MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
4 November 1999
Diplomatic Appointment: High Commissioner to Malaysia
I have today announced the appointment of Mr Peter Varghese as Australia's High Commissioner to Malaysia.
Mr Varghese will replace Mr Robert Cotton, who has been High Commissioner since March 1997.
Australia and Malaysia enjoy a diverse and long standing bilateral relationship. Australia's relationship with Malaysia is distinguished by extensive people to people links, close defence ties and many common regional interests. Australian expertise in the area of education and training is especially highly regarded in Malaysia. Over 150,000 Malaysians have graduated from Australian Tertiary institutions since the early 1950s. In 1998 alone over 15,000 Malaysian students were studying in Australia. Both Monash University and Curtin University opened branch campuses in Malaysia in 1998.
Malaysia is Australia's third largest trading partner in ASEAN and our 13th largest partner overall. In 1998 two way trade was valued at $ 3.5 billion. To give the economic relationship added impetus, the Government inaugurated Ministerial level Joint Trade Committee (JTC) talks in Canberra in 1996. A major outcome of these talks was the signing of the new trade agreement which took effect in January 1998. The new trade agreement provides a forward looking mechanism which reflects the growing importance and diversity of the bilateral trade and investment relationship.
The cooperation and dialogue between Australia and Malaysia cover a wide range of regional and global economic, political and security issues. Our extensive defence cooperation encompasses valued bilateral links as well as cooperation through the Five Powers Defence Arrangement.
Mr Varghese is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. After joining the Department in 1979 Mr Varghese served in Vienna (1980-83), Washington (1985-88) and as Minister in Tokyo in 1994. He was Director of the Speech Writing Unit (1988-90) and Assistant Secretary, Personnel (1991-92). From 1994 to 1996 he was First Assistant Secretary, Public Affairs Division, and then head of the White Paper Secretariat (1996-97) responsible for drafting Australia's first White Paper on Foreign Affairs and Trade Policy. Mr Varghese served as First Assistant Secretary of the International Security Division in 1997 before being seconded, in February 1998, to his current position in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as head of the International Division.
Mr Varghese was born in Kenya in 1956 and migrated to Australia as a young child. He is a graduate from the University of Queensland and is married with one son.
Mr Varghese is expected to take up his appointment in February 2000.
Ministerial - Innes Willox (02) 6277 7500
Departmental - Matt Francis (02) 6261 1555
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