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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3027

Senator COATES —by leave-I present the report of the Commonwealth of Australia Branch delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in London in September and October 1986. I seek leave to make a brief statement.

Leave granted.

Senator COATES —It was an honour to lead the delegation, the other members of which were Senators Cooney and Lewis and members of the House of Representatives Ian Cameron, Peter Cleeland and David Hawker. Kieran Schneemann was the Secretary to the delegation and I thank him for all his hard work and help to make our arrangements smooth. He was always cheerful, even when having to deal with some of the reasonable and less than reasonable demands of members of the delegation.

We were certainly well looked after by the host United Kingdom branch. I think we were too well looked after. I have to admit to being uncomfortable at our being accommodated at such extremely stylish and expensive hotels. I regret that such extravagance is judged as being necessary when members of parliament attend such conferences. However, the delegation was grateful to the United Kingdom branch for its kindness and hospitality and for providing the opportunities for one such as me, who had never visited the United Kingdom before, to experience some of what London, as one of the great cities of the world, has to offer.

I had not been to a CPA conference before and I found the experience stimulating. It was wonderful to meet such impressive speakers as Speaker Mutasa from Zimbabwe, Charles Kileo, a Minister from Tanzania, and Hugh Francis, a Minister from Trinidad and Tobago. They and others, including myself on behalf of Australia, were unmerciful in attacking the United Kingdom Government for its attitude to apartheid and sanctions against South Africa. Apartheid was, naturally, the central issue of concern at the conference. There was a session specifically on the issue, but it was also interwoven into most of the other debates, such as the topic `The Commonwealth-Who Cares?'. Australia's position was clearly put by me and several others of our speakers, including some representing State parliaments. A contrary view on apartheid was expressed, perhaps predictably, by the National Party of Australia member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron), who in some ways somewhat embarrassed some of us, and that resulted in quite a reaction from the rest of the delegates. Other debates and panel sessions are listed in the report. The Australian delegates maintained a high profile in all of these sessions.

I am not a great defender of the Commonwealth as an institution, but I acknowledge that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference was an important forum, especially for representatives of the smaller and relatively newly independent Commonwealth countries, such as those in Africa and the Pacific. I appreciate the opportunity to have participated.