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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 654

Senator TEAGUE (12.45 p.m.) —Madam Acting Deputy President, I am glad you are in the chair because, as members of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, you, I and all the other members experienced a very happy event this morning which I want to remark upon as a significant item in the Senate's business this day. It was the giving by Australia of a copy of the entire law of the Commonwealth to the National People's Congress of China. Let me explain how this arose and give a few comments about the ceremony which took place in Parliament House today.

  On 12 April the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade made arrangements personally to be together in China, where we were the guests of the National People's Congress. This visit was part of the committee's study of Australia's relationship with China, and in some months time we are to report to this Senate on a wide range of issues in the relationship between our two countries. We want to see how we can constructively develop and improve the growing relations between Australia and China and to see what further opportunities Australia has to add to this relationship. For example, China is the biggest buyer of Australian wool. Increasingly, as prosperity grows in China, China will be looking to cooperate with Australia in joint ventures for the development of a wide range of high technology products as well as cooperating in mining and a large number of infrastructure matters within China. Australians need to be alive to all of the opportunities in which we can cooperate together in economic and other ways in this expanding relationship.

  On the visit that we made to China in April we were very pleased to meet with the deputy chairman of the National People's Congress, Mr Tian Jiyun. Mr Tian Jiyun is a former vice-premier—we would say a Deputy Prime Minister—of China. As a senior government minister he has made an important contribution to his country in economic management, in agriculture and in the widest range of policy; but his current role is as a member of the standing committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and as the deputy chairman of China's parliament, the National People's Congress. His current role is to do with legislation. It is to do with the establishment of a rule of law.

  After he had met with us we looked forward to the time when he was going to be visiting Australia; and on 5 May the committee met with Mr Tian when he visited here in this Parliament House. We had an excellent hour of discussion in which he spoke of the importance to China of establishing the rule of law in China. For centuries in China there was a rule of man; that is, in past centuries the emperor and his delegates, magistrates in various provinces, would determine cases on the weight of the evidence that was brought before them. They would determine what was the appropriate judgment, ruling or guideline in the various parts of China. It has been the tradition in other countries, and throughout our entire history in Australia, not to have a seemingly arbitrary outcome to judgments by governors and magistrates, whether at a national or provincial level, but rather to establish a rule of law which has been carefully considered and determined in a democratic process through an elected parliament, and to have the same law in currency in every part of the country.

  When he was with us Mr Tian said that in the modernisation of China, in the development of China that is currently under way, we must see the establishment more and more of the rule of law, and the people of China will demand an involvement in the determination of those laws. There will be a democratic process for the establishment of the rule of law. In the context of his discussion with us in May, Mr Tian then asked whether it would be possible to have a copy of Australia's Commonwealth law, so that they might have it as a reference and so that they could borrow good ideas from the experience of Australia. We enthusiastically responded to that by saying that we would do all that we could to arrange for him to receive a copy of a set of Australian laws.

  We put the request to the Attorney-General's Department in Canberra. The department understood our request and agreed to it wholeheartedly. Accordingly, this morning the Secretary to the Attorney-General's Department, Mr Stephen Skehill, with the six senators on the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, met with the Chinese Ambassador, His Excellency Mr Hua Junduo, and handed over to him four boxes that comprise all of the Commonwealth's law.

  There were some excellent speeches of an informal kind given by the chairman of the committee, Senator Jones, by myself as deputy chairman and by Mr Skehill on behalf of the Attorney-General's Department, and the Chinese Ambassador warmly responded. A photograph was taken of the occasion in which the ambassador, committee members and others were standing around a trolley containing four large boxes packed full of the law of Australia.

  I wish the National People's Congress well as it uses this and I look forward to Mr Tian Jiyun making note of the reception after the ambassador communicates that package to him. The ambassador said that he would airfreight it, at China's expense, to Beijing this coming weekend.

  Today also marks the retirement of Mrs Ilze Svenne from the service of the committee as secretary. I take this opportunity to commend her for all the excellent work she has done for the committee. I am glad to see that she is sitting in the gallery. I wish to note the four major reports for which she headed the secretariat of research officers and other assistants. The first of these, Australia and Latin America, has been accepted in this parliament as one of the best reports of the parliament. She was superb in assisting the committee in the development of this report, and also with regard to Implications of United States Policies for Australia, another report that was tabled in 1992, Japan's Defence and Security in the 1990s, a report tabled in the middle of 1993, and then our most recent report tabled last week, Sexual Harassment in the Australian Defence Force. I bring to the attention of senators the detail that is involved on every page of this report. I regard it as a very sound and unanimous report.

  The committee was hugely assisted by the skill, experience and dedication that Mrs Ilze Svenne brought to this report when head of the secretariat. I wish her well as she returns to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I know that she will continue to make a very positive contribution to that department in whichever area she is assigned to serve, and to Australia as a whole.