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Monday, 10 April 2000
Page: 15531

Mr McARTHUR (12:31 PM) —I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to Canada and the United States of America from 25 October to 5 November 1999. It was my first trip to America and Canada. Canada is an interesting country, similar to Australia, with a Westminster system of government and with its population concentrated on the eastern seaboard. It is an exporting country, exporting commodities, and it has a population of 30 million. Fundamentally, most of the exports go to the United States. So we see an interesting similarity between Canada and Australia.

The Speaker of the Senate, Mr Gildas Molgat, was an outstanding figure and became a personal friend of mine. He spoke French and English fluently and, being a part of the Senate, was appointed as a senator and as the Speaker. He was an outstanding listener and enthusiastic about the cause. He had been in politics for some 37 years. Mr Molgat really is a beacon of light on what is good about the Westminster system both here in Australia and in Canada.

The delegation visited the House of Commons. We might take a page out of their book—41 questions were answered in 45 minutes. Such matters as the budget surplus, airline ownership, unemployment and subsidies to farmers were raised in that short period of time. The delegation found that there was no support for a republic in Canada, which was an interesting side issue. English is the number one language, the second highest used language is Chinese and the third is French, which we found somewhat surprising. The immigration program in Canada brings in approximately 250,000 immigrants each year. There is an argument similar to the one we are having here in Australia about the indigenous people. The Inuits, as the indigenous people are called in Canada, comprise four per cent of the population, and the debate is very similar to what we have here. The impression I have of Canada is that it is a big country, bilingual and the influence of the eastern seaboard, as I mentioned, is paramount. The Canadians dislike America's political system because, they suggest, their politics are dominated by money, not the real issues.

The delegation visited America. New York is a very interesting and vibrant city—I had not been there before. We visited the New York Stock Exchange—the `centre of irrational exuberance', according to Dr Alan Greenspan. This was a focal point of the delegation's activities in New York. One of the reports we had said that the USA provides 23 per cent of world consumption and is the driver of world economic growth. Consul-General Michael Baume was hospitable to the delegation and we had the honour of participating in events in the Macarthur Room, opened by the Prime Minister in July last year.

We met Mayor Rendell of Philadelphia, who is the Chairman of the Democratic Convention. He was a very impressive figure and gave us an insight into the way in which the American system worked. We also met the Senate majority leader, Mr Trent Lott, the Republican member for Mississippi. Again, he was a very important and impressive political figure. He gave a lot of time to the Australian delegation and we were particularly well received. He argued the case for lamb imports and free trade. I think this further cemented the very important Australia-US relationship. We met Governor Ridge, the Governor of Pennsylvania, who is, again, another outstanding political leader in the US. The delegation was received extremely well. Governor Ridge could be the vice-presidential candidate for George W. Bush. We visited Fairfax County, a visit which demonstrated the importance of information technology and the changes in that particular area, similar to Silicon Valley. The delegation's visit to the Capitol building was historic. The delegation was bipartisan. It represented this parliament very well and had very high-level contacts in both Canada and America and cemented the goodwill between those countries in an outstanding manner.