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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17146


Mr BRUCE SCOTT (12:45 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, I present the committee's Report of the 2003 New Zealand Parliamentary Committee Exchange, 6 to 11 April 2003.

Ordered that the report be printed.


Mr BRUCE SCOTT —Australia and New Zealand have a long and valued history and, as a result, a mutual desire to strengthen wherever possible our social, trade, defence and security interests. The parliaments of both countries recognise the merit in building on our already strong relationship by having an annual exchange of parliamentary committees.

During the period 6 to 11 April 2003, the Defence Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade visited New Zealand as part of the 2003 parliamentary committee exchange program. The first objective of the visit was to meet with New Zealand parliamentarians to share ideas and build and enhance relationships between the two parliaments. This objective was fulfilled through a series of high-level meetings with the Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament, the Hon. Jonathan Hunt, MP; the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Bill English, MP; the Minister of Defence, the Hon. Mark Burton, MP; and members of the New Zealand Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee.

The second objective of the visit ties in with the subcommittee's current inquiry into Australia's maritime strategy. The majority of meetings during the four-day visit were with New Zealand defence personnel, who provided briefings on key developments and initiatives in New Zealand defence policy and capability. These meetings were constructive and provided an alternative perspective to some of the issues that are currently being examined by the subcommittee as part of its inquiry into Australia's maritime strategy.

In addition to receiving briefings on current developments in New Zealand defence policy, a range of general defence briefings and meetings were arranged. These briefings, while not directly related to maritime strategy, were beneficial because they provided a wider appreciation of the New Zealand Defence Force and specific initiatives. For example, while visiting the Burnham army base, a briefing was provided on the Youth Life Skills program and the Limited Service Volunteers program. Through these schemes, New Zealand Army personnel provide training to unemployed persons to help develop skills and responsibilities and to enhance confidence and attitudes in participants. Programs like these, which utilise defence personnel and defence property, do not currently operate in Australia; however, the review of the New Zealand YLS and LSV make it timely to consider and evaluate the role of the Australian Defence Force in contributing implicitly and explicitly to broader community goals. While the ADF's prime focus is defence of Australia, there is a range of community support roles which it performs. The recent airlift and evacuation following the Bali bombings and engineering support teams to assist the Canberra community following the January 2003 bushfires are two recent examples.

In view of the wider contribution that the ADF makes to community outcomes, the committee will scrutinise this aspect of ADF operations as part of its review of the 2002-03 Defence annual report. The committee will consider the current community roles performed by Defence and whether there is capacity for further contributions in this area. In particular, the committee will pursue with Defence the opportunity to implement similar programs to the New Zealand YLS and LSV programs. In relation to general defence issues, an alternative perspective was provided through a meeting with academics from the Institute of Policy Studies and the Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.

The prospect of enhanced academic and research relations between New Zealand and Australia which focus on various elements of the relationship has merit. Therefore, the committee recommends that the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, ASPI, and the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU be encouraged to examine with their New Zealand counterparts opportunities for joint research projects. The Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs should consider whether any additional resources are needed for this activity. During the meeting with the IPS and the CSS, the work of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific was noted. The CSCAP is a non-government organisation providing a process for dialogue on security issues in the Asia-Pacific.

In view of the CSCAP's objectives and the ongoing interest of the committee in security issues, the committee recommends that the presiding officers give consideration to the proposal that some members of the committee attend, as observers, general conferences of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific. I commend the report to the House. (Time expired)