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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13079

Mr GRIFFIN (Bruce) (10:10): I present the delegation report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Indonesia from 26 August to 7 September 2012. The delegation's report is a summary of the key issues covered during the visit to two of Australia's most important bilateral partners, China and Indonesia. The visit to China was part of the official parliamentary exchange agreement with the National People's Congress. It also coincided with the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China, a far-sighted step that was taken by the Whitlam government as one of its first acts in 1972. As I entered the National People's Congress in Beijing I was struck by the enormous historic significance of this event and I could only think of the great man himself, Gough Whitlam, as he walked up those very same steps 40 years ago. Nobody then could have imagined the changes to take in place in China over the coming four decades. The relationship between Australia and China has developed way beyond the expectations of even the most optimistic commentator back in 1972.

The delegation first held bilateral discussions with members of the National People's Congress. The issues covered included agricultural cooperation, food security, food safety, investment and how to deal with an ageing population. The delegation proposed a number of mechanisms for deepening the connection between our two parliaments, including holding regular meetings between our delegations at IPU meetings and the greater use of video technology so that committees in both Australia and China can exchange views more often. The delegation also travelled to Kunming and Chengdu for further meetings and to meet with Australian businesses in China.

Throughout the visit, one of the clear concerns put to the delegation by Chinese business was a perception of unequal treatment when attempting to invest in Australia. The delegation was able to address specific cases as they were raised and we also made the point that Australia has a non-discriminatory investment regime. But the point remains that there is disquiet in China at the political and business level, with perceptions about Australian unease with Chinese investment.

In Indonesia, the delegation visited Jakarta, Bogor and West Sumatra. Our discussions in the Indonesian National Assembly with the Australian parliamentary group and commission 4 revealed the dynamism that now exists in Indonesia's democracy. They also revealed a considerable appetite for greater engagement between the parliaments of Indonesia and Australia. Visits are important. But this is something that could easily be achieved by greater use of videoconferences between parliamentary committees here in Canberra and in Jakarta.

The delegation spent several days in West Sumatra with AusAID looking at the impact of Australia's aid. We visited an Islamic school that was rebuilt after the 2009 earthquake, a health clinic that services some 24,000 people, a village that had no running water until Australian aid money provided taps and sanitation and a village devastated by the earthquake where houses were being rebuilt to earthquake-proof standards. In each of these cases it was clear that this was money well spent and projects that all Australians can be proud of.

Before concluding, I would like to place on record the delegation's thanks to those who assisted us during the visits. First, I would like to thank our ambassadors to China and Indonesia, Frances Adamson and Greg Moriarty, for the time that they took to brief the delegation. We also appreciated the interaction and participation of the various section heads at both embassies throughout the visit. I would like to particularly thank the second secretary in China, Armaity Bradley, for her tireless efforts in putting together the program and accompanying us throughout. Armaity, you were a delight to travel with. I also want to make special mention of David Dukes, the senior trade commissioner, who coordinated our corporate meetings and travelled with the delegation. David is doing great work. His extraordinary love for and knowledge of China rubbed off on us all. Special thanks go to Geoff Matthews, the third secretary in Indonesia, who coordinated our program and travelled with us. Geoff's first aim was always to please, as he was keen to show us as wide a view of Indonesia as allowed in the few days we had available.

To Rachael Moore, and your colleagues in the AusAID team in Jakarta: you are an impressive group of Australians. Thank you for showing us the valuable development work Australia is doing in West Sumatra. Thanks also go to Australian federal agent Marco Corinaldelsi, who travelled with us in Indonesia and ensured that the security put in place by the Indonesian National Police was as unobtrusive as possible, though that was not always easy. Thanks also to Fiona Way from the International and Community Relations Office for coordinating the visit from this end.

I also feel the need to acknowledge particularly Peter Stephens, the secretary of the delegation, who is in the gallery. Peter made everything so much easier with his willingness to assist the committee with his knowledge of what was required, with his capacity to coordinate with officials and, other than being confused with being the partner of a good senator who was also on the trip, he was a delight to be with.

Before concluding I would like to express appreciation to my colleagues for their support throughout the visit. It was a visit that was well worth doing. (Time expired)