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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 578

Mr MURPHY (10:45 AM) —I am pleased to present and speak to the report of the Parliamentary Delegation to the 31st General Assembly of AIPA, September 2010. I was the leader of the Australian delegation to last year’s General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, which was held in Hanoi, Vietnam. Firstly, I would like to thank Senator Nick Minchin, who was the other member of the delegation, for his contribution to the delegation and for his companionship and that of his wife, Kerry, during the trip. Senator Minchin’s vast experience and knowledge of issues in the region proved to be invaluable during both our formal and our informal discussions and meetings.

The delegation provided an important opportunity to reaffirm the very valuable relationships and cooperation that Australia has with ASEAN. It is a unique experience to go to AIPA with parliamentarians from the ASEAN region and from countries in other parts of the world to hold dialogues, to establish friendships and to learn more about the cultures of individual nations. Further, it was a privilege to represent Australia as an observer country at the general assembly and to engage with our neighbouring parliamentarians on the interests and concerns shared by so many of the countries in our region.

The 31st General Assembly of AIPA follows the entering into force of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement in January 2010, an agreement which is expected to reduce trade barriers and stimulate greater levels of investment between the countries party to that agreement.

ASEAN continues to make good progress towards its goal of establishing an ASEAN economic community by 2015, a goal which Australia will support through the second phase of the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program by providing policy advice, research and implementation assistance. Progress has also been made on the broadening of regional cooperation, and it is encouraging to see the expansion of the East Asia Summit to include the participation of the United States of America and Russia for the first time, as guests.

The dialogue session with Australia was very well attended by parliamentarians from the ASEAN nations and provided an opportunity to hold constructive discussions on a range of topics, including regional and global security, environmental issues and natural disasters, cooperation in education and science and technology, and trafficking in people and drugs.

In addition to the formal meetings and dialogues, the social functions of the assembly were very enjoyable opportunities to further engage with our neighbouring parliamentarians and to gain an insight into each other’s cultures. It is clear that Australia is held in very high regard by the countries in our region, and many parliamentarians from ASEAN nations have a strong connection with Australia, having been educated in Australia or having family living here.

The delegation was very warmly received, and I would like to thank the host nation, Vietnam, for their friendly hospitality and professional organisation of the 31st General Assembly of AIPA. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr Allaster Cox, Second Secretary Michael Hoy and their colleagues for their superb support and hospitality during our stay in Vietnam. They are doing a first-class job in representing our country’s interests in Vietnam.

I would also like to thank very much our secretary to AIPA, Mr Peter Banson, who is well known in the corridors of this place. Mr Banson provided excellent support and advice to the delegation. I, and also on behalf of Senator Minchin, would like to thank you, Peter, for doing an excellent job. You are an outstanding representative of this place.

Finally, I would like to say that the 31st AIPA general assembly presented a valuable forum for fruitful discussions and the strengthening of bonds between the parliamentarians of countries in the region. I commend the report to the House.