I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the 25th annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum held in Natadola, Fiji, from 15 to 19 January 2017.
I was accompanied on the delegation by the member for Paterson, who is across the chamber here, and senators Moore and Williams. The APPF is an assembly of members of national parliaments in the Asia-Pacific region, which has met each year since 1993 to discuss matters of mutual concern. Issues the APPF deal with are mainly strategic, economic, social and cultural in nature.
The APPF is important to the Australian parliament as a parliamentary association of members who share Australia's region. Key regional countries with which Australia has strong links send delegations to APPF annual meetings. Such countries include Canada, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, Thailand and a number of Pacific island countries, including the host country this year, Fiji.
Each conference is structured around a number of plenary sessions and working groups and a drafting committee that considers a range of resolutions arising from the discussions. Participating countries submit draft resolutions that form the basis for the discussion sessions and subsequent conference resolutions finalised through consensus. The sessions were under the themes of 'political and security matters', 'economic and trade matters' and 'regional cooperation'.
The four draft resolutions forwarded by the Australian delegation reflected the interests of the delegation members. I took responsibility for carriage of the draft resolution on regional and subregional strategies for combating communicable and non-communicable diseases in the Asia-Pacific region, with a particular focus on combating the scourge of tuberculosis.
For example, while the rate of TB is dropping in the Cook Islands, it is still 10 times more prevalent than in Australia. Papua New Guinea, our nearest neighbour, is listed by the World Health Organization as a 'high burden' TB country, and therefore it is important that TB is on the agenda at the meeting of health ministers in the Cook Islands in 2018. I note too that last Friday, 24 March, was World TB Day.
The member for Paterson and Senator Moore took carriage of two resolutions: one on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the region, and the other on increasing the participation of women in politics. I have to say that they did an outstanding job in presenting their case and getting the necessary resolutions up.
Through several meetings and with active support from the entire Australian delegation, Australia lobbied for an initiative calling for future APPF meetings to include a meeting of women parliamentarians as a standing agenda item. I say congratulations to both of them for the work that they did in that area.
Senator Williams took carriage of a resolution promoting food security in the Asia-Pacific region, arguing strongly for the need to preserve soil quality in order to sustain crop yields and to feed a growing population. In comparison to the numbers in some national delegations, the Australian delegation was relatively small. This meant we had a very busy schedule, contributing to as many of the sessions as possible. The forum provided an excellent opportunity for us to forge links with our parliamentary colleagues in the region and discuss issues of common concern.
On behalf of the delegation I would like to thank the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for assistance with briefing papers for the forum meetings and for the support provided in Fiji by the Australian high commissioner and her colleagues. The Parliamentary Library also provided briefing material which the delegation found very useful.
I would also like to put on the record a very big thankyou to delegation secretary, James Catchpole, for his outstanding support during the forum. With a small delegation, we relied very heavily on James's support. Of course, we must also thank our very hospitable hosts, the Parliament of Fiji. Our thanks go in particular to the Speaker of the Fijian parliament, the Hon. Dr Jiko Luveni, and her staff. Our hosts were exceptionally generous in their welcome and hospitality.
Hosting the conference was a major undertaking for the Fijian parliament, and the support provided to delegates was of a very high standard.
I commend the report to the House.