risk and he has done absolutely nothing to foster the interests of parliamentary relations. In fact, by politicising this group he runs the risk of destabilising the good relations we have. Obviously, if members of the opposition who are members of the group feel that this matter is being used to political advantage for one side of the parliament, there is the very real risk that many of us will withdraw from the group, and that will only be to the detriment of the goals and objectives of good relations between Australia and Germany. I do not think Dr Theophanous has any other course of action. He can do whatever he wants in his own name, but as the chairman of the Australia-Germany parliamentary group he has absolutely no right to behave in this way. I put him on notice. I think the best thing he can do is resign or cancel the meeting.