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Monday, 24 March 2003
Page: 9979

Senator HUTCHINS (4:06 PM) —I would like to echo the words of Senator Forshaw, who was the deputy leader of the delegation to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. I would like to commence my remarks by thanking in particular Ms Denise Gordon, who was our secretary on the trip. It was my first trip as a member of a parliamentary delegation and I was not all that aware of what was expected of me. Ms Gordon was there to make sure that we were on time, that everything was coordinated and that not only was everything on time but it was fruitful. Ms Gordon is here today, and I know that I reflect the views of my colleagues and their spouses who were with them in expressing our deep appreciation of her effort.

As Senator Forshaw has said, there was a very full itinerary in both countries and that itinerary reflected the indicated areas of our interest. Common to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands were, of course, areas affecting defence, security, terrorism and trade. In both those countries we were given a very frank and honest view about those areas I have just mentioned. Mr Hawker, our worthy leader, has already outlined in detail in the House of Representatives the itinerary and the people we saw and were given access to in our trips in the United Kingdom. I would like particularly to thank the High Commissioner, Mr L'Estrange, and his staff for the efforts they put in to make sure we had the exposure we were seeking. I would also like to thank Mr Paul Jackson and Mr Andrew Pearson from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association who, along with Ms Gordon, ushered us around and made sure we got to the places in London and in York that we wished to attend. In particular I would like to thank Mrs Joy Pearson, the spouse of Andrew Pearson, who looked after the spouses' program, and I know they really did enjoy themselves and were most appreciative of her contribution.

You cannot help but have a bit of sightseeing when you go on these delegations. One thing I found fascinating was that while Mr Albanese and I were looking for a famous pub called the Slug and Lettuce we came across in the York Cathedral a statue which said that it was on that spot that Claudius was proclaimed Emperor by his troops in the third or fourth century. I found that interesting.

When we went to the Netherlands we were assisted most ably by the ambassador, Mr Hussin, and his wife and particularly two staff members, Marina Tsirbas and Stuart Page. Once again we were given the exposure that we sought in relation to those areas that I mentioned earlier. As Mr Hawker and Senator Forshaw have mentioned, we had the opportunity to go to the House of Representatives and the Senate and we had the chance to deal with some fairly difficult and topical issues for us here in Australia—euthanasia, drugs and terrorism. Also, in a number of informal discussions we discussed immigration and how that is a difficult situation for the people of the Netherlands and their parliament.

The Netherlands is, and probably wants to continue to be, the hub of Europe for logistics and transport. I found it very interesting to have discussions with the Holland International Distribution Council, whose director, Mr Rene Boerema, had been out here at the invitation of the Australian government not long before we had spoken to him.

We also had the opportunity to go to the Aalsmeer flower market and to one of the local greenhouses where there were a variety of tulips. It was amazing to see hard men like Bob Baldwin, the member for Paterson, Anthony Albanese, the member for Grayndler, and Senators Forshaw and Heffernan almost melt at the sight of these tulips—the different colours and varieties. It was a sight to behold and I know that they appreciated it. If they could have brought some tulips back to Australia with them, I am sure they would have.

As I have already had the opportunity to mention, we did lay a wreath at the grave site of two Australian servicemen who were killed in World War II. I made an adjournment speech about Pilot Officer Alan Hart and Flight Sergeant Harold Boal. I have sent a copy of that adjournment speech to both their families and they have written back to me. It was very pleasing to do that, to commemorate the deaths of two young Australian men, and to be able to do that on behalf of the parliament of Australia. Once again I echo what Senator Forshaw has said: I do appreciate the parliament sending me and my colleagues on this trip overseas. I feel this delegation was worth while for me and I know it was for my colleagues.

Question agreed to.