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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2232


Senator WATSON(5.27) —It is unfortunate that at the close of a parliamentary session, when the Senate is under pressure to complete its business, when there is a threat of guillotine on important items, when arrangements are made to present two significant reports and when further arrangements are made between the two major parties to provide for only one speaker on each report, honourable senators should be suddenly thrust into a major debate on the virtues of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The aspect that was dealt with by Senator Missen is the subject of a motion which I understand is yet to be dealt with. The forms of this Parliament have been abused today by efforts to bring this issue before the Senate. I wish to defend the role of the IPU, which is the oldest association of parliamentarians in the world. Despite what has been said, I claim that it is still the most respected parliamentary association in the world. If Parliamentarians on either side of the House choose to use that forum as a junket rather than to put forward constructive views on a wide range of issues aimed at bringing nations together and at improving relations, criticism must be directed at their heads.

It is up to us all to try in our own way, humble though that may be, to improve the lot of others less fortunate than ourselves. It is also up to those of us who enjoy the privileges of democracy to emphasise those virtues in order to lead the way for others who are seeking a better and more democratic way of life . It is a travesty for honourable senators to suggest that we should develop our own little democratic club and ignore the emerging nations. I am appalled at some of the sentiments that have been expressed on this subject. I believe that in our own way we must assist multilateral organisations such as the United Nations and the IPU. Many member nations of those organisations, particularly in parts of Asia and Africa, are struggling to find their democratic freedom.

The IPU is not perfect; we acknowledge that. In the struggle for human rights it has played a very significant role in the release of political prisoners. Those who have the courage to read the details of the report will find out about some significant work. It is unfortunate that a leading Australian newspaper chose to berate the IPU because of a motion that was put forward. All members have the right to put motions forward; Australia has put forward some pretty constructive motions over the years. That newspaper chose to highlight a particular Kuwaiti motion. To the credit of the IPU, it looked at that motion, debated it and decided in a total vote representing a consensus of views that on this occasion another issue-the problems of Central America-had a greater priority. This was a historic decision and it reflected great credit on the IPU on very sensitive matters of world opinion.

I believe that the IPU is a great forum where people can come together. I shall give two examples. We witnessed the North and the South Koreans talking amicably at a table outside the general forum. Where else in the world could such a discussion take place? How can we know what could result from that, considering all the difficulties that would have ensued had formal diplomatic discussions taken place? Here in this forum they were able to meet-nobody was concerned about it-and discuss some of their problems. Where else could we find the British and the Argentinians sitting down to a meal and discussing some of their problems? One of the tragedies of this world is that we leave too much to the professionals. We are always concerned that our parliamentarians are not as effective as they could be, both in this place and in world affairs. The IPU gives the opportunity to show what can be done. Admittedly it must be humble, but let us never go back to our cosy little club of isolation, setting up our own little institution of selected democracies. Let us convert the world and bring it to our form of democracy.

Question resolved in the affirmative.