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

Media Release

FA139 - 13 November 2003

Diplomatic Appointment: High Commissioner To Brunei Darussalam

I have today announced the appointment of Christian Bennett as Australia's High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam. Mr Bennett will replace Allaster Cox, who has been High Commissioner since January 2001, and is expected to take up his appointment in February 2004.

On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Brunei Darussalam in 2004, the bilateral relationship continues to grow in size and strength, based on defence, education, legal and aviation cooperation as well as trade and investment links. The cultural links between Australia and Brunei are exemplified by the tour of Australia in 2004 of The Sunken Treasures of Brunei Darussalam, an exhibition of 15th and 16th century archeological artifacts.

Brunei is a key partner for Australia in APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Free Trade Area-Closer Economic Relations Closer Economic Partnership (AFTA-CER CEP), BIMP-EAGA (a sub-Regional growth area involving Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) and the Commonwealth.

Australian companies are seeking to play a substantial role in the exploration of oil and gas reserves in Brunei, which continue to be the major pillar of the Brunei economy. At the same time, Australia supports Bruneis efforts to diversify its economy away from oil and gas.

Mr Bennett is a career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. His most recent position has been Assistant Secretary, Americas Branch (2003). Previous positions include Adviser in the Office of the Foreign Minister (2001-2003); Director of the ASEAN, Burma, and Cambodia Section (2001); and Adviser in the International Division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2000-2001).

Overseas, Mr Bennett has served as First Secretary in Washington (1997-2000) and Third Secretary in Harare (1993-1995). He has also served on Australian delegations to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and to the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

Educated at the University of Melbourne, Mr Bennett holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree and a Bachelor of Law with Honours degree. He is married with one son.

Media enquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministers office) (02) 6277 7500 - Julie McDonald (Departmental) (02) 6261 1555

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