Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 426

Mr JULL(10.28) —Early in January, along with the Queensland Liberal Party Senator David MacGibbon and the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Lindsay), I attended the Pacific Forum conference in Honolulu. The Pacific Forum is an annual event conducted by a non-profit organisation in Honolulu. Australian parliamentarians have been represented at these conferences since their inception some years ago. I believe this conference is well regarded, especially by a great number of my colleagues who serve on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.

The Pacific Forum is an opportunity for parliamentarians to meet annually. The conference draws delegates from all over Pacific Rim countries, South East Asia and this year from a number of Pacific island states. Because of its unofficial nature, the Forum is a great opportunity for open debate. Because it is a meeting of parliamentarians, it is often an opportunity for no-holds-barred discussions on issues of mutual concern. There is no doubt in my mind that parliamentarians have a great capacity to tell it as it is to each other without the constraints of diplomatic niceties that often prevail at some more formal meetings.

At this year's conference a number of issues of concern to the Asia-Pacific region were canvassed. These issues ranged from the present situation in the Philippines and Korea, the activities of the French in our region, the status of ANZUS, the ramifications of the Gorbachev Vladivostock speech of last July and the activities of the Soviets in the Pacific, to the very real difficulties of trade, especially in terms of their effect on Australia and other smaller countries.

The meeting was also an opportunity for major briefings on the present strategic situation in the Pacific. One or two points were raised at the conference which I believe should be brought to the attention of the House. Most importantly for Australia, the situation of the ANZUS agreement and the continuing policy of New Zealand to restrict the passage of United States ships to and through New Zealand was very much in focus in continuing debates. Interestingly, and despite the broad cross-section of political affiliations at the forum, New Zealand received no support from any speaker for its present position. A New Zealand Government member tried to defend the position. His defence was not accepted by any delegates, whether from the small island states or from one of the major countries which were present. The stalemate in the ANZUS situation is of major concern to all the Pacific, especially in light of the efforts of the Soviets to gain access and influence in the region and their continually expanding military presence.

While the trade debate initially centred on the ongoing tensions between the United States and Japan, it was an opportunity for the Australian delegates to present in a bipartisan way the great difficulties being forced on this country by United States agricultural policy. We all spoke up when we found that there was little or no knowledge of the fall-out effect of the dumping of grains and other commodities and the protectionist trends in the United States and Japan. There was also little evidence that the United States delegates had any knowledge of what was happening to a number of its most loyal allies and this brought home dramatically the need for the establishment of the Australian congressional liaison unit in Washington. This has been brought home even more so in recent days with the indications from Washington that the trade Bill and protection for United States farmers will go ahead, probably no later than March. We should have had our act together so that this unit was operating for the commencement of the congressional session early in January. I am sure that the Opposition can only urge the Government to get its act together and establish this unit immediately. If we do not, we are certainly going to miss the boat. The first area where we will miss the boat will be a major subsidised wheat sale to the People's Republic of China by the United States of America, which is already on the books.

I urge my colleagues in the House to consider very carefully whether they could attend a future meeting of the Pacific Forum. This meeting, which is held in January each year, is one of the very few opportunities we have for an interchange between members of parliament only.