Saturday, May 30, 2009

South Australia Attorney-General Atkinson. Hard at work again!

I know, I’m always harping on about Members of Parliament and their overseas jaunts.

Sure, there are times when travel is necessary. This I acknowledge.

But reading these Study Tour reports makes me wanna commit unspeakable acts.

Back in December 2004, for most of December, the Attorney-General Mick Atkinson swanned across to Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Italy with his usual entourage. I assume his Chief of Staff Peter Louca was there to hold his hand, as he wrote the Report, according to the properties of the PDF file.

It reads more like a geography lesson and should have been submitted to National Geographic.

This is riveting stuff, the type of stuff that makes me do horrible things with my teeth:

'We befriended the old woman caring for the chapel who told us about the old Thessaloniki and her life under the German occupation of the Second World War.'

And his justification for spending OUR money:

'Some of the biggest ethnic community groups in South Australia, many based in my electorate of Croydon, originate from the Mediterranean. They have asked me to take an opportunity to visit their homelands to gain a better understanding of their origins, culture, language and beliefs'

And, of course, the sightseeing, sorry, cultural visits:

'In Rome we had the opportunity to visit important cultural and religious landmarks, including the colosseum and the Vatican'

Holy toledo, has any of our Polies NOT been to the Colosseum?

If you get to the end of the Summary below, I tip my hat to you. Interestingly, the author certainly does write in a very defensive way......
Summary of results and recommendations arising from the travel
I believe this travel - only the second time I have travelled overseas since I was elected in 1989 - was of benefit. I established networks that help me to converse with some of the biggest local ethnic communities. I have a markedly better understanding of the occupation of Cyprus by Turkish armed forces, a matter that has been a feature of South Australian politics for decades. I was able to establish that the Premier’s grant to some South Australian Cypriot families was being put to good effect and that these cases were proceeding apace. I recommend that the Government continue to support South Australian Cypriots in any appropriate manner to ensure the liberation and unification of the island. It is in the interests of all, on Cyprus, that peace talks succeed and they will endure if they are based on a just, lasting solution that respects international human rights standards.
In Greece, I established that South Australian volunteers to the Athens 2004 Games will be appropriately trained and that there was still a need for more skilled volunteers. I understand that this matter is being given further attention through the memorandum of understanding signed by South Australian and Greece. South Australia’s representatives to the World Council for Greeks Abroad were the stronger for the attendance of the delegation at the event. There are opportunities for stronger links between Greece and South Australia especially in the arts and culture. There are opportunities to include Greek film in our International Film Festival. There are also options for events such as the Glendi Greek Festival to source cultural artefacts and educational materials from Greece. I recommend that the South Australian Government pursue these opportunities using existing resources. Cultural and educational exchange may prompt trade.
Malta, like Cyprus, is about to become a full European Union member. Through art restorative institutions, such as the Maltese Centre for Restoration and Artlab, there is an excellent opportunity to create productive exchanges that have the potential to provide trade and educational markets. Artlab has been provided a briefing on my meetings in Malta and are now investigating avenues of mutual benefit. I understand that an appropriate joint venture could attract European Union funds. I will continue to pursue this matter. Malta should not be discounted as a source of potential immigration to South Australia. Its legacy as an English-speaking country with an understanding of our mostly British institutions make its people good candidates in our States push to increase its population. Although there are other places and sources of migration, given the size of our local Maltese-background population, chain migration could lead to settlement in South Australia rather than Sydney and Melbourne.
The Calabrian Government is keen to create better ties to South Australia. Given the devolved regional powers over trade matters in Italy there are opportunities with the Italian regions. The Italian Chamber of Commerce in South Australia has had some success in other regions of Italy and Calabria seems an untapped market. The Calabrians are genuinely interested in stronger links. Further exploration of appropriate opportunities is needed. I am maintaining contact with the regional representatives and I understand that a reciprocal delegation intends to visit South Australia.
In the Campanian region, our universities could embark on an educational partnership with Campanian universities. Similar partnerships have been established with New South Wales. I recommend that our universities investigate this matter. Italy should also be considered as a source of skilled migration to South Australia, particularly nursing and aged-care where Italian-language skills are needed.
Attachments have been provided to this report, including biographical information about some of the officials that the delegation met. Where background briefings are of use, I have attached them too. I have wherever possible credited sources for any material in this report. I extend my thanks to my colleagues Mrs Zollo and Miss Ciccarello for their assistance. I want to thank all our diplomatic representatives in each country. It is important that I acknowledge the effort of the Italian Consul to South Australia, Mr Simone di Santi, the Maltese High Commissioner, Dr Ivan Fsadni, the Consul General for Greece in South Australia, Mr Emmanuel Papadogeorgakis, and the Cyprus High Commission in Australia as well as local community leaders and my staff.
I have attached to this report transcripts of radio interviews I gave while overseas. While on this parliamentary travel, I did that which I do when I am in Adelaide and that is to ring talkback radio and tell the public what it is that I am doing as one of their elected representatives. I have been calling talkback since I was elected and I will continue to do so. That is why, when I was overseas for only the second time in my 14 years in parliament, I did what I always do, I told Adelaide listeners what I saw and did in Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Italy. Mr Speaker. I think one of the best things that we can do as members of Parliament is talk to and listen to the public. I think it is good for South Australians to know why Members of Parliament travel overseas and it is good for them to learn about the places and issues overseas that affect many of our immigrant communities here. I am not ashamed about being part of a South Australian delegation to the Mediterranean, so I had no reason to hide it. As a Member representing a very ethnically diverse constituency and as Minister for Multicultural Affairs, it is appropriate that I visit some of the principal sources of our immigrant population. I have benefited a great deal from this tour. I met many senior, influential people in each country and I believe that the visit has strengthened ties between these countries and South Australia.
Michael Atkinson M.P.
Member for Croydon

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