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Wednesday, 1 July 1998
Page: 5753


Mr REID (10:16 AM) —by leave—I thank the members of the opposition. I want to support the comments made by the leader of the delegation, the Hon. Bob Halverson, and congratulate him on his excellent leadership on what was a very significant visit to Africa.

I wish to comment particularly on the level of Australian involvement in the Inter-Parliamentary Union 99th conference at Windhoek in Namibia. Australia played a much greater role than its population numbers would credit. Australia is very well regarded by all of the nations who participate in the Inter-Parlia mentary Union. As the leader, Mr Halverson, has indicated, there was a high level of commitment by the members of the delegation. I particularly want to mention Mr Clyde Holding, who has had a long-time involvement in the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, and his ongoing work on that committee.

I also wish to mention Mr Halverson's role in Palestine's admission to the IPU. I had the privilege to be chairman of the drafting committee on foreign debt and Senator Cooney was chairman of the drafting committee on conflict resolution. We also had participation on the drafting committee on HIV/AIDS from Senator McGauran and on the drafting committee on the emergency item on the situation in Kosovo by Mr Halverson. Also Senator Cooney and Senator Knowles were involved in a meeting of women parliamentarians.

It was particularly good that Australia had such a high involvement. Australia is seen in international terms as being able to broker and bring about satisfactory negotiations, because we do not carry some of the political baggage that some nations may have. We are seen as being independent and able to negotiate and broker some satisfactory resolutions.

I want to briefly mention the bilateral visits to Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The leader of the delegation has already indicated Australia's involvement in the Norwegian Aid Project for the demining process in Angola and Mozambique. I want to pay a particular compliment to one of the most professional young Australian people that I have ever come into contact with. That was Major Peter McIntosh, who was involved in the demining process and in the training of local people in the demining process in Mozambique. Major McIntosh is a member of the Australian Defence Force and a technical adviser. He is training the locals and performing an excellent job. One could only marvel at the wonderful commitment made by a number of young Australian people who are in those countries in Africa.

The delegates and my spouse, Jenny Reid, went to the prosthetics factory in Angola. As a trained nurse, Jenny had a great appreciation of what was being undertaken there and the help that that prosthetics factory can be to people who are unfortunate enough to be maimed or injured by mines. One of the most horrifying experiences of your life is to walk through a minefield and then to see people around the streets of Mozambique who have suffered as a result of mines. It is a horrible experience.

I also congratulate Tim Clifton, Andrew Lodge and Carlos Paiva at BHP in Angola, who were very generous in their support to us. BHP and Ashton Mining are both active in those areas. There are many opportunities for Australia in Africa and there is a need for Australia to make a greater commitment to its involvement in the southern part of Africa.

I commend and support the report. I believe that it is an excellent report and the result of a lot of hard work. We did not have any conflicts, Mr Deputy Speaker. The delegation got on extremely well. There were no personality clashes. I would also like to commend the secretary, Mr Neil Bessell, who performed an excellent job in his role, and also the leader's adviser, Mr Richard Coventry, for their assistance. I also thank Alan Elliott, the MP from Zimbabwe, who is a wonderful advocate of Australia—I look forward to his visit to Australia later this year when we can repay some of his generosity—and the Hon. Kerry Sibraa, who has done a marvellous job as High Commissioner to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and his wife, Julie. I commend the report to the House.