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

Media Release

FA48 - 8 April 2004 

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Italy

I have today announced the appointment of Peter Woolcott as Australia's Ambassador to the Republic of Italy with concurrent accreditation to the Republic of San Marino.

Mr Woolcott will replace Murray Cobban who has been Ambassador since April 2001. Mr Woolcott is expected to take up his appointment in August 2004.

Australia and Italy enjoy a warm and long-standing relationship underpinned by strong community ties creating a wide network of people to people contacts and cultural links. Over 800,000 Australians claim Italian descent with almost a quarter of them born in Italy. At least 30,000 Australians are estimated to live in Italy. The countries share similar views on many global issues including human rights, security and disarmament and arms control. As a significant participant in the main international economic and financial groupings and a strong contributor to the UN, Italy is a valuable partner and interlocutor for Australia on a range of regional, multilateral and international issues. During September-October 2003 I visited Italy for bilateral meetings with the Italian Government and EU Presidency consultations.

Other areas of the relationship also continue to grow, including trade and investment and cultural and educational links. Italy is an important export destination for Australia – it is our second largest market in Europe and our sixteenth largest market worldwide. Australia's main exports to Italy in 2003 were wool ($A421 million), coal ($A161 million) and zinc ($A35 million). Australia and Italy have concluded a number of bilateral agreements covering culture, air services and economic and commercial cooperation. The two countries have recently concluded a bilateral working holidaymaker arrangement which came into force on 1 January 2004.

Mr Woolcott is a senior officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently Chief of Staff to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Other positions held include Assistant Secretary, South and South East Asia Division (January to May 1998); Director, India and Indian Ocean Section (1997); Director, Human Rights Section (1992-94); and Director, Sea Law & Ocean Policy Group (1990-91).

Overseas, Mr Woolcott has served as Deputy Head of Mission in Indonesia (2001-2002); Consul-General and Representative to CINCPAC in Honolulu (1998-2001); and Deputy Head of Mission in the Philippines (1994-97). Mr Woolcott has also served in Australian diplomatic missions in Argentina (1987-88) and Jamaica (1981-83).

Mr Woolcott holds Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the Australian National University and a Master of Arts degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He practised as a barrister in Sydney for a number of years before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1981. Mr Woolcott is married to Tanya and has two sons and a daughter.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500, Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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