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Thursday, 19 June 2003
Page: 17080

Mrs MOYLAN (4:45 PM) —I had the great privilege of leading a number of colleagues from this House and from the Senate on a visit to China—the members of the Australia-China Parliamentary Friendship Group. The visit was hosted by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs and accompanied by the Ambassador and vice-chair of that Institute, Ambassador Qiu, who I have to say gave us a wonderful insight into the style of government, the culture and the social organisation of China. He certainly had a wealth of information that he was prepared to share with us. The delegation was made up of seven people, five of whom had never travelled to China before. I would like to thank them for the terrific contribution they made to the success of the delegation, and the deputy chair, the member for Kingsford Smith, for the support he gave to me as leader of the delegation.

The purpose of the parliamentary friendship groups is to foster understanding of the operation of government and to develop friendship and cooperation between countries. The relationship between Australia and China has developed to a high level of maturity. It has been over 30 years since diplomatic relations commenced, and the relationship has been characterised by deepening friendship, mutual understanding and respect and increased trading and tourism opportunities. Australia and China do have strong economic complementarities, and the parliamentary friendship group visit served to strengthen those ties and it can play a very important role in reinforcing the work of ministers and government departments. The strong trade complementarity is demonstrated by some of our recent commercial successes including the export from Australia of an aviation traffic control system, design rights to the Nanjing stadium, improved wool sales and of course significant gas and steel contracts that we have seen recently. These visits can be very useful in fostering good relationships and better understanding.

I would like to particularly thank the Chinese Ambassador here in Australia, Mr Wu Tao, and his staff for facilitating the visit and for making the way smooth to ensure its success. I would also like to thank Dr Alan Thomas, the Australian Ambassador to China, and his staff, who did everything to ensure the visit went smoothly. Given that we arrived there around the time of the major problems over the outbreak of the SARS virus, we needed a little bit of help here and there. We received that from our missions, and we were most grateful for that assistance. Being there during the SARS virus, and travelling very extensively through China from Beijing into the western part of China, members of the delegation realised the enormity of the task facing the Chinese government. I know they came in for a great deal of public criticism, but when you stop to think that this is a country, that has to be governed, with a population of 1.27 billion people spread over a geographical area quite a bit bigger than that of Australia, it is an enormous task. I think we got an insight into that.

We were very privileged to be able to travel to a place called Jiuzhaigou in western China. It is an 11-hour journey to Jiuzhaigou from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. It is an area located amongst tall mountains in north-western Sichuan province. Covering an area of 720 square kilometres, it is an area where the Sichuan basin joins the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and is characterised by crystal lakes, roaring waterfalls, snow covered mountains and an abundance of flora and fauna. The Chinese government have gone to no end of trouble to put infrastructure and development in there to protect the environment. Despite the remoteness of many of the villages along the way to Jiuzhaigou, we were struck by the amazingly good infrastructure and services such as excellent roads, power generation projects, satellite dishes for television reception, telecommunications with mobile cover almost the whole of the 400 kilometres through the mountainous route from Chengdu. It was an amazing visit. We were very grateful to have the opportunity. We appreciated the hospitality of the Chinese people wherever we went. Once again, we thank the People's Institute of Foreign Affairs for hosting the visit and for the assistance we had to make sure the visit was successful.