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Thursday, 2 June 1960

Mr RIORDAN (Kennedy) .- I do not propose to speak at length. I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). The report, as honorable members may see for themselves, is comprehensive. The honorable member indicated some of its contents and made certain personal suggestions in the light of our experience at the council meeting and conference of the InterParliamentary Union. It is true, as the honorable member indicated, that the union was established as the result of suggestions by certain members of the British Parliament who linked: up with certain members of the French Parliament in about 1886. It has been suggested that the action taken then was' prompted by a desire to see established what might be called a parliament of. the world. The Inter-Parliamentary Union was a forerunner of the old League of Nations, and before the formation of the league it did much in the field of international politics.

The forty-eighth conference of the InterParliamentary Union, which this report covers, was held at Warsaw, and it was the first international conference to be held behind the iron curtain since the conclusion of World War II. All the resolutions carried at the conference have been forwarded to the United Nations. There is a close liaison between the United Nations and- the union, and representatives of the United Nations attended both its council meeting and its conference as observers. Intercourse in the community of nations is effected at various levels. First, there is the summit, the top level; secondly, the foreign ministers' level and, incidentally, since October, 1958, there have been discussions at the foreign ministers' level at Geneva of certain matters with regard to disarmament; thirdly, the United Nations level, or the government level, where all delegates represent governments; and fourthly, the inter-parliamentary level, or parliamentary level as distinct from the United Nations level. The United Nations is a union of governments, whereas the Inter-Parliamentary Union is a union of parliaments. At the United Nations the delegates represent the governmental point of view but delegates to the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference represent neither governments nor oppositions; they are untrammelled in any way and may speak as they see fit on resolutions that are submitted. As a result, discussions at these conferences are frank and open.

It is true that at times, particularly at council meetings, discussion becomes lively; it is certainly intense. These delegates, not representing either a government or an opposition, are bound in no way and can speak their minds. It would be impossible to suggest that any resolution carried at a conference of this nature could he binding; there is no machinery whereby the decisions of the conference would be binding on any of the nations represented. Because of that fact delegates can discuss frankly the propositions that are submitted. Honorable members will note, also, that the final resolutions carried at the recent Inter-Parliamentary Union conference were agreed to unanimously, although, as I said a while ago, only after intense and lively discussion. The delegates of major nations at these conferences are assisted by teams of advisers.

In fact, at Warsaw there were more advisers than delegates. At the council meeting there were two representatives from each nation, who were also assisted by large teams of advisers to help them on whatever the proposition might be and to give them background. But the Australian delegates, like those of other smaller nations, went to the council meeting with no advisers. I suggest to the Government that arrangements should be made for advisers to accompany delegates not only to the council meeting but also the conference itself, if only for the purpose of giving delegates background information which, in international discussions, is of vital importance. I noted that one particular major country made available its top- level advisers at Warsaw, as a member of the Australian Embassy informed me who they were and where they stood in the affairs of their particular country.

The 58 nations represented included such new nations as Ghana and Liberia. The attendance of delegates from the new nations enabled them to get a little experience and knowledge of what transpires at an international conference. It is obvious that any delegate who attends one of these conferences, irrespective of the country he represents, learns much and experiences plenty. The fullest possible advice should be given to Australian delegates who are appointed to attend any international conference, regardless of its purpose. Australia may rank small among the nations of the world, but it should be represented at every international conference. We talk about growing up and taking our place among the nations of the world and about Australia no longer being a small nation. If we are growing up, it is incumbent upon this Government to see that Australia is represented at every international conference so that our point of view, no matter what the subject might be, can be placed forcibly before the nations of the world. We should be represented at every conference at the international level and our delegates should have assistants who can give them helpful advice, even if it be only background information. Further, the Australian delegation to any conference should be the maximum number of delegates that it is permitted to send. We should not be cheese-paring in this regard. If we are to be represented at an international conference let us be represented to the maximum. It gives me great pleasure to second the motion.

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