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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2173

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (17:23): We live in a rather tumultuous world, both economically and in civil and military affairs. It seems to me that, in this world, isolation is utterly impossible. It is impossible to wall ourselves off from the troubles of the world and their actions and lack of action, and engagement is the only choice we have. In talking about this parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council Europe in Strasbourg and the 57th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I want to begin by thanking my friend the honourable member for Cowan for his company and for his engagement on this parliamentary delegation. I also thank Richard Selth, who is in the chamber today, who ably organised it for us. What became very apparent as we undertook our duties was that this is a particularly interesting time in the world. Many of the things that we did at the Council of Europe concerned particularly important issues, whether it was listening to Mr Thomas Hammarberg, who is Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, talk about the pluralism in media and transparency in media ownership and all the problems that are now occurring in the United Kingdom—I know it is a very big issue—or whether it was listening to Mr Angel Gurria, who is Secretary-General of the OECD, talk about things such as the policies that had to be pursued during the global financial crisis, the need for growth, the desire to bring down deficits and reduce debt-to-GDP ratios while maintaining recovery, having seen the current events in Europe and indeed in Greece.

If there were anything I would like to put to the Federation Chamber it is that isolation is impossible. We simply must engage in these issues because they do affect us here at home. Mr Gurria's address to the council included addressing the terrible issues of unemployment in Europe, particularly youth unemployment, and the shift from lifelong employment to lifelong employability and skills acquisition. There are also many policy issues in there for Australia.

Similarly, with respect to the meeting at NATO, we met with the Romanian Chamber of Deputies. We had some very good meetings with many members of the Romanian parliament. It is fair to say that they encouraged us to establish an embassy and greater relations with Romania. That feeds into some other work I am doing as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. We are currently undertaking an inquiry into that matter, so it is an issue that weighs on my mind. We attended the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Committee meetings and several issues were raised there, not least our involvement in Afghanistan, which were particularly important. I took away a lot from Professor Barakat's presentation on post-conflict development of Afghanistan and how much progress has been made on some issues of governance, poverty reduction, security indicators and the like. That was very interesting for me.

It was a very useful parliamentary delegation. It will add to our understanding of the world and, importantly, will add to our understanding of the environment in which our troops operate in Afghanistan. Again, I would say to the public: we live in a tumultuous world. Isolation is impossible and it is not desirable. We simply must engage. This nation must invest in parliamentary delegations and diplomacy generally if we are to have an influence and effect on the world around us.