When I completed a diplomatic assignment in South Africa, returning to Canberra headquarters, I went to the Africa desk for a dissemination of knowledge gained.
But soon I became the foreign ministry’s parliamentary liaison officer, a position I came to love.
It gave me a greater understanding of parliamentary processes, and dealings with parliamentarians themselves.
I was given the plum job, including as an adviser on foreign affairs matters, to a parliamentary delegation going to the next Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), in Geneva.
It did not start well.
The delegation was lead by a crotchety member of parliament, whose first question to me was “Pep-nick, sounds foreign to me!”
Next question was, in politically incorrect times, “Are you into women?”
I blanched, “I am married,” to which he instantly retorted, “that says nothing.”
Ah-ha, my department employed a number of people, who today would be regarded as “gay.”
Behind backs we were often called, “Foreign affairsies!”
When I convinced him of my heterosexuality, his glowering ceased, and so began a good relationship, and off with the IPU delegation as a foreign policy adviser to the six-person group.
It was a role I retained for a few years, as the conferences were bi-annual.
In 1990, I was headhunted for secondment to the president of the Australian Senate, and continued in that role, with two other presidents, for weekly meetings between the president of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, before returning to Foreign Affairs, and a posting.
All this, backgrounds retaining interest in all matters parliamentarian.
So when Bahrain’s parliament announced that it would be taking a five month break, before it sat again and resumed its legislative role again, my eyes lit up a little.
“Five months,” sounded like a lot of time away from the office to me!
The breaks for our parliamentary representatives were generally about four to five weeks, tops.
Enough time for meetings with like MPs, exchanging views, on how their parliaments operated taking away some of the good points to see how they could be applied in ours.
And vice versa, on what could be learned as well. All of course, insights with a good dose of parliamentary studies, knowledge of the way things were done.
It was essentially “a getting to see various places, to learn about the country, culture, and essentially, a learning and discovery process.
And the chance to make contacts, which might be useful to politicians in the future
Something of a “meaningful, learning jolly!”
Of course it required a report, usually written by an accompanying secretary and vetted by the Foreign Affairs adviser!
Then read by politicians, and later it was read into the Parliamentary Hansard recording as to how useful the visit had been!
But then, of course, the politicians wanted to get back to their electorates where their duties remained!
So the Bahraini delegation travel, will need the long lengthy break!