NICOLE CHVASTEK: But first over to Perth where the Labor Member for Corio and Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Richard Marles has just come from the opening of CHOGM.
Hello there, Richard.
RICHARD MARLES: How are you, Nicole?
NICOLE CHVASTEK: How are you doing?
RICHARD MARLES: I'm very good.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: How did it go?
RICHARD MARLES: I think it was fantastic. It’s a unique event and it’s a unique kind of room if you think about all the countries sitting in it - a third of the world’s population, all the faces in the world. So all the colour of those different cultures and those different national perspectives has been on display here over the week. I think the opening ceremony that we just saw really put Australia on display in a very good light. It was a classy event. We saw some modern dance, Guy Sebastian sang beautifully, and yeah it was a great thing.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: And what was the Queen’s role?
RICHARD MARLES: Well the Queen officially opened the meeting of course and I think she lent a very dignified presence.
It’s actually the first time I've been in the same room as the Queen and there’s a bit of an aura about the Queen. So, yeah, it was a very good event.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: And she urged those attending to be bold and to freshen the Commonwealth up.
RICHARD MARLES: Which I think is the right message and certainly that’s what we're trying to take into this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as its host.
Having had the experience of the week here and seeing all the different countries that are in the room, there’s no question that the Commonwealth is a wonderful body for Australia to be a part of.
International relations, a bit like human relations, is about trying to find a connection. When you think about all the differences of the human experience, to have a body which creates this connection over a large population and all the places of the world, it’s a good forum.
But we do need to be thinking about what the forum stands for and where it goes, and from that point of view the Commonwealth is a bastion for democracy. Making that a very clear value of the Commonwealth is an important element. That’s why there'll be discussions about a Commonwealth charter which will speak to the values of democracy being adopted at some point in the near future.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: But there have been some protests in Perth?
RICHARD MARLES: Well there may have been, I must say I have not come across the protests. I actually think Perth is embracing it. Perth is an excited city. I've been to a number of cities now which are hosting major events and you can feel an energy in the air around Perth. There’ll be some of your listeners who know Perth, but there’s the city and a wonderful sort of park area between it and the Swan River. That park area has been set up for a number of public events which are going to take place over this weekend.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: My understanding is everybody’s pretty aggravated who lives in Perth with all of the traffic disruption and the amount of money being spent.
RICHARD MARLES: Oh look, you'll always get people who are cynics who will raise that kind of issue, but my experience is that when there’s a large gathering of people and an important gathering of people that the normal thing is that people embrace it.
And what I've seen is Perth embracing it, and there are a large number of public events and it seems to me this is a city that’s very excited by hosting just about the biggest gathering of world leaders in Australia’s history.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: Now the Queen leaves our shores soon I believe?
RICHARD MARLES: That’s right. She’s participated here and it’s been a fantastic visit the Queen’s made to Australia. For a woman aged 85, I think she is a very impressive person. She’s done a great job carrying off a very dignified visit to the country and opening CHOGM.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: I'm getting texts through saying that the CHOGM opening was an embarrassment, Richard. Why? Was it just your standard common or garden sort of ribbon cutting or what was the process?
RICHARD MARLES: No, well I certainly wouldn't agree with that. I've had a conversation with a number of people as we came out about what we thought of the event. I think quite the opposite actually. I thought it put Australia on show in a wonderful way. There was some modern dance, there was a strong Indigenous theme in terms of the welcome to country and a number of Indigenous dances, and that was done in a very contemporary way.
As I said Guy Sebastian led a music ensemble at the end which had a lot of modern hip hop dance. I actually thought it was a very classy affair which put Australia in a very good light to the rest of the world. As I spoke to a number of people while leaving the opening ceremony, that seemed to be the consensus of people in the room.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: And there was a rendition of the national anthem?
RICHARD MARLES: There was a rendition of the national anthem, which was a bit different. It was actually a spoken rendition of the national anthem or kind of a combination of spoken and sung at the outset, leading into a choral version which was perhaps a bit more traditional. But I think that worked well. And then there was also some classical instruments, orchestral instruments is what I'm trying to say, playing a music ensemble in the middle as well.
Apart from those performances there were obviously speeches from the Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago who is the outgoing chair of the Commonwealth.
One of the themes of this CHOGM is the empowering of women which comes about firstly because that’s an important thing to be pursuing throughout the Commonwealth, and there are a range of development goal benchmarks we still need to achieve in relation to the promotion of women. But this is also an historic Commonwealth meeting because the outgoing chair of the Commonwealth is the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, herself a woman, one of three female leaders within the Commonwealth. She of course will hand over to the incoming chair of the Commonwealth being our Prime Minister Julia Gillard. So there is a fair bit of history associated with that. And that was marked last night with an empowering women’s dinner which was really a very special event.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: Yeah, but still only three female leaders I think pointed out by the Prime Minister.
RICHARD MARLES: Yeah, and that’s right. What that highlights is there is a long way to go. But in pointing out that there are only three female leaders, it’s also been pointed out that a few years ago there was only one.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: [Laughs]
RICHARD MARLES: And so at least the graph is moving in the right direction, and that is something to be celebrated. But you're right in saying what you said. People have noted that the graph needs to move in the right direction at a faster pace.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: I'm still getting texts complaining about the opening ceremony, but I guess at least Meatloaf wasn't there so it couldn't have been that bad.
RICHARD MARLES: Well Meatloaf wasn't there, and I was at the Grand Final and have the same consensus view about his performance. But, look, of course these are subjective things. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I can only say to you that it seemed to me the consensus of the people in the room was that it was a great event.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: Richard Marles thank you very much for that snapshot.
RICHARD MARLES: It’s a pleasure, Nicole.
NICOLE CHVASTEK: That is Richard Marles who is the Federal Labor MP for Corio and the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs who’s in Perth and went to the opening ceremony of CHOGM.
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