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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2239


Senator COLSTON(3.50) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The Seventy-third Conference of the IPU was held from 20 to 30 March this year in Lome, the capital of Togo. Togo is a small nation, a former French colony, situated on the west coast of Africa. The Australian Delegation comprised myself as leader, Mr Ian Wilson as deputy leader, Senator Noel Crichton-Browne, Mrs Elaine Darling, Mr Colin Hollis and Mr Peter McGauran. This was my first opportunity to lead an Australian delegation to an IPU Conference and my task was made easy because of the co-operation of all members of the delegation. I must remark also that the Australian delegation performed creditably and made significant contributions.

The topics considered by the Conference addressed the more contentious problems confronting the world today. The Conference took place at a time when parts of Africa were, and of course still are, facing the most horrifying and destructive famine ever experienced by mankind. Even though Togo has managed to escape the worst of the famine, it was fitting that a supplementary item was included on the Conference agenda to deal specifically with the question of the African famine. I am pleased to report that Australia contributed in a significant and positive way to this debate. In fact, the Australian delegation submitted its own draft resolution dealing with the problems of the disaster and the best and most humane way to deal with it. It is pleasing to report that the resolution finally adopted unanimously by the Conference comprised most aspects of the Australian draft resolution. All national groups would have been aware of and appreciated Australia's contribution to this subject.

The other subjects before the Conference dealt with disarmament, peace and Middle East tensions, the elimination of poverty and the burden of international debt. The Conference debate on the subject of disarmament, peace and Middle East tensions was at times heated. It attracted a great deal of political attention, particularly during the detailed consideration of draft resolutions. Not surprisingly, the Conference was unable to arrive at a unanimous position on the final resolution. In particular, all national groups which one might collectively regard as the Western nations, along with many other nations, took exception to the strong and pointed wording of the draft resolution submitted for a final vote. Unsuccessful attempts were made to change the proposed wording in order to present a more balanced and constructive final resolution. Apart from section D, to which the Australian Delegation objected, I commend the text of this resolution to honourable senators. In its other parts it represents a genuine attempt by an international forum to come to grips with the most difficult of political questions now facing the world.

The item before the Conference concerning the burden of international debt also attracted considerable interest. Again, this was a difficult subject for Conference to consider, but on this occasion I am pleased to report that the final outcome was the adoption of a resolution with the unanimous approval of the conference. A further item was considered by the conference. This was submitted as an emergency item and concerned recent events in Langa and the repression in southern Africa. Whilst the procedures of the IPU do not enable debate to take place on an emergency item, a unanimous resolution ultimately was agreed to by the conference. The resolutions to which I have referred are included as attachments to the delegation's report. They are resolutions of significance which should be considered by this Parliament and by the Government.

One final matter, to which I must refer before concluding my remarks, is the work of the IPU in addressing and dealing with the question of the violation of human rights of parliamentarians. I see this aspect of the IPU's work as underrated. There is a general lack of appreciation of the Union's tremendous activity in this area. The Union established a special committee to look at the human rights of parliamentarians in 1977. Statistics show that of the 263 cases of detained parliamentarians examined and acted upon by the Union since that date, 228 have been resolved by a release. This represents a success rate of 89 per cent. Whilst the Union is aware that these releases were not due to its activities alone, the IPU submits that its actions have been instrumental in the release of many of the detainees. This is an area of IPU activity which should be encouraged by the Australian national group.

I conclude by thanking the various posts which assisted in the travel of the Australian Delegation. In particular, I refer to the posts of Madrid, Paris and London. I extend my thanks and the thanks of the delegation to Mr Tom Wharton, the Secretary to the Delegation on this visit. The Delegation also appreciated the assistance of Mr Peter Hooton of the Department of Foreign Affairs who was an adviser to the Delegation. I extend my thanks also to my fellow delegates for their support and co-operation throughout the conference. I commend the report to honourable senators.