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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1424

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (15:55): by leave—I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 38th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, which took place in Manila, Philippines, from 14 September to 20 September 2017. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator GALLACHER: I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The 38th AIPA General Assembly was held last year in Manila, Philippines. As a member of the Australian observer delegation, it was an honour to attend this important forum of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

Last year was a significant year—2017 was the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and it was also the 40th anniversary of the creation of the parliamentary arm of ASEAN: the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly. As was noted during the first plenary session, the common goal of establishing an ASEAN community by 2025 will require stronger coordination between governments and legislatures. In this context, the General Assembly focused on how AIPA and ASEAN can work together to bring about inclusive change to the communities in the region. The assembly also dealt with important regional concerns, including humanitarian situations in parts of the region; combating illegal drugs, terrorism and trafficking; and enhancing cooperation in the use of science and technology for peaceful purposes. As with previous general assemblies, maritime disputes were also raised, and parties were urged to work towards a peaceful resolution in accordance with international law. All countries reinforced AIPA's important contributions to maintaining peace and stability in the region, promoting cultural exchange and understanding, enhancing cooperation on transnational matters and improving prosperity in the region.

One of the key meetings for the delegation was a formal dialogue session with representatives of ASEAN member countries. The dialogue session was an important opportunity to discuss cooperation and engagement between our parliaments. The warm discussions with our regional colleagues centred on strengthening cooperation in the areas of disaster management and combating transnational crimes—in particular, terrorism, violent extremism and trafficking in persons. Our parliamentary colleagues in the region were particularly interested in the work being done by our parliament to establish a modern slavery act in Australia.

One of the most common messages during the dialogue session was the extent to which our regional partners value our friendship and cooperation. The dialogue session gave our delegation the opportunity to renew ties with our parliamentary colleagues overseas and to reinforce Australia's commitment to the South-East Asia region.

In addition to representing Australia at the AIPA General Assembly, the delegation also attended appointments to reaffirm our ties with the Philippines parliament. The delegation was pleased to meet with several of our parliamentary colleagues and appreciated the opportunity to discuss defence cooperation between our two countries; the situation in Marawi; and shared concerns, such as transportation and economic development.

Australia has a meaningful and longstanding relationship with our neighbours. We have had a multilateral relationship with ASEAN since 1974, and our ongoing presence at AIPA general assemblies reinforces Australia's ongoing commitment to engaging with South-East Asia. Our commitment to attending AIPA general assemblies is an important opportunity to demonstrate Australia's support for ASEAN and one that I would support continuing into the future. On behalf of the delegation, I would like to record our thanks to the host of the 38th General Assembly, the parliament of the Philippines, for its excellent hospitality and a very well run general assembly.

Before concluding, I would like to acknowledge the work of the Australian Embassy in Manila in assisting with arrangements for the delegation's meetings at the Philippine parliament, which enhanced the visit's overall success. I would also urge the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to give their full assistance to future parliamentary delegations to the AIPA General Assembly. It is imperative that parliamentarians are properly briefed on the broader foreign relations context and considerations in order to maximise this important opportunity for Australia in the South-East Asian region.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge my colleague on the delegation, Mr George Christensen MP, whose leadership, cooperation and keen interest in the Philippines made a valuable contribution to the visit.

As always we were resourced by excellent work from the parliamentary secretariat. That is always worth noting. It is always of an exceptionally high standard.

I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.