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Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Page: 7275

Senator HURLEY (5:00 PM) —by leave—I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the 30th ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, which took place in Thailand from 2 to 8 August 2009, and move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I am pleased to speak to the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the 30th AIPA General Assembly. I was the leader and sole member of the Australian delegation to this year’s general assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, which was held in Pattaya City, Thailand. The delegation provided an important opportunity to reaffirm the very valuable relationships and cooperation which Australia has with ASEAN. It is a unique experience to go to AIPA with parliamentarians from the ASEAN region and countries from other parts of the world to hold dialogues, to establish friendships and to learn more about the culture of individual nations. It was a pleasure to participate in the general assembly, representing Australia as an observer country, and to discuss the interests and concerns shared with all the countries in our regions.

The 30th AIPA General Assembly follows the signing of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement in Thailand earlier this year, an agreement which opens up a new basis for Australia’s relationship with ASEAN countries at a time when all nations in the region are grappling with the impact of the global financial crisis.

The full ratification of the ASEAN charter and its coming into force in December 2008 was an important step in strengthening ASEAN as an organisation, and the continued commitment amongst ASEAN nations to the establishment of an ASEAN economic community by 2015 is encouraging. The reduction of trade barriers resulting from the formation of an economic community would strengthen ASEAN’s capacity to function as a single market and production base. The dialogue session with Australia was well attended by parliamentarians from the ASEAN nations and provided an opportunity to hold constructive discussions on a range of topics, including regional security, environmental and sustainable development, drug smuggling and people smuggling.

In addition to the formal meetings and dialogues, the social events of the assembly were wonderful occasions on which to engage with our neighbouring parliamentarians and to gain an insight into each other’s cultures. It is clear that Australia is held in very high regard by the countries in our region. Many parliamentarians from ASEAN nations have strong connections with Australia, having been educated in Australia or having family living here. The delegation was very warmly received, and the engagement with our neighbouring parliamentarians provided opportunities to learn more about the issues being faced by their countries.

I would like to thank the host nation, Thailand, for the professional organisation of the 30th AIPA General Assembly. Thailand lived up to their legendary reputation for hospitality and I thank them personally for their warm and friendly reception.

I would also like to thank the Australian Ambassador to Thailand, Mr Paul Grigson, and his colleagues for the excellent briefing they gave us upon our arrival in Thailand. I believe that the 30th AIPA General Assembly presented a valuable forum for the further strengthening of bonds between the parliaments of ASEAN nations, encouraging cooperation and understanding of the many issues facing the region. I commend the document to the Senate.

Question agreed to.