Page 3863 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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Commonwealth Parliamentary Association

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (10.38): As this is my second-last sitting day, and I will be giving my final speech tomorrow evening, I want to talk about the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that I went to a few weeks ago on behalf of the Assembly. Mr Speaker, as you know, you were going to be attending that conference and I stepped into the breach at the last moment.

As always, I had a great time at the conference, this being the third plenary that I have been to. The Clerk informs me that I may have equalled Kerrie Tucker in the number of CPA plenary conferences attended overseas. I have had a couple of nightmares about being stuck back in Nigeria; I do have to confess that I am not necessarily eager to go back to Nigeria. But I have had a good time at all of the conferences.

At this conference, I spent much more time at the small branches conference, which was formerly called the small countries conference. The name has been changed to better reflect the role. Of course, not all of the smaller branches are countries, and that is part of the reason why the name has been changed. In the last two plenaries that I have attended, I was there as the Australian representative for commonwealth women parliamentarians. That is why I did not get to spend as much time at the small branches conference in the past.

There were many excellent sessions at the small branches conference on many issues of interest in a wide-ranging field, from corruption to electoral systems and environmental issues. A lot of excellent work was done at those sessions. While I do not think that the plenary sessions were as productive as the sessions at the small branches conference, as they were often a talkfest, there was some good work done in those, and it was certainly interesting to observe.

Mr Speaker, as you know, and as I think a number of members here know, the role of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is about promoting parliamentary democracy, particularly for the newer and less stable democracies. I believe that the CPA does an excellent job in that field, in providing information on issues such as accountability through public accounts committees, the scrutiny role that parliaments can have, and resolving issues of violence within parliaments et cetera. So it has a great role to play. Unfortunately, I think there is a tendency at times for some members who go to these CPA conferences to think that the CPA’s role is much bigger than it actually is and that it can achieve more than it can. It should keep its eye on what it is about and on what it can achieve.

At this conference we had a vote for a new chairperson. The outgoing chairperson was elected at the ExCo to the position of treasurer, which is a little bit concerning to me, but I will talk about that privately at another time. There was also the vote for the chairperson’s position. There were two people running: Lord Swaraj Paul of Marylebone, who is originally from India but who is a member of the House of Lords in England; and Minister Shafie—I do not know his full name but it is quite extensive.

I want to raise my concerns about the future of the CPA. There has been a lot of block voting going on and a lot of things that are of concern. As a retiring member of the

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