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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14413

The SPEAKER (12:01): Members, I take this opportunity to note that, on 11 March, Australia joined 52 other countries around the world in celebrating Commonwealth Day. Since 1977, Commonwealth Day has been celebrated annually on the second Monday in March. Commonwealth Day highlights the far-reaching and deep-rooted networks of friendships and goodwill that exist between Commonwealth nations. This year's Commonwealth Day theme, 'A Connected Commonwealth', recognises the old ties and the new links enabling international cooperation between Commonwealth countries.

This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Commonwealth. In 1949 the association we now know, the Commonwealth of Nations, came into being with its membership based on free and equal voluntary cooperation. The Commonwealth is now one of the world's oldest political associations of states and, as members would be aware, Australia shares important historical connections with many of its members.

Today the Commonwealth is home to 2.4 billion people, spanning Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific. This vast network of countries performs an important role in promoting international cooperation. The Commonwealth's 53 members are united by shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These shared principles are embodied in the Charter of the Commonwealth, which commits member states to the development of free and democratic societies and the promotion of peace and prosperity to improve the lives of all peoples of the Commonwealth. It could be said that now more than ever promoting these values is relevant to achieving international peace and prosperity.

It's a particular pleasure to mark Commonwealth Day this year as the parliament has recently rejoined the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The CPA traces its origins to the Empire Parliamentary Association, which was formed in 1911, with our parliament one of the founding members. The CPA emerged from the Empire Parliamentary Association in October 1948, as parliamentarians preceded their governments by several months in recognising that the future lay in working together as equals, cooperating to build the postwar world. Today the CPA has branches in over 180 jurisdictions, and it continues to be the natural centre for members and officials of parliaments to learn their profession from each other and to contribute to the improvement of governance throughout the Commonwealth.

As is customary, Her Majesty the Queen, as head of the Commonwealth and patron of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, issued a message for Commonwealth Day 2019, and I'm pleased to present her message to the House.