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Report on the Parliamentary Delegation visit to the Australian Federal Parliament

REPORT ON THE PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION VISIT TO THE AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT, PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA & PARLIAMENT OF TASMANIA, 21ST – 26TH SEPTEMBER 2014

PROLOGUE
The Samoa Parliamentary Support Project (SPSP) borne out of the Legislative Needs Assessment(LNA) for the Parliament of Samoa; identified one of the areas in dire need of improvement to be access to professional capacity building initiatives for Parliamentarians and Parliamentary staff. The Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly (OCLA) is tasked with ensuring that access to these initiatives are obtained, secured, sponsored and implemented with the assistance of established Parliamentary partners, donors and the Government of Samoa. In adherence with that duty, OCLA continues to work to secure opportunities for capacity building initiatives with this Delegation Visit being one of those opportunities. On 26th August 2014, Hon Speaker Laauli Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt received and accepted an Invitation from the Presiding Officers of the bicameral Parliament of Australia namely the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Bronwyn Bishop & the President of the Senate, Hon Stephen Parry for a Parliamentary Delegation from Samoa to visit selected parliamentary jurisdictions in Australia as guests of the Federal Parliament of Australia. This would strengthen ties between the Parliaments and further develop bilateral relationships.

BACKGROUND
Under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) of which the Parliament of Samoa is a member, an arrangement titled “Twinning Partners” was introduced and implemented to partner up Pacific Island Parliaments with an identified State or Territory Parliament in Australia in order to facilitate long term sustainable links and exchanges for the betterment of all entities. The Parliament of Samoa under that arrangement is “twinned” with the Parliament of Tasmania. This arrangement enabled exchanges, attachments and training opportunities between the partners since its inception to date. The latter portion of the Samoa Parliamentary Delegation visit, 21st – 26th September 2014 was held in the Parliament of Tasmania as per understanding under the twinning programme. Logistical arrangements for such exchanges are implemented by the International and Community Relations Division of the Australian Federal Parliament and the OCLA.

DELEGATION COMPOSITION
Mr Speaker selected and Cabinet approved the following Parliamentarians and Parliamentary officials for this Delegation:
1. Hon LAAULI Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt
2. Hon PAPALIITELE Niko Lee Hang
3. Hon TUUU Anasii Leota
4. LAFAITELE Patrick Leiataualesa
5. TUSA Misi Tupuola
6. TAEFU Lemi
7. FAIMALOTOA Kika Stowers Ah Kau
8. LEALAILEPULE Rimoni Aiafi
9. LEFAU Harry Schuster
10. AVEAU Niko Palamo
11. TOEOLESULUSULU Cedric Pose Schuster
12. FEPULEAI LETUFUGA Attila M Ropati
13. Charlene Malele
14. Elleria Solofa

PROGRAMME OF EVENTS
Day 1 – House of Representatives & Australian Senate
The 5 day programme was tailored to address the issues of interest previously identified by the delegation themselves. Day 1 saw observations in the two chambers of the Federal Parliament and detailed discussions on parliamentary privilege and limitations. Senior chairpersons of Committees met with the delegation to exchange views on parliamentary protocol and rules governing Government Responses. Of particular interest was the Question Time observation in chamber and the comparative gap with our own proceedings which was well noted by all.
A separate session was held with the Director of the Parliamentary Skills Center, Ms Catherine Cornish whom was on a fortnightly attachment to our Parliament for procedural assistance in 2013. Further opportunities for staff development were discussed with long term vision of sustaining the links with the Pacific Parliamentary Partnerships (PPP) beyond the life of the SPSP which will conclude mid 2015. Gratitude was expressed to the PPP for the immense assistance in capacity building for OCLA staff to set up our own Parliamentary Education and Outreach Division in early 2013.
Both of the Australian Presiding Officers hosted a dinner in honour of the delegation and assured of their commitment to the continuation of the exchanges between the Parliaments. It will be the Australia Parliament that will visit Samoa as guests of the Parliament of Samoa in 2015 in accordance with the arrangements under the exchange programme.

Day 2 – Parliament of Victoria
The Clerk of the Parliament, Mr Ray Purdey spent a large portion of the day in discussion with Members over the issues of political parties development, relationships between the Parliament and the Media / Courts / Strangers, adoption of international agreements by parliaments and remuneration of Parliamentarians. The latter issue was of great interest to our Members who entertained the possibility of pursuing requests for constituency allowances in lieu of or in addition to the contribution to political parties allocation they get annually from Government.
The delegation were also pleased to meet up again with Mr Andres Lomp, former Director of Community and International Relations from Canberra who has since taken up the position of Manager of Outreach Services for the Parliament of Victoria. Mr Lomp was instrumental in the development of the current capacity building framework in his former role. He developed a link for the visit that can be accessed at http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/component/content/article/4-articles/2367-samoan-mps-visit-victoria. This has since been posted on the Parliament of Samoa website.

Days 3, 4 & 5 – Parliament of Tasmania
The Parliament of Tasmania is also bicameral; similar to the Federal and Victoria Parliaments. The delegation was able to observe the proceedings of the Legislative Council of Tasmania; unfortunately the Legislative Assembly of Tasmania was not in session at the time. Similar to the Victoria programme, it was the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Tasmania, Mr Peter Alcock who spent the majority of time with the delegation for discussions. Particular focus was on Committee Recommendations which was detailed at length.
The delegation also met with the Vice Chancellor of the University of Tasmania and Professor Richard Herr who authored the LNA and has been regularly presenting at the Members Seminar Series under the SPSP. The last instalment of the Seminar Series for Parliamentarians will be in November 2014 at the Maota Tofilau Eti Alesana Building. Dr Herr is also the lecturer for the Parliamentary Law & Procedures Course of which 28 OCLA staff are enrolled for a Post Graduate Certificate and Certificate qualification to be accredited by the University of Tasmania upon passing. This is a milestone worth noting as Samoa is the first Parliament to have staff enrolled for this course to be followed by Solomon Islands Parliamentary staff in 2015.
If the first intake of OCLA staff are to acquire distinction and full passes, it will make for easier facilitation of another accredited course for future staff or a Diploma level qualification on same to follow. Mr Speaker conveyed the gratitude of the Parliament to the University for their part in capacity building. The visit culminated in an official dinner with executive members of the CPA Tasmania Branch.

SUMMARY
The 5 day programme was informative and invaluable to all. This exchange should be sustained so that all Members particularly newly elected members are given this opportunity to observe first hand the procedures of another jurisdiction and familiarise with their rules. For this particular Visit, matters of interest and relevance will be incorporated into the proposal for the Standing Orders Review (to be presented for approval by the Business Committee) due in 2015 before dissolution of the current Parliament.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Hon Speaker and the delegation wishes to record their appreciation to the Parliament of Australia, in particular the Presiding Officers aforementioned for the invitation. We also thank the Presiding Officers of the Parliament of Victoria, Hon Bruce Atkinson, MLC President of the Legislative Council and Hon Christine Fuffee, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. We also acknowledge the immense support of the Presiding Officers of the Tasmania Parliament, Hon Jim Wilkinson, President of the Legislative Council and Hon Elise Archer, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
The delegation also extends its gratitude to the Clerks and staff of the Parliaments visited, in particular Mr Raymond Knight, Assistant Director of the International Relations Division for the logistical support. We also acknowledge the assistance and hospitality of the Acting High Commissioner in Canberra, Fata Brian Kaio and his staff during the Canberra leg of the Visit
On a closing note, we are indebted to the Prime Minister who is also the Minister Responsible for the Legislative Assembly for his support of the Visit. Faafetai, faafetai tele lava i lau Afioga.

Ma le faaaloalo,

Hon LAAULI Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt
SPEAKER

Hon PAPALIITELE Niko Lee Hang
ASSOCIATE MINISTER FOR TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Hon TUUU Anasii Leota
ASSOCIATE MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

LAFAITELE Patrick Leiataualesa
ASSOCIATE MINISTER FOR FINANCE

TUSA Misi Tupuola
ASSOCIATE MINISTER FOR WORKS, TRANSPORT & INFRASTRUCTURE

TAEFU Lemi
ASSOCIATE MINISTER FOR JUSTICE & COURTS ADMINISTRATION

FAIMALOTOA Kika Stowers Ah Kau

LEALAILEPULE Rimoni Aiafi
OPPOSITION MEMBER

AVEAU Niko Palamo
OPPOSITION MEMBER

TOEOLESULUSULU Cedric Schuster
OPPOSITION MEMBER

LEFAU Harry Schuster
OPPOSITION MEMBER

FEPULEAI LETUFUGA Atiila Ropati
CLERK

Charlene Malele
DEPUTY CLERK

Elleria Solofa
INSTITUTIONAL STRENGTHENING OFFICER

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