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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13111


Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (12:16): I present the report of the Australian delegation to the assembly of the 125th Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Bern, Switzerland and the bilateral visit to Germany and Austria on 16 to 25 October 2011. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Mr ADAMS: I thank the House. I am pleased to present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation which participated in the 125th Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly in Bern, Switzerland and also undertook bilateral visits to Germany and Austria in October 2011. As the report attests, this was another successful and hardworking parliamentary delegation at the IPU assembly. The delegation were active participants in the proceedings. This report outlines the various presentations and meetings that featured in the delegation's program.

Australian delegations at assemblies of the Inter-Parliamentary Union have established a reputation for making a significant contribution to the IPU through their hard work, often behind the scenes, to facilitate dialogues and broker agreements across a wide range of global issues. The high regard in which Australia is held within the IPU is reflected in the election of Australian representatives to key positions in drafting committees at the assembly in Bern. Senator Ursula Stephens was appointed chair of the drafting committee for the emergency resolution 'On the plight of people of famine-stricken Somalia and relief efforts by the IPU members parliaments'. I was appointed chair of the draft committee on the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade. Both resolutions were adopted unanimously by the assembly. Mr Patrick Secker MP, Senator Sue Boyce and Senator Stephens were active representatives of the delegation in the work of the standing committees.

The assembly continued its examination of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament through a series of panel discussions. Australia's leadership in this area was reflected in the appointment of the former Speaker, Mr Harry Jenkins MP, as chair of a panel session of the Committee on the United Nations Affairs on 'Nuclear weapons: the road to zero'. These discussions drew together a number of prominent experts, including Mr Gareth Evans, co-chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and former Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs. The delegation was honoured to meet the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General commended Australia on its support of preventative diplomacy efforts in the Pacific and on the important leadership role Australia continues to play in the region. He also expressed his gratitude to Australia for logistic support during his historical visit to attend the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland.

The delegation's visit to Austria and Germany provided excellent opportunities to explore issues around sustainable energy production, nuclear non-proliferation, education and the Eurozone crisis. I found the series of meetings on Germany's dynamic approach to renewable energy policy particularly interesting. Many of the issues we discussed around market and system acceptance, land use and the debate around food versus fuel are familiar to Australian parliamentarians. It was also of benefit to be able to explore the successes and lessons learnt from alternate models for encouraging and supporting diversity and innovation across all sectors of the renewable energy industry.

It was also hugely beneficial for the delegation to be able to receive such comprehensive briefings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Organisation and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and to discover how highly valued Australia's contribution to the work of these important organisations is. The delegation came away with a clear impression of the importance of continuing to support and strengthen the capacity of such agencies to undertake their roles.

Parliamentary delegations are an important part of building inter-parliamentary relationships. The delegation was grateful for the opportunity to meet with parliamentary counterparts in the German and Austrian parliaments and continue the already well-established parliamentary dialogue between our parliaments. The discussions we had were frank and good humoured and provided honest insights to a number of significant issues of common interest.

At the Austrian Parliament, Ms Barbara Prammer, President of the Austrian National Council, generously made time available on the eve of celebrations to mark Austria's national day. In Germany, Mr Jurgen Herrmann MdB and his colleagues on the Germany Australia New Zealand Parliamentary Friendship group were equally generous with their time. The delegation was saddened to hear of the sudden death of Mr Heim Neumann in August this year. He was a good friend to Australia, with a firm commitment to fostering inter-parliamentary relations.

I would like to commend the many people who contributed to the success of the delegation's visits. I would also like to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their high level of assistance to the delegation. They provided both advance briefing material and on-the-ground support at the IPU Assembly in Bern and throughout Germany and Austria. Australia's ambassadors to Germany and Austria, Mr Peter Tesch and Mr Michael Potts, and their staff put together outstanding programs and provided practical support to the delegation. I make special mention of Mr Phillip Anderson, the delegation's Foreign Affairs adviser to the IPU Assembly in Bern, for his advice and professional support throughout the assembly.

I would also like to thank staff of the Parliamentary Library, the parliament's International and Community Relations Office and the Department of the Senate, who provided briefings, advice and assistance with the arrangements for the delegation.

In closing, may I again congratulate my fellow delegates for their hard work and good humour throughout this highly successful series of visits. I commend the report to the House.