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Monday, 29 May 2000
Page: 16437


Mr HARDGRAVE (4:43 PM) —This parliament, this place, stands as a ready testimony to the availability and access that the people of Australia can enjoy to the processes of good government and the opportunity to air a range of views and concerns to be heard, listened to and tabled. This is what parliamentary democracy is all about. It is interesting to reflect upon those nations in our own region that have their own share of difficulty enjoying such traditions and ready access to the range of views and concerns that may be in their own society.

It is against that background that it is interesting to reflect upon the Asia-Pacific Public Affairs Forum, at which I was honoured to represent this place in the past week or so. This was run by the organisation APPAF, which is a non-government organisation based in Taiwan and financed by a range of philanthropic contributors, people who are concerned about our global society and good civil society. It was also a forum which brought together legislators from Australia—I and New South Wales Senator Helen Coonan attended—from New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan, as well as from Canada—and a representative, interestingly enough, from Nicaragua.

When you combine that great range of people, it is interesting and disturbing to reflect on just how fragile parliamentary democracy is across the entire world. In Taiwan, just a week ago last Saturday, the inauguration of a new president there, Chen Shui-bian, signalled an era of new democracy in that country; a country which just 20 years ago was administered under martial law with great restrictions on human freedoms, possibly as a reflection of the presence of danger that they sensed from those on the mainland. It is a country which now has embraced democracy to the point where the people have quite freely and ably changed political parties at a free and general election. It has taken 55 years for the Republic of China, based in Taiwan, to reach the stage where the people could, through the ballot box, cause such a radical thing to occur. That the Kuomintang no longer have power in the presidential palace and that the Democratic Progressive Party candidates won both the position of president and the position of vice-president says something about that nation. That it has joined a club of nations which enjoys freedom and democracy and exercises human rights, care and concern and good liberal, democratic values is, I think, something all of us in this country should celebrate.

The member for Rankin and I probably represent more Taiwanese born citizens in our constituencies than does any other member. I am particularly concerned about this issue and what it lends itself to in my own electorate of Moreton, because what is happening in the electorate of Moreton is something that we could only hope would occur over time between the nations either side of the Taiwan Strait. In the electorate of Moreton, people of Chinese origin—be they those who were born in the People's Republic of China or be they those who were born in the Republic of China on Taiwan or in Hong Kong or in Singapore—all have a ready acceptance of the idea of working together. In relation to good conduct, trade, and personal relationships in whatever measure you wish to establish, there is, without doubt, little or no division. So when APPAF, this non-government organisation, brought legislators from across the world together to discuss important matters in this emerging democracy to do with parliamentary reform and the environment in a civil society, and to deal with matters relating to the World Trade Organisation and how to survive the shifts that industry across the world is having to undertake in order to conform with WTO expectations, it was an exciting process to be part of.

That Taiwan has grabbed democracy without making mistakes is not a true statement. Taiwan has had its own share of difficulties in bringing about this democratic process. Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be disturbed to know that in that country a concept called `black gold' exists. There is a problem of organised crime involving itself directly in politics. Taiwan does not have the system we have in this country where disclosure of electoral funding is an everyday event—Taiwan does not have that system in place. But, to his credit, new President Chen has signalled that as one of the absolute priorities of his first term as president. President Chen wants to outlaw black gold to ensure that there is complete confidence amongst the people in the Taiwan democracy. President Chen told the people of the world the other week that he wants to see Taiwan:

... the landmark for Chinese communities around the world ... to set a new model for the Asian experience of democracy ... to become a moving example of the third wave of democracy the world over.

I think the words of President Chen are worth quoting on the record here, with the passion that he delivered them the other day. I quote:

Twenty-three million people with an unwavering will have allayed enmity with love, overcome intimidation with hope, and conquered fear with faith.

With our sacred votes, we have proven to the world that freedom and democracy are indisputable universal values, and that peace is humanity's highest goal.

They are the words of the most recently elected official in the world. I think they are very worthwhile words, and I think they set a ready example to others around the world of the value of democracy.

I applaud the role of the APPAF organisation in bringing legislators from around the world to discuss the difficulties of making parliamentary democracy work. President Chen himself has talked about the need for reform of the legislative process in his country. It was my suggestion to that forum that they send delegates to this country to discover the processes of committee work that we undertake in this parliament, to gather some understanding of the need for resources so that disclosure to the people and the paramount importance of the people are upheld. President Chen himself reflected on the will of the people and the importance of the people in the process of democracy. These are, I am sure, words and sentiments that all in this place happily welcome.

With regard to our friends on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, the People's Republic of China, the nation which this country recognises, amongst most others in the world, as the one China, I say to them: we do want friendship with you. We value the friendship with you. We recognise and respect the difficulties you have in running a country with so many people. We welcome, as President Chen Shui-bian said the other week, the economic miracle that has been presided over by the people of the People's Republic of China over the last 10 years. In his speech he took time to pay tribute to the leadership of Mr Deng Xiaoping and Mr Jiang Zemin, saying that they have created a miracle of economic openness but reflected upon the fact that Taiwan had at the same time not only provided economic openness but also provided this democratic miracle which goes hand-in-hand with it.

The performance of the nation of Taiwan will continue to be under the spotlight over the years ahead. They have made one change from one political party to another in recent times, and the inauguration of President Chen is testament to that particular change. In fact, some academics in Taiwan are saying that Taiwan will need to go through the process of additional change: that, at some stage down the track, Mr Chen and his party will face the people again, that they may well lose office and the KMT, the Kuomintang, will be in power again; that again, in time, the electoral cycle will change and there may well be another change in office. The academics point out that providing those changes can occur in the same sort of peaceful and dignified way they have occurred in this particular example, the position of Taiwan as a truly democratic nation will be proven.

I think all in this place would recognise the great deal of happiness that exists in my own electorate—not so much about the fact that a person or a political party has won through a political process but, rather, that another nation in the world has taken its place among those of us who proudly call ourselves democratic, and liberal democratic at that; that parliamentary democracy will grow and that reforms will come; and that this nation should evolve into an even greater contributor to world events than it is at present. One can only hope that those on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, in the People's Republic of China, will embrace similar reforms in years to come. That is an event that I am sure everyone would welcome in time.