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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17143

The SPEAKER (12:31 PM) —I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Canada, 31 March to 3 April 2003, and the 108th Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, held in Santiago, Chile from 5 April to 12 April 2003. From 31 March to 12 April this year, I led a delegation comprising the permanent delegates to the IPU on a visit to Canada and, subsequently, to the IPU conference in Chile.

Honourable members will know that this was the same time that events in Iraq were unfolding, with significant developments on an almost daily basis. Not surprisingly, this meant that the delegation attracted considerable interest and attention, and on several occasions members of the delegation were questioned about their views on this major international issue. The delegation worked very well together and, as the report I have just tabled attests, all the delegates made valuable contributions to meetings in Canada and at the IPU conference in Chile. I pay particular tribute to the member for Calwell, who assumed the role of deputy leader of the delegation at very short notice and who acquitted herself admirably on this, her very first parliamentary delegation.

The bilateral visit to Canada was highly successful, and I am particularly pleased to report that the visit renewed and strengthened parliamentary relations between the two countries. House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken and Senate Speaker Dan Hays are very good friends of Australia and of this parliament, and this was clearly demonstrated in the warmth of their welcome, the informative program put in place and the generous hospitality extended to the delegation.

The delegation had excellent access to all levels of government. In Ottawa the delegation had meetings or contact with six federal ministers, two parliamentary secretaries and a wide cross-section of Canadian parliamentarians. I was honoured to have a 20-minute meeting with Prime Minister Chrétien and a one-hour meeting with Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. The delegation also met with and attended functions hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the Senate.

In Toronto, Ontario, the delegation met the Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, had discussions with a number of provincial ministers and attended a meeting of representatives of Australian business interests in Canada. The Australian High Commission provided excellent assistance during the visit, and I should record our thanks to High Commissioner Tony Hely, Ms Stacy Morgan and Ms Mary Gleeson for all the work they did to ensure the success of the visit.

Turning to the IPU in Santiago, I can report to the House that the Australian delegation, in keeping with past practice, took a leading role in the work of the conference, with every member of the delegation participating in debates, meetings and discussions. Both Senator Chapman and the member for Calwell were elected to drafting committees established to finalise resolutions to be adopted by the IPU. I also was elected to the committee to draft a resolution on an emergency item included on the agenda—namely, `The need to put an urgent end to the war in Iraq and to re-establish peace: the role of the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union'. These resolutions and the other work undertaken during the conference are set out in detail in the delegation's report, and I commend them to the House.

Although the Australian delegation is a relatively small one, its contribution to the work of the IPU is significant, as is shown in this report. I sincerely thank the delegates for their efforts during the conference. I also acknowledge Senator Chapman, who during the IPU was awarded the Gran Cruz, Order of Bernado O'Higgins, by the Chilean government in recognition of his work with Chile, the IPU and the UN committee on desertification. I also recognise the work of all the other members of the delegation, including Senator Jeannie Ferris, who was very supportive of all delegation initiatives, and Senator Julian McGauran, who attended the conference as an observer. I should also point out that the conference was sorry that permanent delegate Mr Sciacca, the member for Bowman, was unable to be with us as part of the delegation as a result of an accident that happened while he was travelling overseas.

I must also commend the work of Mr Phillip Allars of DFAT, Mr Neil Bessell of the Department of the Senate and Dr Dennis Gifford from my staff. While I have the opportunity, I also acknowledge and place on the record that at the Santiago conference the Clerk of the House of Representatives in Australia, Ian Harris, was elected President of the Association of Secretaries-General of Parliaments, the international organisation of parliamentary clerks. This is an honour for Mr Harris and for this House. As in Canada, the assistance provided by the Australian Embassy in Chile was excellent, and I record our special thanks to Ambassador Libby Schick and First Secretary Mr Todd Mercer for their invaluable contribution. I commend the report to the House.