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Monday, 20 May 1985
Page: 2137


Senator SIBRAA(3.41) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I wish to make some remarks about the Australian Political Exchange Committee's annual report because recently I chaired an informal meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. A number of members of the Committee at the meeting had the opportunity to speak to Mr Sandy Holloway, who was until recently the Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Washington. He spoke to Committee members on the program and how he saw it operating from the United States side of the picture. It is an exchange program between young political leaders in the United States and Australia. I believe that this year the program is being broadened to include Canada and the People's Republic of China. The United States runs a similar program which now includes Japan and a number of countries in Western Europe and, quite interestingly, has recently involved the Soviet Union.

A prominent role in the organisation has been played by a former senator, Sir Robert Cotton, who was until recently the Australian Ambassador in Washington. He was responsible for soliciting support from a number of private companies for the program and has been an enthusiastic supporter of it. I hope that when he returns to Australia he will be able to fill an important role in fund raising from the private sector to keep this program going.

The Australian Committee was established in 1981. It is serviced by a small secretariat from the Department of the Special Minister of State. To date, there have been six exchange programs, three to the United States and three from the United States to Australia. This year, the first group will visit Canada from Australia and a group will also go to the People's Republic of China. The Committee is hopeful that in the future we will also be able to send delegations of young political leaders to the Association of South East Asian Nations region and also to India.

The real strength of the United States program to Australia has resulted from the participants being selected by both the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States. They have been able to pick people at a relatively young age, people whom the Australian Embassy could not possibly select for other programs that we run. I refer now to the special overseas visitors fund program, a traditional program that has picked people from the United States and brought them to Australia. This program is operating much more efficiently because by the time we see young people in the United States who are rising through the political system they are usually too busy to come to Australia or, if they have the time to visit overseas, they have shown a preference towards Western Europe or Japan.

The experience of our Embassy in the United States is that when the young Americans return they have a favourable impression of Australia and an understanding of our political system. For example, the last group was here during the Federal election campaign and went around during the campaign with both Liberal Party and Australian Labor Party candidates.

The program is also important because until recently there was a large group of Americans in senior positions in public life who had served in this region in World War II and therefore had an attachment to Australia and the South Pacific. Those people are now passing from the scene. The present generation, aged 18 to 34, now make up one-third of the total population of the United States. They have no attachment at all to Australia or the region. I well remember being in Washington with a delegation when Cyrus Vance, the then Secretary of State, said that he would be the last Secretary of State who had served in Australia and the South Pacific. Therefore, this program is filling a vacuum.

I attended a dinner last week for former members of Australian delegations to the United States. This year's delegation was also present. I am pleased to say that Senator Black from this side of the chamber will be leading that delegation. This program deserves government support and private support. On behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I have written to the Government to make sure that we get the vital funding-approximately $50,000 from the Government and $50,000 from the private sector.

It is an excellent scheme; it deserves the Government's support. As I said earlier, I hope that when Sir Robert Cotton returns to Australia he will play an important role in fund raising. At the moment the bulk of private fund raising is being carried out by Esso Australia Ltd, CSR Ltd, Caltex Oil (Australia) Pty Ltd, Amatil Ltd, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd, Kraft Foods Ltd, and the Herbert Evatt Memorial Foundation.