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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2229


Senator ELSTOB —I seek leave to table the report of the Australian delegation to the Seventy-second Conference of the Inter- Parliamentary Union held in Geneva in September 1984.

Leave granted.

Ordered that the report be printed.


Senator ELSTOB —by leave-The origins of the Inter-Parliamentary Union lie in the attempts by parliamentarians at the close of the nineteenth century to end the use of arms to resolve international differences and substitute international ' arbitration', as it was called, in place of war. It was as a direct result of these efforts that the Hague Convention establishing the International Court was agreed on. The resolution of international differences by peaceful means remains one of the principal aims of the Union. Far from resting on past achievements, however, the Union continues its attempt to operate efficiently and to be effective in the modern world.

As is mentioned in the report, a feature of the Seventy-second Conference was the presence in one room of most of the nations that are currently involved in either open conflict or antagonistic situations. These included representatives from Iran, Iraq, Israel, Arab nations, North and South Korea, Ireland, Argentina , Kuwait, Cuba and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, together with major world powers including the United States of America, Russia and China. The fact that in this atmosphere meaningful dialogue could take place and positive resolution be agreed to, unanimously, on a range of contentious subjects, surely must give some hope of peaceful solutions to the bitter conflicts which dominate world politics today.

Organisations are criticised when their efforts appear to be met by small results. But results depend on the nature of the problem. For example, it is unreasonable to expect the IPU to resolve the Middle East situation when the United Nations and the major world powers have failed to obtain significant results. Nevertheless, the IPU is able to point to some remarkable achievements in relation to the Middle East. For example, the IPU is the only organisation in the world which, since 1971, has been able to bring to the same discussion table representatives of Israel and three Arab countries to prepare a draft resolution on the Middle East situation. The Rome conference subsequently voted in favour with a two-thirds majority.

The IPU has a long, deep and continuing involvement in the question of human rights, and liaises closely with Amnesty International on the resolution of particular cases involving parliamentarians. It may be of interest in this connection for the Australian Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International to ask Amnesty International Headquarters about the role and activity of the IPU, which in many cases acts on behalf of Amnesty International in conducting inquiries.

During the consideration of the items debated at the Seventy-second Conference, the leader of the delegation, Mr Jacobi, concentrated on such policy issues as Australia's condemnation of apartheid policies in South Africa, concern at the Kuwait attempt to equate zionism with racism, and support for recent action taken to resolve the problems of the Central American region. Dr Andrew Theophanous and Senator Watson spoke in the general debate on the political, economic and social situation of the world. Dr Theophanous concentrated his speech mainly on the world debt situation and the need for a new international monetary system, based not on the dominance of the world order by a few countries but on what each country can provide to the needs of humanity, considered as a totality. Senator Watson spoke on the signs of a strong world economic recovery, and of the problems of the international debt and its repercussions, particularly in the Third World. I spoke on the subject of equal rights and responsibilities for men and women. The main theme of my remarks was the need to achieve a balance in the rights and responsibilities for men and women, with the ultimate aim of achieving a community where people are judged not by sex or group, but as equal individuals, with individual needs and strengths.

Australia, because of its geographic isolation from world trouble spots, together with its ability, because of its own economic base, to identify with both developed and developing nations, is in a unique position to exercise a moderating influence at IPU conferences. In this role Australian delegates have served their country and the Union well over the years of our membership of IPU.

I would like now to express my appreciation of the generous and always helpful assistance given to every member of the delegation by the members of the permanent mission to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva. The Charge d' Affaires, Mr Mike Curtin, generously gave his time and much appreciated advice throughout the Conference. He was fully supported by Mr Noel Campbell, the First Secretary, and all staff members. As was the case with the delegation to Geneva in April this year, the help given by the mission staff was appreciated by all delegates.

Senator Watson, deputy leader of the Australian IPU delegation, has asked me to pay a tribute on his behalf to Mr Ralph Jacobi, the leader of the Australian delegation to IPU meetings during the current Parliament. Ralph has always expressed his opinions in a frank and forthright manner, and at the Conference, Council and Executive Committee level has played a positive and active role at all meetings. His term of office as a member of the Executive Committee came to an end this year, and, with the dissolution of Parliament, his term as leader of the Australian delegations will be completed. As a member of three of the delegations led by Mr Jacobi, I join Senator Watson in thanking Mr Jacobi for his leadership and friendship, and for his contribution to the work and success of the Australian contribution to Union conferences during his period of office.

I also wish to record on behalf of the delegation our appreciation and thanks to Mr Nicholls, Deputy Clerk of the Senate, who acted as secretary and secretary -treasurer to the group. The help given by Mr Nicholls was greatly appreciated by the delegation. The same can be said of Mr Dyer, who was the assistant secretary to the delegation and who also works in the Department of the Senate. Mr Dyer gave all the assistance required by the delegation. The delegation also wishes to thank Mr Peppinck, Department of Foreign Affairs, who was an adviser to the delegation and whose help was invaluable. On behalf of the delegation, I express our thanks.