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Thursday, 10 March 1966

Mr MACKINNON (Corangamite) . - I should like to join with my leader, on this occasion the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), and other delegates at the conference from Australia in expressing a few thoughts about the actual conduct of the conference and some of the subject matter discussed. But I should like to preface my remarks by expressing my personal thanks - and I believe also those of the other delegates - to our leader on this occasion, the Minister for Primary Industry. I felt that we were an extremely happy party. I believe we did Australia credit, and while he could not say it himself, I feel we were extremely well led by the Minister for Primary Industry.

I think it would be quite out of place to omit some expression of deep gratitude to the host branch., the New Zealand Branch, of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which was so ably assisted by the New Zealand Government in making arrangements for the care and welfare of the delegates, not only at the conference itself but also in the period prior to the conference when most extensive and interesting tours were arranged for the various del gations. I think the Minister for Primary Industry was a little conservative in his estimate of the numbers present. Actually I think there were about 150 altogether, with the various observers but, as the Minister said, this number had to be divided into seven different touring parties and tours were arranged which included quite extensive visits throughout both North and South Islands. We had an opportunity not only of partaking of the extraordinarily generous hospitality of the people of New Zealand but also of seeing many of their primary and secondary industries. Above all, we had the opportunity of enjoying the extraordinary attraction of the scenery of New Zealand. As I wrote in a recent letter to the Right Honorable Keith Holyoake, Prime Minister of New Zealand, if scenery was dollars and sterling credit, New Zealand would have no balance of payments problems. This is indeed a fact. New Zealand is one of the most lovely countries in the world. The delegates, especially those of us who were interested in primary industries, had the opportunity of seeing some of the most efficient farming taking place, particularly from the grazing angle, in the world.

I think it is worth recording that there has been some criticism of the idea that was adopted on this occasion of having preliminary tours before the actual conference was held. It was felt that perhaps a little too much time was devoted to the tours, thus taking time out of the lives of a number of busy men from all over the world. I would like to express my view. These tours not only had immense value in bringing to our own knowledge the problems of the host country but they also gave us a unique opportunity of meeting on a social level many delegates whom we would never have had the same opportunity of meeting but for the tours. We had the opportunity of meeting them in circumstances in which we could discuss informally the points of policy, the points of national differences and the points that might arise in the subsequent discussions that took place at the conference.

I think it is well to remember, too, that these discussions were on a completely informal basis and, because of this, one could rely on getting a reasonable expres sion of view from a number of delegates who, perhaps, in the open forum of conference, might have been talking to their Press, wherever it came from or wherever they came from. I feel that this opportunity of getting around and meeting these people prior to the conference itself had very great value in some ways - in enabling us to get to know each other better than in the actual period during which what was being said was being taken down and being published throughout the world.

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will realise the importance of this matter because it has been raised recently in connection with the Prime Ministers" Conference which normally takes place in London. Instead of preserving an atmosphere of privacy of discussion in camera, a number of the speeches made at the Prime Ministers' Conference were blazoned throughout countries of the Commonwealth of Nations before the speeches had been made. If we are to have a logical approach to the solution of differences it is essential that we should have confidence that our conversations and our expressions of thought are not being publicised outside the actual meeting place. I firmly believe that the touring which took place before the formal conference had tremendous value. It gave us a chance to interchange ideas and afforded a unique opportunity of getting to know each other and each other's problems on an unofficial level. This was extremely valuable.

The Minister mentioned the difficulties facing us when the conference started. It is reasonable to say that no previous conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association assembled in a more difficult atmosphere or in more difficult circumstances. The situation was pregnant with possibilities of divergent racial and economic factors creating conditions that could lead to a clash between the various delegates, lt is true that due to the common sense of those conducting the conference, particularly the chairman, the Hon. Blair Tennant who has been a great leader in New Zealand for the Association, this conference proved a great success under extremely difficult conditions. I am sure the delegates who attended the coa*ference would agree with this.

The question of Rhodesia was considered. A number of the African countries in particular, supported by the delegates from other countries including India and Pakistan, recommended that the United Kingdom should use force against the Smith administration. We came down firmly in the belief that one does not create a war where no war exists, and we opposed the recommendation. We also had before us the burning question of India and Pakistan with Kashmir as the subject for discussion. One hour was allowed for debate between the delegates of those two countries with no other country joining in. On the face of it this was one difficult situation that could have affected the general atmosphere of the conference. Over and above ail else was the question of Vietnam. On the final day present with the observers at the conference was Senator Fullbright who, as some honorable members may know, has expressed strong views on the policy adopted by the United States in relation to Vietnam. I mention these matters to give other members of the Parliament some idea of the atmosphere in which the conference was held.

I should like to conclude by referring to the tremendous assistance given to us by our parliamentary staff. This is not the first occasion on which I have had the opportunity of being blessed by the extraordinary efficiency of the people who serve this Parliament, particularly when we are on tour. I express my own thanks to Mr. Parkes for the tremendous assistance he gave us. The conference was worth while. Conferences of this type bring out different points of view and if we can get sufficient points on which to agree we achieve some soft of mutual understanding. While obviously the atmosphere of this conference was fraught with possibilities of differences, the net result was in fact very rewarding for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We should feel proud of what was achieved under the extraordinary difficulties facing us at the time.

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