COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE

  • Jenny Shipley
Prime Minister

Your Excellency, Sir Michael Hardie-Boys, Deputy Prime Minister Miller Secretary General Anyaoku Mr Speaker Ministers Fellow Parliamentarians Mayor of Wellington Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen

A warm welcome to New Zealand We pride ourselves on our hospitality so I hope your time with us will be memorable as well as highly productive. New Zealand is delighted to be hosting this 44th session of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. It is the second major Commonwealth gathering we have been privileged to host in the last three years. In 1995, Commonwealth Heads of Government gathered in New Zealand.

The Millbrook Action Programme adopted at that CHOGM saw a renewed focus on promoting the fundamental political values we share as members of the Commonwealth. This week you will be discussing the theme of Globalisation and its impact on Commonwealth Governments and Parliaments.

The issues addressed in 1995, and this week's theme, are both complex and potentially controversial. I can think of no organisation better placed than the Commonwealth to grapple with and make sense of such challenging topics. Our history means we are uniquely equipped to take up the challenge.

The Commonwealth brings together countries and cultures of every continent and region of the world. It represents over 1.5 billion people from over 50 countries and shares historic and linguistic linkages that sets us. But the thing that binds the Commonwealth's rich diversity together is the set of political values that we share. The terms, and the context in which our shared values find expression, has evolved over time.

The Commonwealth has no written Constitution - Yet, at the heart of the Commonwealth beats a strong pulse of democracy: - the rule of honest government, - the importance and urgency of economic and social development, - the total rejection of racial discrimination, - and, in the words of the 1991 Harare Declaration, the liberty of the individual under the law, and the inalienable right of that individual to participate by means of free and democratic political processes, in framing the society in which he or she lives.

These values and the earnest pursuit of them, bind us together as a unique family of nations. These values do not belong to east, north, south, or Westminster.

They are values that we have defined and adopted for ourselves, by consensus. We do not always achieve those lofty ideals. But we all try. And, by being members of the Commonwealth, we have accepted: - the responsibility to debate political and economic values with each other, - to open ourselves to encouragement to do better, - and, ultimately, to accept, as the Millbrook Plan states, that appropriate steps should be taken to express the collective concern of Commonwealth when a member is perceived to be clearly in violation of the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, particularly in the event of a constitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government.

As Parliamentarians we are important guarantors and agents of the Commonwealth's political values. The discussions we have this week will, I hope, inform us and assist us to carry out our responsibilities with renewed vigour. The onset of globalisation, where markets, information and ideas flow seamlessly across national borders, is already having a direct impact on governments and parliaments.

Realistically the trend will intensify in the future.

- People will know more but feel less secure. - Electorates the world over will embrace the new icons of international culture but will worry about how to retain local and indigenous traditions and values.

- The international financial institutions, set up after World War II, are and will struggle to keep pace with the impact of global capital flows.

- Many millions of people, including those around the Asia Pacific Basin, who have experienced such economic and social improvement in the last 15 years, have in the last 15 months seen their expectations of rising incomes and economic security replaced by the fear and anxiety concerning poverty and unemployment.

In government, or in opposition, we as parliamentarians, face the challenge of addressing old problems in a new Millennium and find solutions that work.

I am convinced there is no single policy prescription that will ensure growth, development and equity in every Commonwealth country. We can learn from each other. We each have to find what suits and works for us given our own circumstances.

For all that, there are some well-tested principles which have a track record of success. In New Zealand's case, my Government is committed to pursuing an open and internationally competitive economy. We trade with the world to create our wealth.

We need sustainable non-inflationary economic and employment growth to finance our social spending and infrastructural investment.

We see strengthened external linkages, through trade, investment, immigration, tourism, science and education and more importantly people contact, as playing a central role in New Zealand's economic future.

For us, as a small, but I like to think, smart nation, the Commonwealth is tremendously important to us. We also feel we have much to contribute with our ideas and our people. On that point, I would like to convey to you the New Zealand Government's decision to endorse our Foreign Minister Don McKinnon as a candidate to succeed Chief Anyaoku as the next Secretary General of the Commonwealth.

We know that he would bring to the role experience, insight and energy. As members of the Commonwealth the ideas we can share, the cooperation we can pursue and the trade and investment that flows through Commonwealth relationships, are all highly valued. As Her Majesty, the Head of the Commonwealth, said last year at CHOGM: "It is people who elect their governments and exercise, by the discipline of the ballot box, their right to choose how they are governed.The more the activities of the Commonwealth bring direct benefits to its peoples, the stronger the organisation will be."

Our challenge at Commonwealth Parliamentary Conferences is to see that through our deliberations we strengthen the organisation that is the Commonwealth and through quality discussion, we reinforce the institution's ability to assist with resolving the issues of our time. I hope we will all be equal to that challenge.

I hope your time here in New Zealand will be stimulating, rewarding and memorable.

Welcome.