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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12789

Mr HAWKER (12:46 PM) —I would like to join with you, Mr Speaker, and the member for Denison to say a few words about this report. I will start by echoing some of the words that you and the member for Denison have already expressed, that is, that it was a very successful visit: it was a very good and cooperative delegation, and a very well led delegation. It should be noted that your efforts, Mr Speaker, bore fruit as far as making sure it was a very successful and cooperative visit.

Many of the issues have already been canvassed, but I would like to revisit a couple of them. We were very fortunate with the level of contact we had in all three countries. We were certainly given the opportunity to meet with people at the highest level, including the President of the Hellenic Republic in Greece, the President of the Greek Chamber of Deputies and Mr Papandreou, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Likewise, in Turkey we had the opportunity to meet with the Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the Prime Minister and also the President. This occurred again when we went to Cyprus and we were given access to the President of the House of Representatives and the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr Clerides. That shows the feeling towards Australia and the recognition that we received there.

It is also worth echoing the words that have already been uttered about the fact that the delegation did have an opportunity to see first-hand the relationships between the three countries and also the growing cooperation that has occurred, particularly following the absolute tragedy of the earthquakes in Turkey just after our visit. It seems that sometimes out of adversity comes new opportunities and I dare say this was one that we were rather pleased to see develop.

The role that Australia is playing in the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus is to be commended. The commitment and quality of the people we send over there is always a credit to Australia. They always make sure that they acquit themselves in a very fine way and in their own way they are ambassadors for Australia and certainly make a contribution. The intractability of the Cyprus problem has already been mentioned and it is of continuing concern. As the report concludes, we do not see any easy solution there.

One would hope that, with Greece hosting the Olympic Games in the year 2004, Australia will be in a very good position to help in many ways from our own experiences with the Sydney Olympics next year both in a supporting role and in a tangible way. We should be able to use that opportunity for the mutual benefit of both countries.

I would also like to congratulate the diplomatic staff on the excellent support we received from Ambassador Ross Burns in Greece and Ian Forsyth in Turkey, and High Commissioner Howard Brown in Cyprus. All of them gave tremendous support and were very professional in their approach.

The final point I would like to make is that the importance of parliamentary delegations cannot be overestimated. This delegation demonstrated yet again that it is of significant benefit to the nation to have these visiting delegations. There is no doubt that it not only helps promote Australia in a diplomatic way but also helps promote some of the trade opportunities that can come from greater cooperation between countries. Members of the delegation took that responsibility very seriously.

I conclude by again endorsing your words, Mr Speaker, for the support the delegation received and also particularly mentioning John Kain, the secretary to the delegation, who did an outstanding job. He was highly professional in his approach and very dedicated. The way he supported the delegation in such a professional manner was a credit to him, and he assisted in so many ways to ensure the success of the delegation.