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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 2005

Senator HAINES —I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to New Zealand in June 1984. I seek leave to make a short statement.

Leave granted.

Senator HAINES —The Australian Parliamentary Delegation's visit to New Zealand between 3 June and 13 June 1984, which was ably led by Mr Barry Cunningham, MP, with the assistance of Ron Wiber as Secretary, and which consisted of members of parliament from both the House of Representatives and the Senate from all political parties, took place 14 months after the Australia-New Zealand closer economic relations trade agreement, known as CER, was finally signed. The concept of CER came into being as a result of a number of negotiations between Australian and New Zealand leaders in 1979 and 1980. A meeting of the Prime Ministers in March 1980 put in train negotiations which were to lead to the adoption of the CER. Decisions to bring Australia and New Zealand closer together had already been taken at the Nareen meeting between Mr Fraser and the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Mr Talboys, in 1978. As one of the decisions to further co-operation and consultation between the two countries, it was envisaged that there should be regular exchange of parliamentary delegations. This delegation was part of the process conceived then.

The value of delegations such as this is perhaps not understood by members of the general public. It is frequently suggested that when members of parliament go on delegations to other countries these trips are perhaps nothing more than mere junkets. In an attempt to set this straight I refer to the comments made on 10 October in another place by Mr Cunningham. He said:

It became clear during the visit that, although Australia and New Zealand enjoy a very close relationship, it is nevertheless an extremely sensitive and complex one in many areas. This has been borne out by events since the delegation's visit. We have seen, for example: Differences in attitude towards the visit of nuclear fuelled and armed ships of the United States Navy; continuing discussion about the future direction and progress of the closer economic relations agreement; the unfortunate troubles between Australian and New Zealand shearers in Australia; and the possibility of unhealthy competition between Australia and New Zealand in finding overseas markets for agricultural products.

There is no doubt that there is a great deal of goodwill between Australia and New Zealand at the higher levels of government in both countries. The delegation is not competent to talk about problems in the Australia-New Zealand relationship which have arisen since its visit. All of the delegation had discussions relating to the economic relationship and defence. In some ways these discussions have been overtaken by events but they were nevertheless valuable, especially regrading the CER.

A detailed outline of the delegation's visit is provided in the itinerary attached at the end of the report. However, I take the opportunity to make one or two remarks further to the remarks made in another place by Mr Cunningham about the value of the delegation in regard to both the official activities of the delegation and the individual program undertaken by members of the group. As you would well know, Mr Acting Deputy President, when a delegation goes overseas it is not kept on the go from seven o'clock in the morning until midnight with officially organised programs and visits. Delegation members are given some free time in which they can relax, get over whatever activities took place earlier, or take the opportunity to go beyond the visits that have been officially organised, and all of us on this delegation took that opportunity.

Official visits took place with Ministers and with the leaders of both major parties in New Zealand. We therefore saw the Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Fisheries, the Minister for Science and Technology and Minister of Environment; and the Minister of Trade and Industry. All those Ministers were generous in the time they gave to us. They were open and frank in the discussions we had with them and members on both sides-felt that that they had benefited a great deal. We also saw the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon, and were fortunate enough to spend some time with Mr David Lange who, unbeknown to us and I dare say to him, was only weeks away from becoming Prime Minister.

Group visits were also made to organisations and industries with CER involvement or relevance. These included the Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand, Lincoln College, the Ruakura Animal Research Station, PDL Holdings Ltd, which has a considerable link with Australia, and the Comalco aluminium smelter at Tiwa Point.

In addition, individual members of the delegation took the opportunity, as I said earlier, to further their knowledge of areas of specific interest to them. Mr Cunningham and Mr Mountford held discussions with the New Zealand Workers Union. Mr Cunningham and Mr Chynoweth visited the laboratories of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Mr Katter and Mr Aldred called on defence and local government officials. These were by no means all the activities in which the male members of the delegation took part. My program tended more towards the areas I am interested in, such as women's affairs, health, social welfare and law reform. I was able to arrange visits with a number of the women members of parliament, including the very remarkable Marilyn Waring who has since retired from parliamentary life but who, I feel sure, will continue another form of political agitation in the areas of women's affairs.

I was also able to talk to departmental and public service officials, members of statutory authorities and others whose areas covered the interests I share. These included people from the Human Rights Commission, the Department of Social Welfare, the Equal Employment Opportunities Unit and the Advisory Council on Women's Affairs. The discussions I took part in with those people included such things as maintenance collection programs which, I say with respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, are well ahead of those that currently operate in Australia, and apprenticeship schemes which have sought to avoid some of the problems that apprenticeship schemes involving women in non-traditional areas have faced in Australia, particularly the problems that occur when only a single girl or woman has been placed in an apprenticeship in an area which is non-traditional for her sex. We also discussed community of property legislation, which of course many people in Australia have been looking at for a long time, and so on.

Given the wide area of discussions that I and other members of the delegation took part in, both at an official and on an individual level, I have to say that what we gained from that visit more than justified it. Indeed, I was so taken by a number of advances that New Zealand is involved in or is looking at in the areas of interest that I have that I returned for a private visit in August to visit the Accident Compensation Corporation, whose Chairman I had not been able to see while I was in New Zealand in June, to catch up with the new Minister for Social Security in New Zealand, Ann Hercus, to find out what she was doing in those areas, and to discuss with a number of lawyers moves they were making for improvement in family law problems in New Zealand.

In conclusion, I make some acknowledgments. The delegation was more than grateful to the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Muldoon, to his Ministers and officers of his Government and to the former Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, Sir Richard Harrison, as well as to the parliamentary staff for their hospitality and assistance in making the visit a success. On behalf of the delegation I extend our thanks and appreciation to the escort officers who accompanied the delegation during the visit, to Mr Jim Blair from the Department of Internal Affairs, Mr Nick Bridge and Miss Cathie Randall from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all of whom exerted themselves, I suggest, beyond the call of duty to make the delegation's visit enjoyable and valuable.

Question resolved in the affirmative.