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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 10123

Senator STEPHENS (New South Wales) (17:23): I present the 125th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly report of the Australian parliamentary delegation in Bern, Switzerland, and bilateral visits to Germany and Austria, which took place from 16 October to 25 October 2011. I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the document.

Leave granted.

Senator STEPHENS: I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I am pleased to present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation which participated in the 125th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Bern, Switzerland, and also undertook bilateral visits to Germany and Austria in October 2011. As the report attests, this was another successful and hardworking parliamentary delegation.

At the IPU Assembly, the delegation was an active participant in the proceedings. This report outlines the various presentations and meetings that featured in the delegation's program. Australia's delegations to assemblies of the IPU have established a reputation for making a significant contribution to the Inter-Parliamentary Union through their hard work, often behind the scenes, to facilitate dialogues and broker agreements across a wide range of global issues. The high regard in which Australia is held within the IPU is reflected in the election of Australian representatives to key positions on drafting committees at the assembly in Bern. I was appointed chair of the drafting committee for the emergency resolution on the plight of people of famine-stricken Somalia and relief efforts by IPU member parliaments. Mr Dick Adams was appointed chair of the drafting committee of the Standing Committee on Sustainable Development, Finance and Trade. Both resolutions were adopted unanimously by the assembly. Mr Dick Adams, Mr Patrick Secker, Senator Sue Boyce and I were active representatives of the delegation in the work of the standing committees.

The assembly continued its examination of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament through a series of panel discussions. Australia's leadership in this area was reflected in the former Speaker, Mr Harry Jenkins MP, who was appointment as chair of a panel session of the Committee on United Nations Affairs on Nuclear Weapons: The Road to Zero. These discussions drew together a number of prominent experts, including Mr Gareth Evans, Co-Chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and former Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The delegation was honoured to meet with United Nations Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon. The Secretary-General commended Australia for its support of preventative diplomacy efforts in the Pacific and for the important leadership role Australia continues to play in the region. He also expressed his gratitude to Australia for logistical support during his historic visit to attend the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland.

The delegation's visits to Austria and Germany provided excellent opportunities to explore issues around sustainable energy production, nuclear nonproliferation, education and the eurozone crisis. I found the series of meetings on Germany's dynamic approach to renewable energy policy particularly interesting. Many of the issues we discussed around market and system acceptance, land use and the debate around food versus fuel are very familiar to Australian parliamentarians. It was also of benefit to be able to explore the successes and lessons learned from alternate models for encouraging and supporting diversity and innovation across all sectors of the renewable energy industry.

It was also hugely beneficial for the delegation to be able to receive comprehensive briefings from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and to discover how highly valued Australia's contribution to the work of these important organisations is. The delegation came away with a clear impression of the importance of continuing to support and strengthen the capacity of such agencies to undertake their roles.

Parliamentary delegations are an important part of building interparliamentary relationships. The delegation was grateful for the opportunity to meet with parliamentary counterparts in the German and Austrian parliaments and to continue the already well-established parliamentary dialogue between our parliaments. The discussions we had were frank and good humoured and provided honest insights into a number of significant issues of common interest.

At the Austrian Parliament, Ms Barbara Prammer, President of the Austrian National Council, generously made time available on the eve of celebrations to mark Austria's National Day. In Germany, Mr Jurgen Herrmann and his colleagues on the Germany-Australia-New Zealand Parliamentary Friendship group were equally generous with their time. The delegation was therefore very saddened to learn of the sudden death of Mr Herrmann in August this year. He was a good friend to Australia with a firm commitment to fostering interparliamentary relations.

I would like to commend the many people who contributed to the success of the delegation's visits. It is important to acknowledge that goes on in facilitating the visits of delegations. I would like to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their high level of assistance to the delegation. They provided both advance briefing material and on-the-ground support at the IPU Assembly in Bern and throughout Germany and Austria. Australia's ambassadors to Germany and Austria, Mr Peter Tesch and Mr Michael Potts, and their staff put together outstanding programs and provided practical support to the delegation. I make special mention of Mr Phillip Anderson, the delegation's foreign affairs adviser at the IPU Assembly in Bern, for his advice and professional support throughout the assembly.

I would also like to thank staff of the Parliamentary Library, the parliament's International and Community Relations Office and the Department of the Senate, who provided briefings, advice and assistance with the arrangements for the delegation.

In closing, may I congratulate my fellow delegates for their hard work and good humour throughout this highly successful series of visits. I particularly thank Ms Jeanette Radcliffe, the delegation secretary, for her support. I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.