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Thursday, 26 May 1983
Page: 1099

Dr KLUGMAN —by leave-I wish to join with the previous speaker, the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) in thanking all the people who helped us at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Rome. It was the only one I have attended. I would like to make a couple of possibly more controversial points about the IPU Conference. The important thing to remember is that the IPU consists of some 98 countries and the delegations, in theory, consist of parliamentarians from every one of those 98 countries. But the great majority of those countries have no parliaments-that is parliaments with an Opposition-as we understand parliaments. Among the groups is the Ten Plus Group which consists of the western European countries plus other Western democracies such as Australia, the United States of America and Canada-a total of 21 countries. There is also the Eastern European bloc and the Third World countries whose systems vary from an occasional democracy to typical one-party States, such as the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Yemen and Vietnam.

The impression I had mainly relates to a meeting we attended of the Ten Plus Group to plan what we would do at the Conference. The first impression I had of the Ten Plus meeting was the utter pessimism on the part of members of the Group . The only suggestion made was to try to improve marginally the motions proposed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam, et cetera. They were particularly extravagant motions blaming the West for everything and attacking us for our lack of democracy. My suggestion at that meeting was that we propose motions attacking the totalitarian countries but that was considered unrealistic because a two-thirds majority was required to put these items on the agenda at a late stage. In the end, especially with the help of the Irish delegation and some of the Austrians, we persuaded the Ten Plus Group to go ahead and do this but it did not really expect any success. We decided to propose motions condemning the invasion of Afghanistan, the Ethiopian aggression against the Somali Democratic Republic and to raise, during discussion of credentials, the position of the Polish Parliament during martial law. What I would call the Ten Plus establishment was extremely pessimistic about the chances of success.

However, we won easily, both on the procedural and substantive votes on Afghanistan and Ethiopia. On the question of Ethiopian aggression, the voting was 413 to 198 so we had an easy two-thirds majority, which we needed. On the question of the invasion of Afghanistan, the vote was 496 for and 209 against. Again there was easily an absolute majority. The point I am trying to make is that it is important for the countries which do have democratic governments to participate in the IPU, to make up their minds and to make specific proposals. They should lobby for those proposals and hope that they get support for them at the conference. If we just go in there, in the way we often do and in the way we do quite frequently at the United Nations, that is by taking the line that nothing much can be done about it because the Soviet Union with the help of some of the Third World nations has a majority, then we will never get anywhere.

One has to be aggressive. I enjoy being aggressive and I know that the leader of the delegation to the IPU for the next three years, during the duration of this Parliament, the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), takes a similar point of view. I hope that the rest of the Australian delegation which attends the Union in September will also take that attitude. It is pointless to go along and always be on the defensive. I conclude by giving one specific example of that. The Soviet Union brought forward a motion on neo-colonialism, condemning the usual countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States in regard to Puerto Rico, and so on. The Irish delegation moved an amendment, with our help, to include Afghanistan. The amendment was carried and it took the Soviet Union some two hours to get permission from the Chair to withdraw its original motion about colonialism. The important thing is to organise, to have facts at our fingertips, especially at conferences which, in theory at least, represent parliaments and therefore should be democratic or have a significant number of democratic countries represented, so that we can keep on taking the fight to the other side and show that we can win.

I know that Senator Missen, who was one of the members of the delegation, takes a slightly more pessimistic view and feels that we should withdraw from the Inter-Parliamentary Union. That may well become necessary if the organisation becomes more and more totalitarian. It may be necessary to form an organisation of parliamentarians from what we would call the democratic countries where there is at least an opposition. In the meantime, it is important from an international point of view that we participate, try to persuade people and try to win arguments.