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Thursday, 20 September 2001
Page: 31079

Mr SPEAKER (9:31 AM) —I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Croatia and the Czech Republic.

The report I have presented records the impressions of the Australian parliamentary delegation which visited the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Croatia and the Czech Republic in April 2001. I had the privilege of leading the delegation and was accompanied by the honourable member for Blaxland, as deputy leader, the honourable members for Fadden, Fowler and Cowper, and Senator Grant Chapman. The delegation secretary was Ms Brenda Herd from the Department of the House of Representatives.

The delegation was impressed with the rapid economic transformation and structural changes occurring in all three countries, as they work towards accession to the European Union. We wish them well in their endeavours. While none of the countries visited rank among Australia's major trading partners, they all offer important export, growth and investment opportunities. Australia is fortunate, in that it has established valuable associations with all three countries. Members of the delegation felt a special feeling of friendship with the people and the parliaments of this region. This is hardly surprising, given the fact that migrants from the region have made an invaluable contribution to Australia's rich and diverse cultural fabric over many years.

I should indicate to the House that the practice of submitting reports has of course been brought forward to Thursday because of the condolence motion on Monday. For that reason, I intend to keep my remarks brief. Comments will be added by other members of the delegation. It is my intent to ensure that all delegation and committee reports are restricted to 10 minutes.

Can I therefore, instead of elaborating, take this opportunity to express the delegation's deep appreciation to the parliaments of the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Croatia and the Czech Republic for such an informative and comprehensive program. We found the warmth of the welcome in all three countries particularly memorable. Our thanks go to His Excellency Mr Max Hughes, Australian Ambassador to the Slovak Republic, His Excellency Mr Neil Francis, Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia and Her Excellency Mrs Margaret Adamson, Australian Ambassador to the Czech Republic. Their support, both in the planning stage and during the visit, together with the work of their staff was exemplary. We also thank officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Parliamentary Library for the thoroughness of their briefing material prepared before the delegation's departure. I wish also to express the delegation's gratitude to the ambassadors of each of the countries we visited for the support they gave to us and for their briefings prior to our visit.

I conclude by remarking on the cohesiveness of the delegation which I led. I particularly appreciate the hard work that all delegates undertook to effectively represent Australia and the way the delegation operated as a team throughout the lengthy, hardworking and memorable overseas parliamentary visit.