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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2230

Senator MISSEN(5.22) —by leave-Mr President, I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper and statement.

I wish to say a few words on this report. This matter is being dealt with at a quixotic time. I have on the Notice Paper a report which I tabled in 1982 dealing with the Inter-Parliamentary Union and drawing attention to what was happening at that time. It appears that the same situation is true of the IPU today, but it is obvious that my motion will not be dealt with in this Parliament. Therefore, I shall seek to raise this matter again in the next Parliament. It is high time that the Parliament had a full debate on the monstrous waste of money and the great amount of misdirected energy dissipated by the IPU. It is all very well for Senator Elstob to say that it is carrying on activities that were begun in the late nineteenth century but, with respect to the honourable senator, I believe that is not the case. In recent years the IPU has greatly changed. It now numbers among its membership a great number of dictatorships whose parliaments masquerade under that name but which do not operate as parliaments in the real sense of the word. Many of our colleagues attend IPU conferences and return to this country saying: 'It is a marvellous body, because it brings about exchanges of information and gives opportunities for nations to talk to each other'. They instance the various debates that take place within the IPU.

It is clear that the conference to which Senator Elstob referred was similar to the conference I attended two years ago. Once again, on this occasion the conference debated resolutions such as that put forward by Kuwait seeking to equate zionism with racism. A particularly offensive resolution on those lines was carried by overwhelming numbers in 1982 when I attended the conference. At each IPU conference the agenda is similar. The massive majority of dictatorships that dominate the IPU ensure that they always get their way. The result is that in the discussions and debates that take place there are negotiations among the delegations, and the Western powers behave in a highly deplorable way. Those nations try to compromise on impossible resolutions-matters of which they should not have a bar-so that they do not have to vote against them. Some of the Western powers think that by so doing they make friends with some of these countries and improve their own economic prospects.

In a way the operations of the Inter-Parliamentary Union remind one of a mini- United Nations. The debates in the two forums are similar. As Senator Elstob said, such conferences cannot resolve the Middle East conflict but go through the forms and procedures in seeking to arrive at a solution. That sort of thing would not be so bad if the various countries of the world did not think that the IPU conference really promotes the interests of parliaments and parliamentary government. It would be a different matter if the IPU really sought to improve the opportunities of parliamentary government to enable it to spread more widely than to the 30 countries in the world that enjoy genuine democracy. The majority of members who belong to the IPU should have been thrown out years ago because they do not constitute democracies in any sense of the word.

I favour a proposal, which I shall seek to pursue in the next Parliament, that Australia should get together with other democratic powers in order to get out of this worthless organisation. It is a very nice junket for members of parliament and they are pleasant conferences to attend. Large sums of money are spent on providing social occasions and functions, which are often to the great disadvantage of the economies of the host countries. Some countries go to great lengths, as I was aware when I was in Lagos in Nigeria. The pomp and ceremony performed by the Nigerian Government was most noticeable, and it was not long before that Government was overthrown and a dictatorship established there. The enjoyment of delegations at these functions is not a sufficient achievement to justify the wastage of money. The democratic powers in the world should get together and hold genuine democratic conferences at which the problems of parliamentary government are discussed and democratic ideals are able to be spread to other countries.

Unfortunately, I cannot deal with this matter at any great length now. I have already said that I have every intention of debating this matter in the Parliament. However, there has been obstruction to that course, and the Senate is no longer dealing with General Business. Therefore, it is impossible for my report and resolution to be dealt with in this Parliament. I shall move the motion again in the next Parliament and I hope that the Senate will be able to debate the matter. To my mind, we are wasting time, money and energy in sending members of this Parliament away on these trips when they could be doing much better work back here.

Senator Robert Ray —There is no evidence of your doing better work here at the moment.

Senator MISSEN —Senator Robert Ray can speak for himself on that matter, but certainly people should be able to do better work. I am making the point that they will not do much of value by attending these tours round the world on this particular conference. I do not for a moment dispute the sincerity and integrity of Senator Elstob and I know he regards these conferences as desirable. However, I repeat that I regard these activities as an unconscionable waste of public money. It is also a waste of money for the countries who stage these conferences . I feel that we could be doing so much better in other ways in promoting democracy throughout the world. I mention this matter in protest against what continues to be one of the operations of this Parliament.