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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3671


Mr WRIGHT —by leave-I join other members of the delegation to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Poland in speaking on the report before the Parliament. This was my first trip as a member of the House of Representatives and it certainly was a learning experience. I thank you personally, Madam Speaker, for the leadership you gave and for the forthright way in which you led our delegation, particularly in the discussions with the Supreme Soviet and the Polish leaders, because it opened my eyes to the value of being frank and open and of being willing to speak about the issues that affect not just governments but also people. It was, therefore, of some concern to me to find when I came back from that overseas trip that in my area, for political motives, a couple of people had written well-designed letters attacking this so-called junket to Russia and Poland. Those people did not know that it was an all-party delegation and that many of the costs were met by the members themselves, particularly as they moved away from the official visit.

I learned a lot from the trip. I learned just what individual members of parliament can do when they are willing to speak out on issues. I learned how we have the privilege and opportunity to raise matters that affect our own country and other people. I hope that the discussions that a number of us had will be of benefit. I refer particularly to the discussion that the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) and I had with the Russians involved in the manufacture of tractors. It is a small thing, but the people of Australia, especially those in the farming areas, have had some problems with the Berlarus tractor. We had the chance to sit down with heads of government in the USSR to talk through the sales techniques, the after-sales techniques, general marketing aspects and all the ramifications of the tractor.

We were very mindful, as we did this, that our Government and those involved with the rural sector had entered into an agreement to purchase $1m worth of tractors. This was important because we were faced with the dilemma that we were selling to the USSR something like $800m worth of wheat and buying very little from the Soviets, and here we were talking about and almost criticising one of their products. One can imagine the sensitivity that existed; but they recognised our right to raise the issues and respected the fact that we wanted to do it. Out of that we have found that dialogue has continued and that the things they promised to do in the area of that very important trade item have been upgraded. These are just some of the things that I do not think people realise and I did not appreciate. Whilst I had been on overseas trips as a member of the Queensland Parliament I had never really appreciated the importance of these types of trips. Again this is true of tourism as we talked about the important link that Australia could have with Poland. Since we have been back there have been further discussions about having an air link between Australia and Poland.

One of my colleagues raised the issue of human rights. Again I saw the importance of being able to sit down and talk in honest terms about the problems of people. Madam Speaker, I commend you again for the way you led us in that because I think the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in particular, started to appreciate that a small nation such as Australia has a right to express a point of view and that it has a right to be concerned about families that are torn apart that have loved ones in far off countries. This respect came through and I welcomed that and learnt again from it.

I was also most pleased that, regardless of political persuasions, members of the delegation were prepared to pursue the line of peace. I am very much aware now-as I have said, it was a learning experience-that the USSR, in particular, has learnt that Australia is committed to peace and that it has a record that it can be very proud of. The Soviet Union appreciates that we strongly supported the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It appreciates that we promoted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. Whilst we are a nation of only sixteen million people, we were a voice meeting with top leaders such as the Chairman, Mr Gromyko, and I was most pleased that they listened to us. The thing that came home to me was their desire also for peace. It was not until I visited those countries and talked to the ordinary people that I found out that they had been invaded time and again through the centuries and that they had lost relatives. I do not think we met a family in Poland that had not lost some relative in wartime, something which we Australians do not appreciate. I came away from these countries desiring peace and desiring greater contact for politicians of every persuasion and every nationality in the world to be able to come together, talk things through and realise that there is another way. I had the opportunity to discuss another way of talking up these issues. Madam Speaker, you will recall that, when I presented a boomerang to the Supreme Soviet, I commented: `Would it not be wonderful if every nuclear weapon were in the shape of a boomerang?' If honourable members think that through they will realise that it means that there would be no wars. I feel that that visit--


Mr Connolly —They don't all come back.


Mr WRIGHT —The ones we make do but I take the honourable member's point. The Australian boomerang certainly comes back. I learnt from that visit that there are things we can fight for, that there is a need for members of parliament to travel widely, that there is a need for the all-party approach rather than the political government approach and that, if we do those things, we can achieve much. I believe that that delegation has achieved a lot. I just want to pay a tribute to those who assisted, in particular, Kieran, who was our minder, who watched over us and who I think saved us from making many mistakes. As he is in the chamber I pay a special tribute to him and also to those who prepared us for the journey. If it were not for the briefings and the information there could have been mistakes. I welcome the opportunity of speaking to the report that has been presented. It certainly was a worthwhile adventure and a learning experience and I thank the people of Australia for allowing me to go.