Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum: Joint Communique and Chairman Statement

26 February 2020

A number of us in this place, and indeed the other place, participated in this forum. It was one of the biggest groups of the Australian parliament that we have put to one of these forums. It was my first forum and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was an opportunity for us to work as a parliament and not necessarily take sides, as we often do in this place, but to work towards resolutions and outcomes that would benefit us as Australian parliamentarians.

We had very good participation from the Pacific countries. We had the North-East Asian countries, the South-East Asian countries and the Americas. We had a group of parliamentarians come all the way from Mexico. I think they had the longest journey. We had ourselves, of course, and Fiji, New Zealand and Micronesia. As Australia was hosting this forum, it was our opportunity to ask our neighbouring countries to come, so we asked a number of much smaller neighbours of ours—but close neighbours—such as Brunei Darussalam, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu. I have to say that a number of those countries are now looking to join the forum.

We were also successful, with the support of New Zealand and Japan, in getting our Speaker up as the interim president. Unfortunately, the passing of the Japanese leader created a vacuum and need to change the rules. So Mr Tony Smith, who is our Speaker in the House, is now the chair for a year. He's got a job to do in terms of implementing a number of resolutions. The women from the Australian delegation particularly wanted to make sure that we had much stronger representation of women, so one of the jobs the Speaker has got is to look at how we make sure that happens. He's also very keen to make sure that the observer countries we invited along to this forum take out formal membership.

I would also like to thank the Parliament House staff. It was the time of the bushfires. There was smoke in Canberra. I know many of the staff had either family or friends that had been personally affected by the bushfires. I thought that the parliament leant itself really well to hosting a forum. We used the big hall and the breakout area around the pond as a meeting place and an eating place. It was a terrific forum.

The next forum is in Korea, and I would certainly encourage fellow parliamentarians who perhaps haven't participated in this forum before to look at it next year. I thank Mr Kevin Andrews for leading our delegations. We had a daily caucus where we all got our acts together and spoke with one voice. Thanks to the Speaker in making sure that the executive committee ran well and, indeed, delivered a very good forum.