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Thursday, 10 March 1966

Mr DAVIS (Deakin) .- As one who did not attend the conference may I briefly intervene in the debate to congratulate the leader of the delegation and the secretary of the delegation on the form of the report represented to this Parliament. I commend a study of the report to all honorable members because it contains information of extreme value to any member of parliament within the Commonwealth. Today there are ample avenues for conference by governments. That fact is self evident. There are the United Nations, the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference and a dozen other world conferences. But within the Commonwealth this Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference is a meeting of members of parliaments, not members of governments. From that fact two points emerge. As members of parliaments of the Commonwealth we have a great deal more in common in many respects than do representatives of governments, because as members of parliaments we are jointly concerned, no matter from what part of the world we come and no matter what is the colour of our skin, with maintaining the common traditions that we all have inherited of some form of parliamentary democracy and of procedures and practices designed to adjust the parliament to the needs of today.

So we go to such a conference with, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) said, a number of matters on which we can agree. It is true that in discussions a number of matters arise on which delegates differ, but I have taken part in a good many negotiations and it is my experience that in the process of negotiation you can find that in respect of some matters you are on common ground with those with whom you are negotiating. From there you can move slowly to a larger area of accord. This is of value and it is happening in the Commonwealth. Those who care to read the Australian delegation's report will find that Australia has played a significant part in the business presented to the conference and that we have been ably represented by our delegates. A perusal of the report will show clearly that the delegates to the conference in New Zealand upheld the traditions of delegations to other conferences in maintaining Australia's place in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It is not without significance, in a world where we tend to concentrate at times on the matters that divide us rather than on those on which we agree, that this process of members of parliament meeting together is producing some kind of good will and understanding among all nations represented at these conferences, lt is true that it does not produce complete understanding. It is equally true, however, that by this process we open the door to understandings - no more, perhaps, but certainly no less. That is an extremely valuable contribution. The work that the Australian representatives have done and are doing, and the contributions they make to the formal and informal sides of the conferences, have, I think, built up throughout the world a very substantial measure of goodwill towards us.

In the past all roads in the Commonwealth led to the United Kingdom, because the United Kingdom was the centre of what was the British Empire, then the British Commonwealth and then the Commonwealth of Nations. I think that Australia has done something in that respect, but I think it should do more. I do not mean that it should interfere with the old roads that lead to the centre of the Commonwealth, but that it should build new roads that lead to and from this country. I believe that if we can do that we will build up goodwill that will benefit both Australia and the Commonwealth.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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