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

Media Release

FA124 - 23 August 2004

Diplomatic Appointment: Consul-General In Hong Kong

I have today announced the appointment of Murray Cobban as Consul-General for Australia in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. Mr Cobban will also serve as Australia's representative to the Macau SAR and will replace David O'Leary who has been Consul-General since January 2002. Mr Cobban is expected to take up his appointment in January 2005.

Australia has important and enduring interests in Hong Kong. The Australian Government supports strongly Hong Kong's “high degree of autonomy” under Chinese sovereignty as provided for by the Basic Law, which sets out Hong Kong's constitutional framework. Open and accountable government and economic systems, the rule of law and civil society will continue to be the key to Hong Kong's success as a major international city and business centre.

Australia's economic interests in Hong Kong are both substantial and diverse. Hong Kong is Australia's eighth largest export destination, our 13th largest trading partner and our fourth largest source of investment. In addition, it is our sixth largest services export market and our sixth largest source of services imports. Hong Kong is a valued partner in APEC, the WTO and other multilateral forums.

Hong Kong is also Australia's leading business base in Asia. Some 50,000 Australians live and work in Hong Kong and more than 350 Australian companies operate there. A further 1000 companies have representative offices. Australian business activities in Hong Kong range from banking, accounting, legal, engineering and information technology services to retail and general trading. The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is among the largest in Hong Kong and is the largest Australian chamber overseas.

People-to-people links are also strong. In 2003 there were nearly 24,000 enrolments ofHong Kong students in Australia, making Hong Kong the second largest source of overseas students. In 2003 130,000 Hong Kong tourists visited Australia.

Mr Cobban is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently the Australian Ambassador to Italy and San Marino.

Mr Cobban was previously the First Assistant Secretary, Market Development Division. He has been First Assistant Secretary, Americas and Europe Division and has served as Minister and Deputy Head of Mission in Jakarta (1995-98); Consul-General in Honolulu (1993-95); and Minister and Deputy Head of Mission in Bangkok (1990-92), at the Commonwealth Secretariat (1984-88) and in the Delegation to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (1977-81). Mr Cobban joined the Department of Trade in 1968 where he held positions in a range of trade policy and marketing divisions.

Educated at the Australian National University, Mr Cobban holds a Bachelor of Economics degree. He is married.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500 - Julie McDonald (DFAT) 02 6261 1555

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