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

Media Statement

FA008 - 14 January 2005

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to the French Republic

I have today announced the appointment of Penelope Anne (Penny) Wensley AO as Australia's Ambassador to the French Republic.

Ms Wensley will replace Bill Fisher who has been Ambassador since November 2000. She is expected to take up her appointment in February 2005.

Ms Wensley's appointment comes at a time when we are pursuing new elements in our relationship with France. A permanent member of the UN Security Council, one of the G8 group of nations, a key member of the European Union and NATO and a Pacific neighbour, France is a country of considerable importance to Australia.

The strong relationship between the two countries is characterised by cooperation on a broad range of bilateral, regional and multilateral interests, including on Antarctica and arms control issues. Australia welcomes on-going French involvement in the Asia-Pacific and values France's contribution to regional stability and development, especially in the South Pacific. Our two countries enjoy high-level strategic dialogue on security, foreign policy and economic issues that is supported by a broad framework of treaties and agreements, including in the areas of maritime surveillance and the prevention of illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean.

Australia and France enjoy a strong trade and investment relationship which has been growing steadily in recent years. France's valuable contribution to Australia's defence industries as a supplier of important defence materiel is a clear example of the depth of this relationship.

Ms Wensley is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has most recently served as Australia's High Commissioner to India (2001-2004) and Australia's non-resident Ambassador to Bhutan (2003-2004). Prior to this she was Australia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (1997-2001). She has served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva (1993-96), Ambassador for the Environment (1992-96), Consul-General in Hong Kong (1986-88), Deputy High Commissioner in Wellington (1982-85), Deputy Head of Mission in Mexico City (1975-77) and Third, Second and First Secretary in Paris (1969-73).

In Canberra, Ms Wensley has held a range of senior policy positions including First Assistant Secretary, North Asia Division (1996-97), Principal Adviser and First Assistant Secretary, International Organisations and Legal Division (1992-93), and Assistant Secretary, East Asia Branch (1989-90).

A graduate of the University of Queensland, Ms Wensley holds a First Class Honours degree in English Language and Literature, and in French. She was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in January 2001. She is married to Dr Stuart McCosker and they have two daughters.

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

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