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Tuesday, 7 December 1976
Page: 3373

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr JAMES - I now present the report of the Twenty-second Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in Mauritius in September last. The Conference was attended by delegates, secretaries and official branch observers from 86 branches, representing some 9000 parliamentarians, and by observers from associated organisations, including the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Australia was represented by 6 delegates from the Commonwealth Branch and one delegate from each of the States and the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth delegates were Senator D. B. Scott, the leader of the delegation and myself as deputy leader; Senator J. I. Melzer; Mr K. L. Fry, MP; Mr S. E. Calder, MP, and Mr M. H. Bungey, MP. Senator G. S. Davidson, the Australasian regional councillor, also attended and Mr D. M. Blake, V.R.D., the First Clerk-Assistant of the House of Representatives, was the secretary. The Conference was opened by His Excellency, the Acting Governor-General of Mauritius in an impressive ceremony in the Mahatma Ghandi Institute. The Conference was conducted in both plenary session debates and in panel discussions. All members of the delegation took part in both sessions, as indicated in the report. The 14 items of the Conference agenda were under 4 main headings: International Affairs, Economic Problems, Social Problems and Parliamentary Institutions. The first heading concentrated mainly upon developments in the Indian Ocean and in southern Africa. Although these were burning issues to a large number of delegates, particularly those from the littoral states, they were debated in a spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding usually associated with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The positions of most countries in the area are fairly well known to members of this Parliament and they were firmly held.

There was a good deal of common ground in the discussion of economic problems and I commend this debate to members of the House, particularly in respect of the stabilisation of commodity prices and the disposal of surplus food stocks; alternative methods of providing professional and technical educational aid and joint ventures and transfers of technology in respect of co-operation in industrial development. Discussions on social problems concentrated on the protection of the environment, the control or elimination of pollution and the need for international co-operation in these matters; the growth in population, unemployment and urban poverty and a pressing need in some of the less developed countries to arrest or even reverse the drift to the cities. In the last respect it amounted to a plea for decentralisation and the provision of better amenities to raise the quality of life in rural areas. There was a general awareness that the parliamentary institution is under some threat from socio-economic pressure groups and from socio-political extremists; from a too centralised bureaucracy; from a too rigid party system and from too much inconsequential legislation. It was recognised that the main aim, for want of a better term, was for economic democracy and it was agreed that this must be advanced but that in the process the freedoms of democracy should never be sacrificed.

The verbatim report of the discussions will be issued by the General Council of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The summary report of the discussions is included in our report. Copies of the report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and are available from the Bills and Papers Office. In conclusion, I should like to acknowledge the debt of the delegation to the secretariat of the host branch, led by Mr Guy d'Espaignet, the Clerk of the Parliament in Mauritius; to the General Council secretariat, who organised the Conference; to the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library, which provided the delegation with an excellent background brief; to the secretary to the delegation, Mr D. M. Blake, V.R.D., for being such a good secretary; to the Foreign Minister, who made available His Excellency Mr Truelove, who is based in Dar-es-Salaam and who was a superb host of the delegation. We saw him much of the time in Mauritius. In briefing the delegation, he advised us what was happening in that part of the world, in accordance with his responsibilities to the Department of Foreign Affairs and to the Government of Australia. I should also like to pay tribute to the Government for its generosity in providing funds to enable members of the delegation to extend their travel in order to gain the maximum value for their trip abroad, as a result of which I was able to purchase this Mauritian suit.

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