Delegation Reports - Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Kiribati and the Kingdom of Tonga


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:49): by leave—I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to Kiribati and the Kingdom of Tonga which took place from 25 June to 2 July last year. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the document.

Leave granted.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I am pleased to present the delegation report. I want first of all to thank my colleagues who formed that delegation, starting with my friend and colleague Senator Williams. The delegation also included Mr Steve Georganas, the member for Hindmarsh, and Mr Milton Dick, the member for Oxley. I particularly want to thank the delegation secretary, Mr Gerry McInally, who, as is the way with the secretaries who accompany parliamentary delegations, was excellent in his work, in his support for the delegation and in making sure that all the right doors were opened. I also want to thank the international and parliamentary relations element of this parliament for their support and to thank those who assisted us both in Kiribati and in Tonga. The delegation's visit was organised and supported by the Australian parliament's International and Parliamentary Relations Office. They, as any senators who have ever been on a delegation will know, do a wonderful job, as do the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The delegation, during most of its meetings, was accompanied by DFAT officers stationed at Kiribati and Tonga. The professionalism, knowledge and guidance of these officers were very much appreciated by every member of the delegation.

I also particularly want to express the delegation's thanks to the Australian high commission staff who assisted the delegation—in particular, in Kiribati, the Australian high commissioner, His Excellency Mr Bruce Cowled, and the first secretary and consul, Ms Kate Chamley, and, in Tonga, the Australian high commissioner, His Excellency Mr Andrew Ford, and the deputy high commissioner, Ms Rhona McPhee. I should as well thank the government officials and staff in both Kiribati and Tonga for their welcome and the way they dealt with the delegation.

Time is short. I just want to mention two things. I was delighted to see in Kiribati that, as a result of a lot of good work by Australia over many years past, particularly in the fishing area, Kiribati have really turned their budget around and they have now increased their revenue to around $200 million a year from selling their licences for day-long fishing to commercial fishermen. This accounts for some 70 per cent of Kiribati's annual income. Australia had a big part to play in setting up the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, with the Australian Pacific Patrol Boat Program, which assists very much in the monitoring of foreign fishing vessels in Kiribati waters, and also the Central Pacific vessel monitoring system, which again Australia had a lot to do with setting up, a decade or so ago. It was a wonderful visit and it was great to see some of the major battlegrounds of the Second World War in the Pacific.

On Tonga, the report says it all. I encourage people who are interested in those islands or Australian support there to read the delegation report. It was a very full program in Tonga. I just want to mention one thing that I don't think is mentioned in the report. On the last day that we were there, the high commissioner invited the delegation—unfortunately I was the only one who could make the travel arrangements to do this—to go and see the most significant thing that has happened in Tonga, I'm sure, for 10 years, and that was the annual rugby union match between Tonga and their archrivals from Samoa. I'm pleased to say, and I claim credit for the fact that the Australians were there in some presence with the high commission staff, that Tonga actually won that game; they hadn't done it before. Football diplomacy is very, very big in PNG and in the Pacific. It was great to be part of that, as well as all of the other very significant things we did, which are reported in the delegation's report. I recommend the report to the Senate.

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