The Australian-Filipino Kinship

Manila Bulletin, October 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

The Australian-Filipino Kinship


By Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.

"It all started on a very sweet note."

That was how my more senior friends who happened to be history buffs described the beginnings of our country's social and economic relations with the people of Australia.

Yes, "on a sweet note" is an appropriate way to describe it.

After all, our ties with Australia got off to a good start with the sugar trade. It appears we were exporting sugar to the great Land Down Under in the 1800s. Around that time, Australians had set up the famous Victoria Sugar Company in Melbourne which bought tons of that product from our plantations in Iloilo and Negros.

The "sweet" economic relations was strengthened by history. Our elders who lived through the Second World War fondly recall that it was to Australia that General Douglas McArthur went when our country fell into the hands of foreign invaders. It was also from Melbourne that then President Manuel Quezon addressed Filipinos via shortwave radio and told them to hang on to the hope of eventual liberation.

Memories of my recent trip to Australia are just as "sweet."

Our readers would recall that, a few weeks back, we mentioned in our column that we were invited by the Australian Political Exchange Council to visit and to gain deeper understanding of the system and processes of the government of that country.

Under the full sponsorship of the Council, I led the delegation composed of several elective and appointive officials of our government in a meaningful and memorable visit to the famous cities of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

During this visit, we had the honor of meeting with some of the most important personalities in the Australian government.

Among them were Senator Stephen Parry, president of the Senate; Tony Smith, Speaker of the House of Parliament; Keith Pitt, assistant minister for trade and Investment; Mark Butler, shadow minister for climate change and energy; Senator Zed Seselja, assistant minister for social services and multicultural affairs; Senator Scott Ryan, special minister of state; Bruce Atkinson, president of the legislative council of Victoria; Telmo Languiller, speaker of Victoria's legislative assembly; and Senator Sarah Hanson Young.

Our visit, courtesy of the Australian Political Exchange Council was educational.

Among the highlights of the visit was a thorough presentation of how Australia's bicameral parliamentary system works.

Some fifty-plus million Australians vote for their representatives in the national or federal parliament. There are a total of 226 so-called Federal Representatives. Of this total, 76 are senators and 150 serve in the "lower house" or the House of Representatives. Out of the 150, 42 also serve in the executive branch of government, leading the frontline ministries or departments.

Our education on the Australian parliamentary system helped us appreciate the maturity of democracy in that part of the world. Australia's parliament reminds us of how the British legislature works - with a clear line separating the Government and opposition in the lawmaking body. …

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