The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
 FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

Media Release

FA25 - 13 March 2003

Diplomatic Appointment - Ambassador to Portugal

I have today announced the appointment of Mr Greg Polson as Australia’s Ambassador to the Portuguese Republic.  He will replace Dr Janet Gardiner who has been Ambassador since July 2000.  He is expected to take up his appointment in July.

The reopening in July 2000 of the Australian Embassy in Lisbon marked a new chapter in our relations with Portugal and has helped to broaden our overall interaction in important areas such as multilateral affairs, trade and investment, culture, tourism and education.  Portugal’s integration into the European Union, its important historical and commercial links, including with countries in South America and Africa, and its membership of regional and international organisations, particularly NATO, make it an important partner for Australia in Europe.  Both countries cooperated closely to support East Timor’s transition to independence in 2002 and have a strong, shared interest in East Timor’s long-term stability and prosperity. 

People exchanges between the countries have been facilitated through the new bilateral visa arrangement that took effect in 2001.  As a result, Australians travelling to Portugal for holidays or business meetings do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, while Australia’s Electronic Travel Authority system has been extended to Portuguese passport holders.  Australia’s Portuguese community now has access to improved social security services following the signing of the revised bilateral Social Security Agreement in 2001 and its entry into force in October 2002. 

Total two-way trade has expanded by around 80 per cent in the last five years and amounted to A$276 million in fiscal year 2001-02.  Cork sales accounted for more than 60 per cent of Australia’s total imports of A$193 million.  Australian exports to Portugal reached A$83 million, due largely to coal and fast ferries sales.  Investment continues to expand.   

Bilateral visits are becoming more frequent.  I visited Portugal in February 2000 for EU Presidency consultations and bilateral meetings with the Portuguese Government.  Portuguese President, Dr Jorge Sampaio, and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Portuguese Communities Abroad, Mr António Martins da Cruz, accompanied by a large business delegation, visited Australia in May 2002.  There have also been high level defence and parliamentary exchanges.

Mr Polson is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. His positions in Canberra have included Director, Sea Law and Ocean Policy Group and Director, United States Section.  Overseas, Mr Polson has served in Nairobi, Dhaka, Hanoi (twice), Manila and Brussels.  His most recent overseas assignment was as Deputy Head of Mission in Hanoi.  From 1986 to 1988, Mr Polson was seconded as Secretary to the Government of Tuvalu.

Mr Polson was born in Adelaide and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours from the University of Adelaide and a Master of International Law from the Australian National University.  He is married with two sons.

Media inquiries: Julie McDonald (Departmental) +61 02 6261 155