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Wednesday, 3 October 1984
Page: 1147


Senator PETER RAE(6.21) —by leave-I present the official report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the European parliamentary institutions and to France in 1983. I seek leave to move a motion.

Leave granted.


Senator PETER RAE —I thank the Senate. I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The delegation which went to the European parliamentary institutions in 1983 went not only to the Council of Europe generally and to the Council of Europe's particular Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development debate, but also the European Parliament. It also went to the North Atlantic Assembly, which is the parliamentary assembly for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members . It took part also in the Strasbourg conference on parliamentary democracies. That was an extremely valuable opportunity for Australia to improve its relationships with Europe.

I would like to talk a little of history and to go back to some of the problems that we have had in being a little distant from Europe. After the common agricultural policy and the European Economic Community were developed, Australia tended to be shut out of Europe. It had to find new markets, build new relationships and take new steps. It concentrated on doing that and did it very successfully. We have found that the balance of trade in the 1980s has changed very dramatically from that which applied in the 1950s. We have also found that another change has taken place; that is, that the growth area of the world has moved from Europe. It is now far more related to the Pacific and, in particular, the western Pacific. There has been a lack of realisation on the part of many Europeans and European parliamentarians of the extent to which Australia is part of the western Pacific. It has an opportunity through its traditional relationships with Europe to help Europe to participate in and perhaps better understand the western Pacific.

I think it is also extremely important for Australia to remind Europe of some of the problems which the Europeans caused to Australia. In particular, the common agricultural policy produces huge surpluses of subsidised primary products which are then sold at relatively low prices in many of the markets which we have been at great pains to build up. That is a matter of considerable concern to Australia and too often has been forgotten by the average member of the European parliamentary institutions. Over several years we have been able to build up a relationship with Europe whereby there is some contact on a more permanent basis. We have in Australia an Australia-Europe Parliamentary Group. That group has only relatively recently been formed. I hope it will develop a much more permanent relationship with a similar group at the European Parliament . It is called the Australia-New Zealand Parliamentary Delegation of the European Parliament. It is a group of people who have a particular interest in us. It is proposed that once every three years it will visit Australia and New Zealand so that there will be a continuing relationship, a continuing liaison and a continuing opportunity for understanding between the countries making up the European Economic Community and Australia and New Zealand.

As that understanding is developed, so too can some of the problems be overcome . Whilst I do not expect to see any dramatic change overnight in the common agricultural policy, it has been interesting that in the three times that I have gone as a member of this delegation, starting in 1978, I have seen the change that has come about in the degree of understanding and acknowledgment of the problems which are created for some other areas of the world by the operation of the common agricultural policy in Europe. I was pleased to see that in 1983 the delegation had the opportunity to circulate at the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe a paper which became a formal paper of that Council. That paper is of three printed pages and sets out briefly, but in sufficient detail to be understandable, the problems and some of the concerns of Australia in relation to the common agricultural policy. It was our opportunity to make sure that all members of the Council of Europe have available to them, translated into their languages, our case stated relatively briefly in relation to the damage being done by the operation of CAP.

We also had the opportunity to be able to circulate to the Council of Europe a paper in relation to the steel industry in Europe. It was interesting and, I thought, typical that whilst Australia is a relatively big producer of steel, an important producer in the whole steel process in the quantities of iron ore and coal which it exports as well as the steel which it produces and has an important role in the total steel industry of the world, the Council of Europe when looking at the steel industry made no reference at all to the position of Australia. There was no recognition that Australia had a steel industry. It referred to the position of the United States and Japan, but did not refer to Australia. I was delighted to find that such is the degree of co-operation which has now been developed over the years with the Australian delegations visiting Europe that not only did the Council of Europe again accept a paper which it circulated as one of its own papers to each of its members, but it also was prepared to accept a recommendation which we made in the paper which added a paragraph to its resolution. This paragraph read:

Bearing in mind that the decisions taken in relation to Europe's steel industry have major ramifications for Australia both as a steel producer but even more importantly as a major supplier of raw materials, will request the governments of its member States and of the EEC.

(a) to have regard to those ramifications when taking action pursuant to the foregoing proposals and policies; and

(b) to consult with Australia, as an OECD member, when developing new international policies relating to the steel industry.

I think that that is an excellent example of the sort of opportunity which arises as a result of the development of this liaison between the European parliamentary institutions and the Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand. We were able there to get the Europeans to say, in effect: 'Oops, sorry, yes we acknowledge that we have not made reference to Australia, we acknowledge that Australia has got an important role to play in relation to steel. We will add that and we will undertake to recommend to the governments of Europe that they should consult'. I am glad to be able to indicate that that is just one of the examples of the positive side.

Another example of the positive side is that Australia is able, as a member of the OECD, to speak in the plenary session of the Council of Europe during the debate on the OECD paper which is given by the Secretary-General. It is also able to meet with the committees and the parliamentary groups of both the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. Those meetings with the committees are of particular value. I believe that one of the greatest benefits is the opportunity the delegation had to get down to direct discussion with the committees of those major parliamentary institutions. The interchange which can take place there can do immeasurable good to the mutuality of understanding and, therefore, the solution of what might otherwise be unintentional problems.

I refer also to the opportunity which we have now to participate in relation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I do not think that we would find many people in this country who would suggest that our interests are not very closely interlinked with the interests of NATO. Over the years the parliamentary assembly of NATO, the North Atlantic Assembly, has been limited to members of the NATO organisation and the considerations of the Assembly have tended to be limited to the NATO area. Of more recent times consideration has been given to this matter. Sir Patrick Wall, the President of the North Atlantic Assembly, for one has been extremely interested in developing further the relationship of NATO with its other mutual interest 'allies'. The Assembly has decided to invite annually to its meetings representatives from Japan and also parliamentary observers from Australia and New Zealand. So one of the recommendations which the parliamentary delegation comes back with and places before the Parliament is that the invitation which was extended first in 1982 and then formalised in discussions which took place last year with Mr Deshormes, the Secretary-General, and Sir Patrick Wall, the President of the North Atlantic Assembly, for Australia to become a permanent parliamentary observer at the North Atlantic Assembly, should be accepted.

The extent to which a change is taking place in the attitude of the North Atlantic Assembly is, I think, signified by the fact that next year the Assembly proposes to hold its conference for the first time outside the North Atlantic area. The conference will be held on the west coast of the United States of America and inevitably the Pacific will be looked at during the discussions that take place. There has been, therefore, a recognition that defence of the North Atlantic area is a global matter. A clear interest has been expressed by some of the western Pacific countries, particularly Australia, New Zealand and Japan, to participate in the consideration of the very wide and broad matter which are considered by the Northern Atlantic Assembly. The Assembly does not consider only military aspects but also the social and economic aspects of the defence of the western democracies. We have been invited to participate in the economic, military and political committees of the Assembly. We have also been given the opportunity to speak during the plenary session of the Assembly. I think it is a very major step forward for Australia to be invited to participate. This again brings us closer to the parliamentary institutions of like mind and like kind democracies that continue to exist in this world. It is for that reason that I believe we should most certainly accept the opportunities and invitations and continue to take very great care to ensure that we develop the relationships which have been started.

We look forward to the visit early next year by the Australian-New Zealand delegation of the European Parliament. We look forward to its visiting Australia and to being able to have discussions with its members to ensure that they are brought up to date. I hope we will be able to look after them as well as they looked after us when we visited them in Strasbourg. I would like to refer briefly to Mr Bill Morrison, the leader of the delegation last year, who referred to a number of these matters when he tabled the report of the delegation on 13 September in the House of Representatives. His speech is set out on pages 1270 to 1272 of Hansard. I will not repeat the matters to which he referred. However, I would like to indicate my thanks to him for his work as leader of the delegation. In fact, the roles we played on this occasion were reversed because the year before I had been the leader of the delegation and he had been the deputy leader. I believe that we worked extremely well together and co-operatively on both occasions.

I would also like to express my thanks, as he did to the Australian Ambassadors to France, Mr Peter Curtis and to Belgium, Mr David Anderson, for the work they did in providing the various forms of assistance to us during our visit. I would also like to express our thanks to various members of the staff of the embassies including, in particular, Godfrey Santer who was of great assistance to the delegation. I would also like to refer to the work that was done by Rob Diamond who was the secretary to the delegation. Rob Diamond, who accompanied the delegation, had the very dreadful task of trying to draw it together, make sure that people turned up on time and were in the right places at the right time, that the right sorts of papers were available and all the rest of the jobs that had to be performed. All I can say is that it is a job that I would not have for anything. I congratulate him on having done it extremely well. I am glad that he is in the chamber at the moment to hear me say that because he did an excellent job in that capacity.

I support the continued participation of the Australian parliamentary delegations in European parliamentary institutions. I hope that this will become a permanent feature and that we shall also be able to accept the invitation which has been extended by the Pacific Forum meeting in Hawaii to meet with the Japanese and other parliamentary democracies to consider issues concerning the Pacific area, along with those of NATO. That invitation of course, has been extended to Mr Morrison and me to participate at the beginning of January next year. I hope that ways will be found for us to be able to accept that invitation .

Finally, I pay tribute to the friendliness and co-operation of the other members of the delegation to whom I have not made specific reference and thank the French Government which also entertained the delegation for a period after the conclusion of the visit to the European parliamentary institutions. I thank the French Parliament-the French Senate, in particular-for an extremely pleasant luncheon and an interesting time. One was amazed to view the splendour of the Parliament in Paris. I also thank the Prefect at Macon who looked after the delegation and even the French national railways which took us on its magnificent train, the TGV, from Paris to Macon at an average speed of about 260 kilometres an hour with a smoothness which was remarkable. I think we could give further thought to the introduction of such a magnificent service in Australia. I thank the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.