Canberra, Australia, 14 June 2011 (By Tsering Kyinzom Dhongdue) – His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited the Parliament in Canberra today for a series of meetings with members from all of Australia’s major political parties.
The invitation to visit Parliament came from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, which currently has 26 members. Some of the group members were part of the first Australian parliamentarian delegation to Dharamsala in 2009. Four core members of the group welcomed His Holiness on arrival at Parliament House this morning.
His Holiness held private meetings with Greens leader Senator Bob Brown, a long-time supporter of Tibet, Mr Tony Abbott MP, Leader of Opposition, and Mr Warren Truss MP, Leader of the Nationals. He later met with 15 members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet. The group is chaired by Mr Michael Danby MP and co-chaired by Mr Peter Slipper MP, Senator Bob Brown and Senator Nick Xenophon.
The meeting between His Holiness and the parliamentary Tibet group was a great opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues including the evolution of Tibetan democracy and its significance for the Tibetan people. His Holiness congratulated Mr Ken Wyatt MP, the first indigenous person to be elected in the House of Representatives. Mr Wyatt has recently joined the Tibet parliamentary group and has shown great interest in understanding the Tibet issue. Mr Slipper, MP, read a cross-party statement on behalf of the group and applauded His Holiness for his success in establishing a modern Tibetan democracy in exile. The group said it recognises the dire threats to Tibetan culture and livelihoods and supports the Tibetan people’s aspiration for genuine autonomy within the Chinese constitution. Acknowledging that a stable and prosperous China is important to Australia’s future, the statement affirmed that a resolution of the Tibet issue is in Australia’s national interest.
His Holiness then addressed a parliamentary reception, which was attended by around 80 MPs and Senators and a large number of advisers of parliamentarians. Ambassadors from five countries also came to the reception. This was a rare opportunity for the diplomats and parliamentarians from both houses to hear His Holiness speak on the situation in Tibet and China and the importance of upholding moral principles in politics. His Holiness told the meeting that the free world can help China to become a good member of the international community. He said, however, China must also understand its own responsibilities. To that effect, it should allow more freedom of information and develop transparency in the government.
Prior to his meetings with the politicians, His Holiness addressed a media conference. Most of the questions were around issues of climate change, trade with China and asylum seekers. Members of the Federal Press Gallery were keen to know the Dalai Lama’s views on these subjects of fierce political debates in Australia.
Despite his busy schedule, His Holiness and five representatives of major religious groups participated in an interfaith prayer service for world peace, held in Parliament House.
A brief visit to the House of Representatives during Question Time was an interesting highlight of His Holiness’ day in the Parliament. Speaker Mr Harry Jenkins, MP, welcomed the Dalai Lama as a distinguished guest to the House as His Holiness watched the proceedings from the Gallery.
Apart from his meetings in the Parliament, His Holiness gave a public talk on “Happiness, Life & Living” to a packed audience in the Royal Theatre at National Convention Centre. In the morning, he also took an opportunity to meet members of the Tibetan, Bhutanese and Mongolian communities.
His Holiness leaves Canberra tomorrow morning. He will be in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in Queensland for the next three days.