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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1735


Mr FORREST (Mallee) (12:13): I seek leave to make a few remarks with respect to the report.

Leave granted.

Mr FORREST: In my view the APPF is a very significant forum of the Asia-Pacific Rim nations. In my years in the parliament I have had the opportunity to participate fairly extensively. My first meeting was in Lima, Peru, in 1996. I participated again in 2000, when Australia hosted the APPF. In 2011 I was due to go to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, but at the last minute was unable to attend because there was serious flooding in my constituency and I did not think it appropriate to be away. That was significant, and I refer to it because I had the opportunity in Tokyo to speak on natural disaster relief arrangements and I was really pleased that our delegation performed well in respect to that resolution and quite a few others.

People would say that APPF is just another talkfest. That may be true to a casual observer, but I think that it is very important. The consistent contribution made by nations like ours and the fact that we were noticed in Tokyo—and many of the chairmen of the various committees we served on said that and in fact gave us privileges that would probably not normally be available to others—is important because Australia has made a consistent contribution.

I wanted to support the remarks by the member for Page with regard to our secretarial support from Robyn McClelland. It was excellent and it contributed to the success of this delegation. I also wanted to comment that it is a great shame that the Australian public do not see us working in forums like this where partisanship is put aside and the national interest has priority. I was very proud to make a contribution to that in Australia's best interests.

I also commend to you the two recommendations at the end of the report, Mr Speaker, about the timeliness of appointment of delegates. There was not a lot of time for us to be prepared for this delegation. In fact I arrived at the first meeting with less than 24 hours notice. Senator Bilyk was much the same. I was surprised at that meeting when I was advised that I would be the deputy leader of the delegation. In the interests of better continuity, I would like these two recommendations to be given serious regard by you. I am not proposing that we appoint permanent delegates to APPF forums in the future—although I note that Canada and New Zealand do that and their delegates there were quite regularly at these forums—but that there is an overlap, an opportunity for those members who participated in the previous forum to brief and have a chat with the new delegates coming forward. I think that would be a very useful thing to do and it would add to our ability to contribute to this important forum.

I too want to thank my colleagues, the member for Page who led us very well, Senator Bilyk and Senator Back, and I feel very proud that I have made a contribution in the national interest to this very important forum. I thank you for letting me make a few remarks.