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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2397

Senator FERGUSON (10.30 a.m.) —I will speak only briefly to this report as I am aware of the pressure of government business today. I am very pleased to be able to support the remarks made by Senator Foreman in moving the motion to take note of this report. I would also like to place on record my thanks to fellow members of the delegation and to the secretary, Sue Morton—and I am pleased to see that she is here today—for her outstanding work both while this delegation was taking place and prior to the delegation leaving in order to make sure that our arrangements were as smooth as possible. I also thank Mr Fred Peppinck from the President's office who travelled with us. I thank the partners of the members of the delegation who contributed immensely to the overall success of this visit to the United Kingdom and Germany.

  Senator Foreman has given a comprehensive report of the people with whom we were involved in this delegation, and I certainly agree with all the sentiments he expressed. I refer particularly to the efforts of the Bundesrat and Bundestag in Germany for their role in ensuring that our time in that country was so well spent. We might say that rather hectic times were had, but every day was enjoyable and filled with interest and learning for us.

  One of the highlights for me was returning to Berlin after almost 30 years. I first visited Berlin in August 1965 on my way to Warsaw and Moscow. That was a time when the eastern European bloc was probably at its peak both politically and militarily. I think of the three hours it took to get through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin in 1965 and compare it with modern-day Berlin where the vestiges of the wall in the centre of the city are no longer to be seen. We look at the freedom and ease with which people can move from one part of the city to the other. These things provide a stark contrast to the Berlin of 29 years ago. It was a highlight to me to see how far things, including politics, had progressed in that part of Europe—an area that was isolated from us for so long.

  The impact of environmental vandalism by the former East German authoritarian regime, particularly in the southern states, made an impression on me. I think particularly of the visit that we made to an open-cut uranium mine—no longer working—which employed some 20,000 up until the time of reunification. Some 2,500 of those workers are now re-employed in environmentally rehabilitating the damage that occurred over a considerable number of years in the process of supplying uranium to the former Russian federation. To drive past and see wisps of smoke coming from the top of a slag heap is a sign of environmental vandalism that the rest of the world could not put up with. That highlighted for us the changes that have taken place in the last four years.

  Another highlight was to visit the southern states of Saxony and Thuringia and to see the restoration work that is being undertaken in the major cities. Since the end of the Second World War very little work had been done on buildings that had been damaged. Because those buildings had not been completely demolished and replaced with new buildings, there was an opportunity for some of the former beautiful historic buildings to be restored. The effort that has been put into restoration is a credit to the Federal Republic of Germany. When people from other parts of the world visit such beautiful cities as Weimar—the home of Goethe and Schiller—they will appreciate the restoration work that has been accomplished.

  The delegation visited the United Kingdom and we had an opportunity to maintain the valuable traditional links that this country has had with the United Kingdom. We were very generously hosted by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. While there, we were able to renew some old friendships. We were also able to discuss the changes that are taking place in Australia; changes that are not always recognised by some of our old long-standing friends to the extent that we would like them to be understood.

  This comprehensive report was compiled as a result of a lot of work by the secretary to the delegation and from the input of members of the delegation. I commend this comprehensive report to the Senate. Once again, I thank all those members of the delegation for making it, for me, a most memorable visit to the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany.