18 June 1997

I have today announced the appointment of Ms Karina Campbell as Australian Ambassador to the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Ms Campbell will replace Mr Roland Rich, who has been Ambassador since August 1994.

Australia enjoys a strong reputation in Laos as a long term partner actively engaged in the Mekong region and with expertise directly relevant to Laos' development needs. Australia's bilateral relationship with Laos has been built over more than 40 years of unbroken diplomatic ties and supplemented by a high profile program of bilateral aid, frequent high level official visits and expanding commercial relations. Laos will become a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations, ASEAN, in July this year.

Australian commercial engagement in Laos has increased substantially in tandem with the Lao Government's economic liberalisation process. Australia's exports to Laos have risen significantly over recent years and the stock of Australian investment in Laos has reached $178.2 million. Australian companies are well represented in Laos particularly in the mining, construction and energy sectors. Australia also manages a highly regarded development cooperation program in Laos which is focused on skills development, institution building and primary health care. and which amounts to almost $20 million per year.

I hope to pay my first official visit to Laos in the near future.

Ms Campbell, a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, commenced her career in the Department in 1976, having previously worked in the Caribbean, North America and the Middle East. She worked in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from 1976 to 1983. She served in London as Minister (Political and Trade Policy) and in Canberra her appointments have included Head of the Japan Section, Head of the South Pacific Bilateral Section, Head of International Organisations Branch and Chief of Protocol. Most recently she has been Director of the New South Wales State Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Ms Campbell is a graduate of the University of Sydney.

Ms Campbell is expected to take up her appointment in September.