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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 113

Senator BUCKLAND (5:24 PM) —Being a participant in the visit, I would like to add some comments. I concur with all the things said by Senator Tchen and Senator Hogg. I begin by thanking the parliament for giving me the opportunity to participate in the 50th Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. This conference gave me and my colleagues Senator John Hogg and Senator Tsebin Tchen the ability to meet with many fellow parliamentarians from around the Commonwealth.

I do not want to address this part of our visit in any great detail but I refer senators and members in the other place to the comments at the end of chapter 2 of the report. I will just mention two aspects that have been dealt with today but which I would like to deal with again. These matters have also been considered by previous delegations. They are the need for an agenda and a format that encourages more constructive dialogue between parliamentarians and secretariat staff from the different countries, and a greater emphasis on the work done by the regional and local levels of the CPA. Apart from that I would just like to pay tribute to the organisers and host cities of Quebec and Toronto for their hospitality and the work they did to ensure that the needs of all delegates were catered for.

The substantive part of what I want to speak about is the bilateral visit to the United States following the CPA conference. Clearly, Australia and America being in election mode gave us an easy starting point for many of our meetings, both formal and informal. At Dallas-Fort Worth we visited the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., where we inspected the production facilities and discussed the Joint Strike Fighter. It was pleasing to note that no fewer than nine small to medium Australian companies had won contracts for this project. Lockheed Martin also indicated it had identified a further $US369 million worth of contracts that Australian companies can bid for.

Our discussions with ExxonMobil, the Australian subsidiary of which is one of our largest companies, gave us the opportunity to talk about their Australian operations, including those on the North West Shelf and in Papua New Guinea. We were also given an overview of their operations on a global scale. ExxonMobil sounded a warning that global economic growth will be compromised unless energy supply and demand challenges are met. They also said that energy conservation initiatives will assist demand to match supply. This sounded a bit like a motherhood statement and it shows that people in all quarters are talking about the problem but far too few are doing anything about it.

On Saturday, 11 September the delegation attended the Patriot Day observance memorial wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery. We had the honour of having our delegation leader, Senator John Hogg, lay a wreath at the conclusion of the ceremony. This was a very moving yet very simple ceremony that really gave those attending the opportunity to focus on those souls who lost their lives on that tragic day in 2001, particularly those who died in the attack on the Pentagon. We were privileged to be seated among the survivors and relatives of the victims and we spoke with some of them following the memorial ceremony.

The other part of the visit I want to make reference to is the time we spent in San Francisco, and I will just mention a few of the things that were important to me. We had a working breakfast with the Australian-American Chamber of Commerce. This was an informal affair but it gave us a great opportunity to talk to Australians working in the San Francisco area and the local businesses they are working with. Some of those business people were taking advantage of the opportunities that have opened up for them in Australia from the other side of the Pacific as a result of their association with Australian companies and Australian members of the chamber.

A number of members from both sides of the Pacific spoke highly of Austrade and the services available through that body. That was particularly pleasing to me as I have been a great fan of Austrade for some years now, having had dealings with it prior to entering the Senate, through my membership of the Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group in my home state of South Australia. Austrade is clearly established and highly respected in San Francisco. My experience with it in that city was most rewarding, and this might have had something to do with Austrade's enthusiastic representative in San Francisco Mr Peter Frank. Some at the breakfast seemed pretty keen to talk about the forthcoming elections in both Australia and America, and I have to say I was more interested in the trading opportunities that are clearly there for Australian companies to take advantage of.

We also met a group of Australian business representatives at the offices of Australian law firm Minter Ellison, which is well established in San Francisco. While I have tried to avoid mentioning any companies or individuals by name so as not to offend those I leave out, I particularly want to mention one who is involved in the agricultural industry—Mr Peter Moller of Agri-link International, a South Australian company that manufactures soil moisture sensors. Again, the entire group spoke highly of Austrade's services and the mentoring they provide. I also have to mention our visit to the Napa-Sonoma wine region and the exceptional contribution to the American wine industry that Australian winemakers Southcorp wines and Beringer Blass Wine Estates are making, but let me just say—and hope it does not get back to America—that our wines are still a bit better than theirs.

I want to close by thanking my fellow travellers—Senator John Hogg and Senator Tsebin Tchen—for their company and counsel during both sections of our visit. I especially thank Mr James Catchpole, who was I think our secretarial staffer but more importantly a great friend and travelling companion. Being without the company of my wife, and James being the same, we understood that we were worse off than Senator Tchen and Senator Hogg, but we did our best! I thank too those behind-the-scenes people here at Parliament House, who assisted in making our visit to Canada and the United States both memorable and worth while. Let me close by saying that during our visit I saw the other side of Austrade's work and it really did delight me. I am only sorry that I could not spend more of our visit talking with the representatives of that wonderful organisation. I commend them to the Senate.

Question agreed to.