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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 3914

Mr CLEELAND —by leave-I present the report of the Commonwealth of Australia Branch Delegation to the thirty-second Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, held in London in September-October 1986.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Mr CLEELAND —by leave-I speak on behalf of the leader of the delegation, Senator Coates. In company with Senator Coates, Senator Lewis, Senator Cooney, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron), and the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Hawker), I was proud to represent this Parliament at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in London. I pay tribute to our hosts, the British branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, who afforded us hospitality of the highest order and ensured that the Conference was conducted in a memorable fashion. Indeed, I suspect that there would be no other part of the world in which such a conference could be held, where the full splendour and history of Britain could be so displayed. Our hosts displayed it to us on that occasion. On behalf of all members of the delegation, I wish to pay a tribute to the Secretary, Mr Kieran Schneemann, who looked after us in an admirable way. He ensured that all our secretarial wants were adequately covered, that we were aware of the sessions that were being held and what was expected of us in our speaking roles. All the delegates who attended performed admirably. Delegates spoke on all the subject matters available, and for me it was, indeed, an interesting experience.

Obviously when one attends such a function one returns with impressions, and I suppose that the impressions I have are peculiarly mine. There is no doubt in my mind that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has a future. At one session of the Conference we discussed whether there was a future for such an organisation. I believe that all the members of the 48 national branches that were represented clearly and without reservation expressed the viewpoint that there is a future for the Commonwealth. That is not to say that there is always uniformity of viewpoints, acceptance of those viewpoints by each of the 48 nations, or that there are not differences of opinion among the major national branches. In many ways that is the value of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It meets to discuss, not necessarily to criticise and not necessarily to formulate by resolution particular views trying to bind all the delegates and all the branches that attend. That was of very valuable assistance to me, and I believe that all delegates would agree. We all learnt something-individually and collectively-from the other delegates who attended from places such as Botswana, Zambia and Kenya in the African area, from the Caribbean and from Australia. Representation came from right around the globe. There was a wide diversity of people with a wide diversity of views representing a wide diversity of parliaments.

One of the strongest perceptions I gained, apart from the fact that there is a future for the Commonwealth in meeting in such a way, was that there is a further role Australia can play. There is no doubt that there are changing balances in the world today. There is no doubt that the mother of the Commonwealth, Great Britain, increasingly and probably in her view quite properly, sees Europe as the area of closer allegiance than that which was traditionally and historically true in the past. That is not to say though that Great Britain views the Commonwealth any less favourably than she did in the past; she views the Commonwealth as having a future. The strong impression I gained there was that this country, Australia, must increasingly look forward to new allegiances in trade and in foreign affairs in the region of the world in which we have a perceived role and a greater role. For us to look backwards in history and across to Europe, across to Great Britain, on our traditional links, I believe, is to ignore our future, and the role we play in our region; it will do us damage in the long term.

As an aside and in winding up, I mention that I learnt something very important in Great Britain. With Senator Cooney I attended Fortress Wapping from 11.30 one Saturday evening to about 2 o'clock on Sunday morning. I saw, with my own eyes, a building surrounded by a steel fence. On the inside was a moat in which there were rolls of razor ribbon. Spotlights surrounded the building and video cameras were on nearby buildings. Everyone there was being viewed and filmed on video cameras. I saw hundreds of policemen who every night are there ensuring that the workers can come in by bus to produce the newspapers. I saw and spoke to many of the 4,500-odd former employees who still congregate nightly outside the Wapping plant. I am not drawing a conclusion for or against the tragic circumstances which caused Fortress Wapping to arise but, if that is the way industrial relations are to develop in the world today, God help us. It was a sad sight to see. I lay no blame against the participants involved, but the fact that in a civilised country such as Great Britain that is the way industry has to work is something that I think all of us in this country must take into account, examine and ensure never happens here.