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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1734

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (12:05): I present the report of the Parliamentary Delegation to the 20th annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, Tokyo, 8 to 12 January 2012, and seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Ms SAFFIN: As leader of the delegation to the 20th annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum, I am pleased to present this report. The delegation members comprised the member for Mallee, John Forrest, who was deputy leader; Senator Chris Back; and Senator Catryna Bilyk. The Australian parliament has participated in each annual meeting of the APPF as well as the meetings that prepared for the establishment of the forum. The APPF is most relevant to Australia—the countries that participate are significant to our strategic and economic interests. Delegates have an opportunity to develop their understanding of these issues and, more broadly, of the perspectives of neighbouring parliaments, and to reach agreement on the resolutions of the meeting.

This meeting was significant in three particular ways. First, it was fitting that the anniversary meeting was held in Tokyo, as the APPF began there some 20 years previously. The fact that the meeting took place less than a year after the great east Japan earthquake provided a significant backdrop to the meeting. Second, the attendance at the meeting of the APPF Honorary President and former Prime Minister of Japan, His Excellency Mr Yasuhiro Nakasone, was important. Mr Nakasone was central to the establishment of the forum and has maintained his interest in and involvement with the APPF over its life. At 93 years of age, Mr Nakasone was a central figure at APPF20. His son, former foreign minister Mr Hirofumi Nakasone, was a member of the Japanese delegation at the meeting. Third, the meeting was highly successful: 326 delegates from 20 member countries and one observer country attended.

I now turn to the subject matter of the meeting. There were three broad subject areas: regional cooperation, politics and security, and economic matters. The future work of the APPF was also on the agenda. Before the meeting, the Australian delegation proposed six resolutions, and all six of them got up—yes, there were some negotiations; and yes, there was some give and take, as you would expect at a forum, but essentially they got up in their entirety.

The subjects that we put forward were: promoting cultural, educational and personal exchanges in the Asia-Pacific region; strengthening peace and security in the region; the global economic situation; food security; energy security; and cooperation in disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness. The six resolutions are relevant nationally, regionally and internationally. Each of us spoke in the plenary session on one of these topics and negotiated the related resolution through working groups. I also participated in the working group, Negotiating the New Tokyo Declaration. That took some doing, on all of our parts! The delegation participated in all sessions of the drafting committee, where the draft resolutions from the working groups were finalised before they were returned to the plenary. Mr Forrest and Senator Bilyk represented the delegation on the drafting committee. It was pleasing, given Australia's contribution to the APPF reform process over many years, and I would like to acknowledge former Speaker Jenkins' leadership role in Australia sustaining this role at APFF20. In particular, we contributed a number of amendments to the new APPF rules of procedure. The final joint communique of the forum included 13 resolutions, and six of these were the ones sponsored by our delegation representing the Australian parliament.

I would also like to add that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra assisted us in the preparation for the meeting with comprehensive briefing materials, as usual. The Parliamentary Library assisted us in the same vein, so I thank them both. The International and Community Relations Office provided great logistical support and the delegation appreciates this assistance. In Tokyo the ambassador, His Excellency Mr Bruce Miller, and embassy staff—in particular, the liaison officer for the visit, Mr Peter Roberts—provided excellent advice and support.

I will digress here. The visit provided me with an opportunity, through the ambassador, to meet up with a former colleague of mine, the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste, Dr Sukehiro Hasegawa, who has retired and is living back in Japan. He was someone I had worked with very closely, and he was able to meet the delegation and other people connected with Australia. The delegation now has greater knowledge of Japan and the importance and strength of the bilateral relationship as a result of our visit.

Next year's APPF meeting will be held in Vladivostok from 8 January to 12 January. I am sure it will be a cold meeting! In the report we point out that there are lead times for participation in the APPF annual meetings and suggest that delegation members be identified by October—normally, they are not; this will make it work a lot easier. We also suggest that it would be helpful if members of our delegation attended an initial briefing meeting with the members of the incoming Australian delegation to provide some continuity. In the past, Australian delegations to the APPF annual meetings have been led at Presiding Officer level, which has provided continuity—and I ask you, Mr Speaker, to turn your mind to that.

I thank my colleagues the member for Mallee and Senators Back and Bilyk for their cooperation and highly professional representation of the parliament. We were 'Team Australia' and worked very effectively, and we were noticed. I was quite proud to lead the delegation. I would also like to thank our Serjeant-At-Arms, Robyn McClelland. She not only accompanied us but participated with us and was able to work with us in such a collegial way. With Ms McClelland we had five in the delegation, and she represented Australia admirably—and I thank her. I believe the delegation represented the parliament effectively. I thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank the honourable members for granting leave to present the report.