Post-Brexit Trade Advantage Sought

The Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, has continued to express her optimism about the future of Commonwealth/UK trade post-Brexit. 

In a statement on 26 May, following a financial services conference in London attended by the High Commissioners of Australia, Canada and India, she pointed out that the cost of doing business between Commonwealth countries is, on average, 19 per cent cheaper than between non-member countries. This is because of a shared common language, common law, common institutions and common parliamentary structures. 

Former UK Foreign Minister, Hugo Swire, now deputy chair of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, observed that small and medium businesses in Commonwealth countries need to be better equipped to trade, to do business with each other, and for the Commonwealth to be there to help them ‘up their game’ in order to compete effectively.

Since 2005, the share by the Commonwealth in the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased and has overtaken the share of the European Union. 

Last word to Mr Swire: ‘If you judge a club by the length of the queue of those seeking membership, then the Commonwealth is in robust health’. 

The London conference was followed a few days later by the first India-Commonwealth Small and Medium Enterprises trade summit in Delhi, attended by representatives from 300 Indian firms and more than 100 businesses from other countries.

Australian RCS Branches Meeting

The South Australian Branch of the RCS organised a full agenda and lively social schedule when it hosted a national meeting of RCS Branches in Adelaide in May.

The RCS ACT Branch was represented by President Colin Milner, past presidents Hugh Craft and Kanti Jinna, and Councillor Elmo Jacob.

Also there were the Regional Coordinator for the Pacific, Darryl Stevens of RCS Wellington, New Zealand, and Peter Mann from the RCS Hong Kong Branch.

The President of the RCS SA Branch, Libby Ellis has since been appointed Regional Coordinator for Australia by RCS London. Jack Milne was made National Youth Coordinator.

Hopes Are High For the End of Polio

Among its myriad of images, Lagos, Nigeria with its teaming masses, grinding poverty and ceaseless frenetic activity, one never ceases to shock: it is of the young men with twisted and wasted limbs who wheel in and out between the cars on homemade skateboards, begging and hustling for survival. They are a potent reminder of the severity of disability that polio inflicts; of its capacity to twist and paralyse limbs, to cause pain, lifelong suffering and material hardship. Hopefully they may be among the last to suffer its calamitous effects.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was first launched in 1988. Channelling support from a number of sources, notably UNICEF, WHO, Rotary and the Gates Foundation, it made remarkable progress. By 2011 it had managed to slash the incidence of the disease by 99 per cent. But in four countries, however, three of them from the Commonwealth, (Nigeria, Pakistan and India), outbreaks were still being reported and there were real fears that their success would be short-lived.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard recognised the urgency of the problem and made polio eradication one of the central initiatives of the 2011 Perth CHOGM. She persuaded her fellow leaders to pledge over $100 million in new funds to the cause and it remains one of the Commonwealth’s central commitments. In 2017, a mere handful of cases have been reported. The GPEI believes the end is in sight but much remains to be done to ensure that the virus is completely eradicated.

In April this year, a delegation—including the Head of the GPEI Michael Sheldrick and representatives from WHO and Global Citizen—visited Canberra to lobby for funds to complete the task. At a meeting with RCS Council members delegates expressed their gratitude for the support they had received from the Commonwealth; Council members warmly encouraged them to continue to maintain and strengthen their links with the Commonwealth and its many civil society organisations.

Angela Neuhaus

Angela Neuhaus, former Hon. Treasurer of the Commonwealth Nurses & Midwives Federation, has spent many years in Africa, including Nigeria, on postings with her husband, Matthew Neuhaus, whose most recent post was as Ambassador to Zimbabwe.


Commonwealth Day Celebrated in Canberra

Members and friends of the RCS ACT Branch celebrated Commonwealth Day this year with a variety of events starting with the Multi-Faith Celebration in the spirit of the Commonwealth theme for 2017, A Commonwealth for Peace, followed by our annual Commonwealth Dinner and ending in a cricket match.

The Multi-Faith celebration at the Centre for Christianity and Culture in Barton on Commonwealth Day began with the tolling of the great bell in the Centre’s forecourt, once for each of the Commonwealth’s current 52 member countries. As guests took their places, unaccompanied singing from a Pacific Islands choir filled the hall. A procession of honoured guests and participants followed, led by Lieut. General John Sanderson, former Governor of Western Australia and Deputy Chair of the Centre. Then there were readings of three messages to mark the day, the first from HM The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, from the Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull and from HE General the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove, Governor General of Australia, our RCS ACT Branch Patron.

Following an address by General Sanderson on the theme A Commonwealth for Peace following by a performance of Irish dancing, a joint statement was made on behalf of ACT Faith Communities, with parts read by Mr Dean Sahu Khan, the Venerable Tempa Bejanke, Deacon John Lim and Mrs Deepali Jain.

As the celebration drew to a close, the Woden Valley Youth Choir sang, a Punjabi Dance group performed on stage, the National Anthem was sung by the congregation, and, as guests left the chapel, Pacific Island voices were again raised in a farewell song. 

A few days later, members and friends of the RCS gathered for the annual Commonwealth Dinner at the Commonwealth Club in Yarralumla. The guest speaker was the British High Commissioner, HE Mrs Menna Rawlings, who gave a wide-ranging address on the importance of Commonwealth relationships.

A cheque for $5000 was presented to the winner of the 2017 Phyllis Montgomerie Award, Mitchell McMaster, by RCS president, Colin Milner. Mitchell, a PhD candidate at the ANU, received the award for his research into mild cognitive impairment and whether it can be halted or reversed in those affected by interventions such as diet, exercise and intellectual stimulation.