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

Media Release

FA180 - 17 December 2004

Diplomatic Appointment High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

I have today announced the appointment of the Hon Richard Alston as High Commissioner for Australia to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Mr Alston will succeed Mr Michael L’Estrange who has been High Commissioner since August 2000. Mr Alston is expected to take up his appointment in February 2005.

The Australia-UK bilateral relationship is an exceptionally important one, with a close alignment of security interests, vibrant trade and investment links and extensive people-to-people connections. As a major power with global influence, the UK is a key interlocutor for Australia across the full range of our foreign policy interests. Australia and the UK have an extensive trade and economic relationship. The UK is Australia's fourth largest trading partner, with two-way goods and services trade worth A$20.5 billion in 2003, and our top-ranked trading partner within the European Union. Between 2000 and 2003, Australian goods exports to the UK almost doubled to A$7.4 billion. The relationship is supported by an extensive network of bil ateral agreements, including in the areas of trade, taxation, health services and criminal investigations.

Mr Alston has had a distinguished parliamentary career as a senator for Victoria from 1986 until February 2004, and as Federal Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts from March 1996 until October 2003. During this time he was also Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate (1996-2003) and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (1993-1996). During his time in parliament he served on the Coalition front bench for a continuous period of nearly fifteen years.

Since leaving parliament he has provided advice and consulting services in both the international and domestic arenas. He is currently on the board of a number of companies including two publicly listed companies, Hansen Technologies Ltd and Broadcast Services Australia Ltd (of which he is currently the chairman). He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Information Technology at Bond University. Mr Alston has long been interested in modern literature, opera, aboriginal art and oriental rugs and currently serves on the Bell Shakespeare Foundation.

Mr Alston was born in 1941 in Perth, Western Australia. He holds degrees in Law, Arts and Commerce from Melbourne University, and Masters degrees in Law and Business Administration from Monash University. He is married and has two children.

Media Inquiries: Mr Downer's office 02 6277 7500 - DFAT Media Liaison 02 6261 1555


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