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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2039

Senator ZAKHAROV —by leave—I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 39th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, held in Cyprus, and to Malta and Germany during September 1993. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report and to incoporate may tabling statement in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

Senator ZAKHAROV —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

  The statement read as follows

The Commonwealth parliamentary conference was attended by 247 delegates from 97 Commonwealth jurisdictions. Its theme was:

the role of the Commonwealth in world economic development and its impact on the environment

the strengthening of parliamentary democracy

world security and the safeguarding of human rights.

Commonwealth of Australia branch delegates contributed to all plenary and panel sessions. A highlight of the conference was the address by His Excellency Chief Emeka Anyaoku, on the theme `the Commonwealth and inalienable rights'. The full text of his address is an appendix to the report I have just presented.

The CPA's formal decision making body, the general assembly, was especially significant in that it adopted a new constitution. The former constitution had been in effect since 1977 and had been much amended, leading to problems of interpretation and questions as to its consistency. The Commonwealth of Australia branch, and particularly former President Kerry Sibraa, had put considerable effort into the development of the draft. Our delegation was successful in persuading the general assembly to agree to certain amendments to the proposed constitution. The adoption of the constitution, as amended, was received with utmost satisfaction by all concerned.

The assembly also elected the next chairman of the CPA executive committee. Mr Colin Shepherd, a member of the UK House of Commons, was successful and congratulations are extended to him.

The delegation's visit to Malta was the first official visit by a delegation from the Australian parliament. Australia's relations with Malta at the parliamentary, governmental and citizen levels remain excellent, enhanced somewhat by the large numbers in Australia of Maltese-born citizens and those claiming Maltese ancestry. Discussions were held with the Maltese president, the prime minister, the foreign minister, the leader of the opposition, central political party representatives and leading figures in industry and commerce. The end result from the delegation's view was a most successful renewal of ties with the Maltese House of Representatives and review of our bilateral relationship, and an exchange of views on a wide range of political, economic and social issues, both domestic and international.

The visit to Germany was the first by a parliamentary delegation since the 1989 unification. The timing was interesting in that the commencement of the visit coincided with the Hamburg state elections in what was described by one participant in the delegation's program as a marathon period of elections. In Hamburg the social democratic party lost its absolute majority but retained power with the support of the greens. The Christian democratic union vote fell to 25 per cent and a right wing extremist candidate failed to be elected only by 0.2 per cent. Some observers saw the result as a protest vote against the major parties and a major shift in politics resulting from changes in eastern Europe, and as an indication of Germany in microcosm.

The contact the delegation enjoyed with a wide cross-section of political, legislative, and executive leaders, with leading industry and commerce figures, and in legislator to legislator discussions, gave the delegation a sound awareness of the challenges and practical considerations flowing from the 1989 unification, particularly the enormous resources required to bring the former GDR states to parity.

The visit provided members of the delegation with the opportunity to advance strongly the australian position on the need for a speedy conclusion to the Uruguay Round and to assert our support for the Blair House agreement as a minimum position. The opportunity was also taken to urge greater access to Australian exports, particularly coal and agricultural products.

The delegation had the opportunity to sample some of Germany's cultural delights, including a German performance of The Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg, a modernistic performance in the Semper Opera House, Dresden, entitled Hommage a Rachmaninoff, and a tour of the `Old Masters Gallery' in Dresden, encompassing works by Rembrandt, Rubens, van Dyck and others.

Thanks are extended to our hosts and to the Australian representatives in Cyprus, Malta and Germany. Australia is well served by the calibre of our representatives. The hard working staff of the parliamentary relations office as ever did everything within their power to ensure the visits success. Thanks are also extended to the delegation members. It was an extremely hard-working delegation, punctual and ever-committed to presenting a unified representation of Australia's position on specific issues. Particular thanks are due to Kerry Sibraa and Brian Archer, who have since left the Senate, for their leadership and individual contributions.

I know the delegation members would wish me to thank, on their behalf, the officers who accompanied the delegation, Mr Ian Harris and Mr Fred Peppinck. Their contribution ensured the cohesion and successful discussions which marked the delegation's visits.

I commend the report to the Senate.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.