Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1926

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) -by leave-I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the 58th conference of the InterParliamentary Union held at The Hague between 1st and 9th October 1970. I move:

That the House take note of the paper.

Mr Speaker,as the deputy leader of the Australian delegation at the InterParliamentary Union conference at The Hague and also as one of the Council representatives at the meeting which took place in Monaco in the Australian autumn of last year, I should like to thank those people who assisted the delegation. I refer first to Mr Bowen of the Department of Foreign Affairs, who was the adviser to the delegation on policy matters. I wish also to mention Mr Alan Cumming Thom, who was secretary of the delegation to The Hague, Mr Colin McDonald, Charge d' Affaires at the Australian Embassy at The Hague, and his staff also provided a very large amount of assistance to the Australian delegation.

Having said that, I would like to point out to the House - 1 do not intend to go into the actual details of the report - the fact that Australian delegations are generally placed at a severe disadvantage because they do not have any continuing representation at these conferences. Most delegations from other countries have some continuing representation which enables the members of those delegations to be more fully acquainted with the personnel involved at and the operations of InterParliamentary Union conferences. I think it would be of value to the Australian delegation if it had some degree of continuity of representation at these conferences. 1 think the greatest value of these conferences is that they enable members of parliament to converse with each other on matters which affect parliament and parliamentarians. Some of the more interesting debates which took place at The Hague - from my point of view anyhow - were on the various concepts of democratic government and parliamentary democracy represented at that conference. About 56 member groups comprising some 478 delegates were present at The Hague. The number of member groups present was reduced by, I think, about five because of the death of President Nasser almost immediately before the start of the conference. The various Arab nation delegations which were in mourning for the President of the United Arab Republic withdrew from the conference.

One thing which struck me - it took place at the spring meeting and not at the conference - was the manner in which the delegations from quite different ideologies were able to get together and bring forward draft resolutions which were acceptable to the whole of the conference. Whilst some Western nations may regard the decisions taken at these conferences as not being decisions of great importance they are nevertheless decisions which have been made by parliamentarians representing their parliaments and, especially with the Eastern bloc nations, the decisions are taken quite seriously.. It would appear from the level of assistance provided by the United States of America and some other Western countries that those countries also consider the decisions taken at these conferences to be of some importance. Very heated debates took place on the situation in the Middle East and on other matters, but it was always possible to come forward with recommendations which were adopted almost unanimously. I think that this spirit of co-operation could be widened if more consultation took place between not the people who administer the forms of government but those who are directly responsible for the decision making in the various parliaments. 1 mean by that the members of the various parliaments.

I do not intend to delay the House much longer, but I would like to make one other suggestion. I understand that the practice of providing officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs to delegations on a continuing basis has been discontinued. I would like to suggest that some consideration be given to involving the research staff of the Parliamentary Library in these conferences in an advisory capacity. The delegations that represent Australia are drawn from the Australian Parliament and not from the Australian Government. I think it would be of advantage to not only the research staff of the Parliamentary Library but also the Australian delegations themselves if advisers who were independent of Government policy but who were equally well informed were able to accompany the delegations to these conferences. It would also be of value to those people who are doing research work and providing material for members of this Parliament if they were able to make contact with the various people who attend these conferences. [ think it would be one way of broadening the outlook of the Parliament. It would increase the degree of independence of Australian delegations.

Finally, 1 would also like to mention those people who prepared the various briefs which were presented to the delegates at this conference. The amount .of information which was provided to us was of extreme value. I would request members of the Parliament to have a look through the record of the various debates which were held. Some very interesting points of view were expressed. I think it would be of interest to honourable members to examine the different points of view which were expressed, especially those view* on the structures and operations of Parliament which were expressed by people from countries which practise forms of parliamentary democracy different from ours and which have different ideological understandings of democracy. It was very educational to me to learn that we are not the only people who believe we have the best system of government.

Motion (by Mr Giles) proposed:

That the debate be now adjourned.

Mr Bryant - I want to say one or two things. This matter will never come on again for debate. It states on today's blue business sheet that a debate on this subject may proceed. I want two or three moments to say something.

Suggest corrections