Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 135th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly in Switzerland - 30 November 2016

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The SPEAKER (09:31): I am pleased to present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation that participated in the 135th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 23 to 27 October 2016. It was my privilege to lead this delegation, which also comprised the member for Forrest, Ms Marino, and Senator the Hon. Ian Macdonald as well as Senators Gallacher and Sterle.

This was a hardworking and successful delegation, and all members played an active role at the various proceedings of the assembly. The delegation attended the formal sessions of the assembly and its governing council and participated in meetings of the Asia-Pacific and Twelve Plus Geopolitical Groups.

During the Assembly, I spoke in the general debate on the topic of 'Human rights abuses as precursors of conflict: parliaments as early responders'.In my contribution, I stated that human rights are not just a series of aspirational targets, but deeply held beliefs of the Australian community and that this is demonstrated by Australia's overseas aid program, the work of the parliament, and the engagement by citizens of both professional and volunteer services at home and abroad. I also participated in the emergency debate on the topic of the war and the severe humanitarian situation in Syria and expressed the Australian delegation's concern at the unfolding crisis in Aleppo. I was also privileged to be invited to chair a session of the assembly.

Another important business item of the assembly involved a session of the Forum of Women Parliamentarians at which the member for Forrest was a rapporteur developing a resolution originally proposed by the Australian delegation in 2015 concerning the freedom of women to participate in political processes fully, safely, and without interference.

Once again, the delegation participated in the work of the various standing committees. The member for Forrest and Senator Macdonald participated in the proceedings of the standing committees on democracy and human rights, and sustainable development, finance and trade as these groups considered the resolution originally proposed by an earlier Australian delegation on the participation of women in the political process. Following consideration by standing committees, this motion was adopted unanimously by the Assembly, and I wish to acknowledge the work of the member for Forrest in working to bring this important resolution to adoption in the plenary session.

One of the key benefits of every assembly is the opportunity for delegates to participate in formal and informal discussions and meetings with a wide range of representatives from other parliaments and international organisations. The Australian delegation held productive formal meetings with the delegations from Bhutan, Singapore and Lebanon. In addition, I also met with the IPU Secretary-General, Mr Martin Chungong and, separately, with the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Mr Akbar Khan.

In addition to our demanding schedule at the IPU, Senators Sterle and Gallacher attended a meeting at the World Health Organization on the issue of global road safety to explore how progress could be made to reduce injuries from road deaths.

The Deputy Clerk of the House accompanied the delegation to attend the meeting of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments, which is held in conjunction with the IPU. Details of that meeting are also included in the report.

The IPU assembly continues to provide a unique opportunity for members of the Australian parliament to meet international colleagues and consider issues of mutual interest at both an informal and formal level. It is also a distinctive form of professional development for parliamentarians and strengthens parliament-to-parliament relationships.

On behalf of the Australian travelling party, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this successful delegation. I wish to acknowledge the support provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Geneva, particularly the Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and to the Conference on Disarmament, His Excellency, Mr John Quinn and his staff, who provided a wide range of practical support and local advice to the delegation. His Canberra based colleague at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ms Natalie Boyes, also coordinated detailed and useful briefings to the delegation.

I would also like to extend the delegation's thanks to the staff of the Parliamentary Library for providing comprehensive and timely briefing materials prior to departure and to staff in the International and Parliamentary Relations Office for their support.

I make particular mention and convey the thanks of all of the IPU delegations to Brien Hallett, who was the Secretary of the IPU for the 44th Parliament. His work behind the scenes of the IPU, negotiating for, advising and guiding the IPU delegations has been invaluable, and I thank him for his work. Brien has now handed the role of IPU secretary over to Toni Matulick and we all wish Toni well in this role.

Finally, I thank my fellow delegates for their participation in the assembly's meetings and their commitment to our program of work which has led to the high regard in which the Australian delegation is held.

I commend the report to the House.

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