The Greatest Country In The World

Last week I flew to Geneva, Switzerland, to join colleagues in representing the Australian Parliament at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

It’s an international forum for parliamentarians to engage with each other on a range of relevant and topical subjects. It’s been operating for 125 years and this session comprises 725 MPs from 145 parliaments.

I consider it a great honour to be a delegate, even more so because this year Australia has a candidate for the position of President of the IPU.

Speaker Bronwyn Bishop needs little introduction at home or abroad – as one European delegate told me yesterday, “once you meet Mrs Bishop you never forget her.”

There are four candidates for the position and I definitely think our Speaker has a good shot at winning.

However, like so much in political life, the result doesn’t always go to the best person for the job. There are many, many different priorities and agendas running among the huge group of attendees which will influence the result.

One such indication of the competing priorities is in the selection of an emergency item for debate. There are lots of suggestions put forward, but I suspect the final debate decision will be a choice between terrorism and Ebola.

Both pose immediate and potentially longstanding threats for the entire world. Both will be very difficult to find a solution to.

There are many public critics of politicians travelling internationally and at many levels I can understand why there is sensitivity to such trips.

However, they do provide important opportunities to establish and build ongoing relationships with colleagues from around the world.

The benefits of such ‘open doors’ from outside of the executive government is good for Australia and can provide unexpected results.

The conference comes to a conclusion on Thursday, with the vote for President taking place that morning. Between now and then, we’ll all be doing our best to get another Aussie representative on the world stage.

I’ll let you know how we go next week.

Until then, stay safe and rest assured that Australia truly is the greatest country in the world. Let’s make sure it stays that way.

PS: subsequent to writing this column, the IPU decided to debate how to deal with Ebola as the emergency item.

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