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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1761

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (10:04): I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 38th AIPA General Assembly, held in Manila, the Philippines, from 14 to 20 September 2017. As leader of the Australian observer delegation to the general assembly, it was an honour to attend this important forum of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly. Last year was a significant year: 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It was also the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Parliamentary arm of ASEAN— the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

As was noted during the first plenary session, the common goal of establishing an ASEAN community by 2025 will require stronger coordination between governments and legislatures. In this context, the general assembly focused on how AIPA and ASEAN can work together to bring about inclusive change to the communities in the region. The assembly also dealt with important regional concerns, including: humanitarian situations in parts of the region; combating illegal drugs, terrorism and trafficking; and enhancing cooperation in the use of science and technology for peaceful purposes.

As with the previous general assemblies, maritime disputes were also raised and parties were urged to work towards a peaceful resolution in accordance with international law. All countries reinforced AIPA's important contributions to maintaining peace, security and stability in the region; promoting cultural exchange and understanding; enhancing cooperation on transnational matters and improving prosperity throughout the region.

One of the key meetings for the Australian delegation was a formal dialogue session with representatives of ASEAN member countries. The dialogue session was an important opportunity to discuss cooperation and engagement between our parliaments and our nations. Warm discussions with the regional colleagues centred on strengthening cooperation in the areas of disaster management and combating transnational crimes. In particular, our work together with these countries was noted in the areas of terrorism, combating violent extremism and combating trafficking in persons. One of the most common messages during the session was the extent to which our regional partners value and continue to value our friendship and cooperation. Similarly, the dialogue session gave our delegation the opportunity to renew ties with parliamentary colleagues overseas and reinforce Australia's commitment to the South-East Asian region.

In addition to representing Australia at their AIPA general assembly, the delegation also attended appointments to reaffirm our ties with the Congress of the Philippines. The delegation was pleased to meet with several of our parliamentary and legislative colleagues, and appreciated the opportunity to discuss defence cooperation between our two countries, the situation in Marawi and the shared concerns about transportation, congestion and economic development. Australia has a meaningful and a longstanding relationship with our neighbours. We have had our multilateral relationship with ASEAN since 1974. Our ongoing presence at AIPA general assemblies reinforces our ongoing commitment to engaging with South-East Asia. Our commitment to attending AIPA general assemblies is an important opportunity to demonstrate Australia's support for ASEAN, which is something I will continue to support in the future.

I want to pay great respect to the secretary that we had with us, who is here in the chamber, Peggy Danaee. She did a fantastic job in coordinating a member of parliament and a senator—it was a bit like herding cats sometimes. But she did it quite ably and very well. A highlight of the trip was meeting not only the House of Representatives Speaker in the Philippines and the President of the Senate, but also the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. It was something that both I and Senator Gallacher, who was the other delegate, very much enjoyed.

On behalf of the delegation, I want to record our thanks to the host of the general assembly and to the parliament of the Philippines for its excellent hospitality and a very well-run general assembly. Before concluding, I want to thank the Australian Embassy in Manila for assisting with arrangements for the delegation, particularly in the congress, which enhanced the visit's success. I would also urge the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to give their full assistance to future parliamentary delegations to the AIPA General Assembly. It is imperative that parliamentarians are properly briefed in order to maximise this important opportunity for Australia in the South- East Asian region.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge Senator Gallacher, whose interest in international affairs, good humour and cooperation made a valuable contribution to the visit.

I commend the report to the House.