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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 3052

Senator WATSON —by leave-For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian delegation to the seventy-first Inter- Parliamentary Union Conference held in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 1984, together with a document entitled 'Results of the 1984 Spring Session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union'.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator WATSON —I seek leave to make a statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Senator WATSON —I thank the Senate. The original venue for the seventy-first Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference was Jakarta, but because the Indonesian authorities were unable to accommodate the delegation from Israel it was necessary, under the rules, to seek an alternative centre. Reasons, including the shortage of time for preparation of the conference, the increasing cost to the host country, sensitivities because of security and other world pressures, caused many countries to be hesitant in offering to host the conference. Therefore, the organising committee arranged for the IPU Conference to be held at its headquarters in Switzerland. The atmosphere of the city of Geneva, a place steeped in history for peace and international co-operation, was such that Geneva was a most appropriate venue for delegates from the 102 member countries to meet. After all, Geneva is considered to be the humanitarian capital of the world. In Geneva there is a real sense of an international community. It is also a major international conference centre where many a country's foreign policy is on display, being a window to the world of both its domestic and foreign policies. Geneva is the headquarters for United Nations disaster relief, refugees, human rights, the International Red Cross, the International Court of Jurists, the World Council of Churches, the world centre of the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, world patents, trade, and many other international bodies. Switzerland, being a land locked country, has no unity of language and no binding ethnic origin. Yet despite its diversifying elements, it manages a cohesion within its 23 cantons-the sort of cohesion that the world is seeking to attain.

The IPU brings together parliamentarians representing different ideologies and countries for the objective study of political, economic, social, judicial and cultural problems of international significance. Its aims are to promote personal contact between members of all parliaments and to unite them in common action to secure and maintain the full participation of their respective states in the firm establishment and development of democratic institutions and in the advancement of the work of international peace and co-operation, particularly by supporting the work of the United Nations. Many speakers at the IPU Conference emphasised that isolated problems, capable in the past of resolution by unilateral action, nowadays require a global solution. Others warned that statesmen must not be blinded by their immediate interests. However, all agreed that the main challenge was the prevention of nuclear war.

The IPU is a very representative body and one of the very few world forums in which parliamentarians of a wide variety of political opinion can work to maintain the often divergent objectives of national sovereignty and international solidarity. It is to be hoped that on returning home delegates can adapt internationally inspired resolutions into national determinations. It is a regrettable fact that in this sophisticated twentieth century, with the growth in the technological power bases, the collective wisdom has not kept pace but has, in fact, tended to diminish. Nowadays world leaders tend to take notice of events, including imbalances in trade resources, war threats and destabilising population growth, without necessarily finding remedies. Unfortunately, throughout the world there is war, terrorism, abrogation of civil and political rights, torture and, because of the drought which is affecting 24 African countries, a major refugee problem. In too many countries population growth is leading to reduced living standards, particularly in developing countries. For the developed countries this means that recovery will not be as complete, as strong or as sustainable.

The admission of China and the re-admission of Argentina were met with widespread applause from the assembled delegates. Delegates appeared to acknowledge that the changes in the development of international technology will continue despite changes in the disposition of power. Such advances mean that, from a communication viewpoint, the world is effectively shrinking. That factor is probably less evident in Australia because of our isolation and distance to major centres. I believe it is essential for politicians to go overseas to witness and to debate at first hand the problems of a world in transition to enable a proper perspective of the structural changes taking place to be obtained by them and to be understood by Australians. I draw to the attention of the Senate five brief extracts from the debate to show to the Senate and the Australian community the concerns of their colleagues from other countries. The first is:

The world has defeated smallpox with a smaller budget than was necessary for the development of one super bomb.

From Venezuela:

Destiny of developing countries could not be left to the superpowers, nor even on regional co-operation; each country had to be responsible for itself and had to respect the opinion of others.

From Zambia:

To Africans, small arms were more dangerous than a nuclear weapon.

From Bolivia:

Bolivia had a heavy debt burden, which used up more than 40 per cent of its export income in repayments.

The Bolivian delegate said that he saw an indirect relationship between the program indebtedness of the developing countries and the arms expenditure of the big powers. The delegate from Sudan stated:

The rate of desert encroachment on fertile and arable land in Africa was between four and five kilometres per year. This relentless destruction of Africa 's resources must be stopped. Desertification threatened the loss of about 35 per cent of the world's arable land, half of which was located in Africa.

I take this opportunity through the airwaves of giving a cheerio to our leader, Ralph Jacobi. I regret that the leader of the Australian delegation was unable to present this report because of the time constraints of the other House. The Australian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference was again led by Ralph Jacobi from South Australia. In Geneva, as in Seoul and Helsinki, Mr Jacobi was a great fighter for justice and democratic principles in both the Ten Plus forums, the IPU executive and council and the open debate of the IPU. His knowledge of Middle East affairs was of such a high standard that it enabled delegates to reduce the gulf of divergent opinions in this very sensitive area. Therefore, it was not surprising that he obtained the respectful title from his colleagues both here and abroad of 'the fearless leader'.

Senator Cook's contribution benefited from the counselling of Australia's Ambassador for Disarmament, the sincere Richard Butler. He displayed a knowledge a cut above the average and a sincerity which was lacking in speeches by some other delegations in the debate on disarmament and arms control. Peter Coleman and Dr Klugman showed their courage in attacking a number of sacred cows that generated both applause and criticism. Dr Klugman's concluding remarks are worth repeating. He said that war and aggression go hand in hand with dictatorial regimes because only they can start them without having to justify them to their people.

The Clerk of the Senate, in his normal role at the Senate table, appears a sombre, humourless but sage mediator. However, as secretary of the delegation we found a different kind of person-a person full of wit, great energy and a dedication to supply the needs of the members with timely and relevant information. Evan Adermann, John Dyer and Foreign Affairs adviser Fred Peppinck all made significant contributions which all helped to enhance other countries' respect for Australia.

I also wish to acknowledge the help from Australia's Ambassador for Disarmament , Richard Butler, and an ex-Tasmanian, who is now Ambassador for Australia in Berne, Mr Hutton. Especially I would like to mention David Sadlier, our Ambassador in Geneva. No other Foreign Affairs official has done quite so much in our experience as David Sadlier who arranged for delegates to be fully briefed and informed. At times some of our Foreign Affairs officers tend to brush off politicians overseas and treat them as an unfortunate interruption to their other duties. But not so David Sadlier. For example, at one significant dinner party the guest list included many distinguished international people. It included the Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, the Director of Operations for the International Red Cross, and so on. Also among the distinguished guests was Christine Elstob, the daughter of South Australian Labor Senator, Ron Elstob . The pride that she has in her father at this time is significant. When family unions are tending to lessen, the bonds between Christine and her parents are particularly strong.

I come back to David Sadlier. Maybe in his earlier career as an Inter- Parliamentary Union Foreign Affairs adviser he learned of the needs of foreign delegates. Indeed, as a window to the world, our diplomatic representation in the whole of Switzerland gives Australia high status in the international community.