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Thursday, 26 May 1983
Page: 1097


Mr IAN ROBINSON —by leave-I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in 1982. I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.


Mr IAN ROBINSON —I had the honour of leading the Australian Delegation to meetings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Lagos and Rome in 1982, and I now present to the House the official report of the delegation. As the only world- wide organisation of parliaments, the Union is a major international forum. It was formed in 1889 and had a membership of 98 countries at the time of the Sixty -ninth Conference, in Rome, in September 1982. Since Australia became a member in 1956, when there were only 39 member countries, the emergence of new nations, particularly in Africa, has led to a rapid growth in membership and to the presence within the Union of a large group of non-aligned nations.

The Union holds two regular sessions each year, though these arrangements are now under review. The spring meetings are held in April each year, when the standing study committees meet to consider the topics in the work program for the year and to prepare draft resolutions for consideration at the Inter- Parliamentary Conference which is held in September of each year. The stated objectives of the IPU are primarily to contribute to international understanding and peace, to strengthen parliamentary institutions and to support the objectives of the United Nations. In recent years, many participants have questioned whether it has been effectively pursuing these objectives. This questioning became particularly widespread after the events of the Conference held in Havana, Cuba, in September 1981, which was discussed in the report of the Australian delegation for 1981.

Both meetings in 1982 were held in a more conciliatory spirit, with a notable lessening of the confrontation and bitterness engendered at Havana. The IPU is composed of national groups belonging to a wide variety of parliaments. Many are greatly different in nature from the multi-party democratic institution that we have in Australia. The Union affords an opportunity for all who take part to inform themselves about the views and aspirations of their fellow delegates as representatives of their own parliaments. This I believe to be of value as part of the process of seeking better understanding among all peoples. Every effort must continue to be made within the Union to achieve greater understanding between its members, regardless of their political persuasions and the characteristics of their parliaments and governments.

I emphasise, as I have said before, that Australia has played a part in promoting international understanding. Our natural resources and commodity exports, together with our industrial base and our geographical position in relation to Asia, provide a network of important links with both developed and developing countries. Our participation within the IPU, with its widespread opportunities for direct contact between parliamentarians, I believe enables us more effectively to use our unique opportunities for developing good relationships with other countries.

Dealing directly with the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 1982, I remind honourable members of two spheres of activity which, I think, are now well known. First, the Union, on its own or as co-sponsor with other international organisations, promotes and supports a variety of significant international meetings around the world each year. In 1982, such activities extended to participation in the Second Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to disarmament, as well as in a special session of the United Nations Environment Program. In addition, the Union took part in major international meetings on the control of pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, and , in conjunction with the United Nations Children's Fund, organised the Inter- Parliamentary Conference on Policies, Programs and Legislation for Children in Africa last November.

Second, the IPU, through its Special Committee on Violations of the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, continues to achieve a considerable measure of success in its work to protect the human rights of parliamentarians everywhere. I remind the House also of Australia's continuing membership of, and active participation in what is known as the Ten Plus Group within the IPU-an informal association developed for the purpose of facilitating discussion on matters of importance which arise in the context of the Union's activities. Within this Group, Australia played a significant role in 1982, being represented on a small study group appointed at the Group's meeting in Frankfurt, prior to the Lagos spring meetings, to consider an Israeli application for membership of the Ten Plus and to examine the membership and role of the Group generally.

A number of Ten Plus proposals for the consideration of supplementary items by the Rome Conference succeeded. On behalf of the Group, Australia proposed a draft resolution calling for a definitive peace between Iraq and Iran, which was adopted by the Conference. It also supported two successful Ten Plus proposals for the inclusion of supplementary items on the invasion of Afghanistan and on the Ethiopian aggression against the Somali Democratic Republic. I have already mentioned current proposals to reorganise the sessions of the Union. These were the subject of a study by a working group which met in Geneva from 18 to 20 January 1982 and in which the honourable member for Berowra, Dr Harry Edwards, was an active participant. Recommendations made by the working group were approved in principle at the Rome Conference, and the Inter-Parliamentary Council directed that necessary amendments of the statutes and rules be drafted for consideration at the spring meetings in April 1983. The recommendations of the working group envisage two Conference sessions each year, accompanied by meetings of two Standing Study Committees. Each Conference session would be shorter than the September Conference as now constituted. Another feature is that consideration of a topic by both of the Study Committees and the Conference would be completed at the one meeting instead of being divided between two meetings as at present. If these proposals succeed, as now seems likely, it will be necessary for the Australian national group to consider its implications for future Australian delegations.

The honourable member for Port Adelaide, now the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) served as deputy leader of the delegation at Lagos, and the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) served as deputy leader at the Rome Conference. I thank them both for their support and co-operation as well as their active participation in the Delegation's work. I also thank all other members of the Delegation for their work and support. I particularly mention the former honourable member for Newcastle, Mr Charles Jones, who had a long association with the IPU and who, on the occasion of the last conference, participated with significant zeal and the kind of interest that we were accustomed to observing when he participated in this House. On behalf of the Delegation, I wish also to acknowledge the assistance given by Mr Peter Gregg of the Department of Foreign Affairs as the delegation's adviser, and the Delegation's Secretary, Mr R. G. Thomson, an officer of the Senate, for his service to the Delegation and for the dedication which he applied to this work at all times.