South-East Asian parliamentarians have used a recent visit to Australia to learn more about its political processes and education system.
The six MPs and senators from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam spent time in Tasmania, Melbourne and Canberra as part of the second annual ASEAN Parliamentary Delegation from 13 to 20 March.
The aim of the visit was to create networking opportunities and encourage links between Australian parliamentarians and their newly-elected counterparts in ASEAN countries.
While in Melbourne the delegation met with the Asialink organisation, which aims to foster greater ties and engagement between Australia and Asia.
Vietnamese MP Ha Huy Thong said the trip was especially important ahead of the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, which will see the start of free trade between the 10-member countries.
“I’m glad to know that the Australian government has come up with a strategy called ‘Australia in the Asian Century’,” he said.
“I think this is very timely because it’s time for us to move forward together in the new century.”
Late last year the federal government put focus on the importance of Australia’s relationship with its Asian neighbours through the release of a white paper.
The parliamentarians attended meetings in Canberra with the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee and the House Education and Employment Committee and watched Question Time.
They were also keen to discuss issues common to ASEAN and Australia during a roundtable discussion with academics from the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific.
In Hobart the group visited the Moonah Primary School to learn more about its involvement in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Foundation program.
Thai Senator Preeyapun Sridhavat said she hoped to see more young people travel between her country and Australia.
“If the government helped to support the bilateral relationship between our young teenagers it would help us to get to know each other in a friendly way,” she said.
H E Mr Ha Huy Thong (Vietnam), Mr Chhit Kim Yeat (Cambodia), Mr Mark Laurie (Partner, PwC), Senator Ms M L Preeyapun Sridhavat (Thailand), Mr Muhammad Oheo Sinapoy (Indonesia), Ms Jenny McGregor (CEO, Asialink), Hon Senator Dato’ Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman (Malaysia), Ms Julia Fraser (Associate Director, Asialink) and Hon Dr Htay Win (Myanmar)
Photographer – Cameron L’Estrange, Fotogroup