The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

FA89 - 18 July 2003

Australia's Overseas Diplomatic Network Enhanced

I am pleased to announce a number of changes to enhance Australia's overseas diplomatic network. The changes, which flow from a thorough review of Australia's overseas representation, will strengthen the Government's ability to promote Australia's interests in the rapidly evolving global environment.

The Government will open new posts in Accra (Ghana), Kuwait City and Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago), while closing posts in Barbados and Venezuela.

These changes will boost our diplomatic presence in the Gulf region and Africa and will strongly support Australia's trade and investment interests in those regions and the Caribbean. The changes will also offer benefits in garnering support for Australia's multilateral interests and candidacies. The post in Accra will strengthen Australia's presence in Africa and help service important Australian commercial interests in West Africa, including substantial Australian investments in Ghana's mining sector. It will also improve consular services available to expatriate Australians resident through wide areas of West Africa.

Kuwait is an important partner for Australia in the Gulf on a range of issues. The new post in Kuwait will enhance Australia's diplomatic presence in the region and bolster our excellent bilateral relationship with Kuwait. Australia and Kuwait have accrued great benefits from ongoing cooperation in military and security affairs - ranging from the 1991 liberation of Kuwait, to which Australia committed military forces, to the recent conflict in Iraq. Australian exports to Kuwait are substantial and fast-growing, with excellent potential for further growth.

The move of Australia's representation in the Caribbean from Barbados to Port of Spain reflects Trinidad and Tobago's position as the Caribbean's major industrialising country and growing Australian investment in the country, including in the commercial development of its oil and gas resources. Trinidad and Tobago is a significant trading partner for Australia in the Caribbean.

The decision to close our post in Caracas was influenced by the need for the Government, on an ongoing basis, to adjust its global resources to meet new priorities.

These changes to Australia's overseas diplomatic network will be phased in over the next 18 months.

Media inquiries: Andrew Park (Ministerial) Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555