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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5470

Mr PRICE (9:01 AM) —by leave—I present the report of the Parliamentary Delegation to United Nations and Other International Agencies in Europe, 7 to 18 October 2009, and 121st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva, 19 to 24 October 2009, and seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Mr PRICE —It is with some degree of sadness that I apologise for the lateness of the report but, as you would be aware, Neil Bessell, a Senate officer who has been part of the furniture for many years in terms of IPU delegations, has not been well in recent times. I would like, on behalf of this delegation—and, I suspect, on your behalf, Mr Speaker—to place on the parliamentary record our deep appreciation for the contribution that Neil has made to IPU delegations as the delegation secretary, over many years. His knowledge of the personnel of the IPU has been second to none and he always has a special knack of making every delegate feel special. He is so well organised that all the delegates’ needs were taken into account. He is one of those dedicated officers of the parliament who really excel in their service to the parliament.

Mr Speaker, as you know, you started the tradition of visiting United Nations organisations. On this occasion the delegation proposed a resolution on world global food security. We had, as an officer attached from the department, Mr Eric Van der Wal, and I would like to express the delegation’s appreciation for his outstanding contributions. The briefings that occurred prior to our departure, from DFAT and from the department of agriculture were second to none. We only realised how good they were after the event. That was particularly so in my case, as I had a steep learning curve to navigate in terms of understanding the issues.

I am pleased to say in relation to the IPU that, together with Uganda, we submitted a resolution—an emergency item—that was accepted. I am pleased to say that I was appointed a rapporteur and a member of the drafting committee. At the end of the day I believe that we passed a very worthwhile resolution. I might say it requires, amongst other things, that the parliament submit an annual report on our progress towards combating the global food security issues.

Prior to going to the IPU in Geneva we visited a number of UN organisations. In Italy we visited the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and in particular the Global Crop Diversity Trust, with its seed bank, which was established in February 2008 in Norway. I regret to say that, although Australia has an outstanding record as an early contributor and supporter of it, our country is yet to lodge any of our unique seeds in this food bank. Since our visit, I am pleased to say, in the last budget in New South Wales $15 million has been allocated for a new repository at Mount Annan in Western Sydney for New South Wales’s unique seeds but I think progress in Australia in conserving our unique heritage of native and cultivated seeds has some way to go.

In Vienna the delegation visited specific programs of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. I might say that they were very pleased with the resolution that the IPU had adopted at Australia’s instigation. That was in Austria. At the foreign minister’s invitation, we were the first parliamentary delegation to visit Slovakia. We were hosted there by the deputy speaker of the assembly. We got to meet a number of the committees in Slovakia and we had a really good discussion about the differences in the way our two parliaments operate. In France we visited the OECD and we had a very good lunch with Australians who were working in various eclectic organisations.

I would like to record on behalf of the delegation the assistance that was provided by our ambassadors: Amanda Vanstone in Rome, Tim Fischer at the Vatican, Mr David Ritchie, who is the ambassador to France, Michael Potts, who is the ambassador to Austria, and Mr Christopher Langman, who is Australia’s Permanent Representative to the OECD. I would like to make particular mention of our consul-general in Geneva, who provided valuable assistance as we negotiated the text of the final draft resolution. Last but not least, I pay tribute to Senator Judith Troeth, who was the deputy leader of the delegation, for her outstanding work. Senator Troeth and other committee members fully participated in the various sessions of the IPU. I commend this report to the parliament.

The SPEAKER —I thank the Chief Government Whip and member for Chifley and associate myself with his remarks, especially those about Neil Bessell.