The Hon Alexander Downer, AC, Australian High Commissioner to the UK

His Excellency was introduced to all assembled in the Downer Room, Australia House, by Sir Ron Halstead CBE, President of the CFCC.

The Rt Hon the Lord Howell of Guildford, Patron of the CFCC, made introductory remarks highlighting the Commonwealth as 'the platform for the future' as quoted by HM The Queen. Looking ahead to UK hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, CHOGM in 2018, he hailed the network of the Commonwealth as key to our future.

Detailed notes and High Commissioner speech will follow.

Lord Howell Introductory Remarks at Briefing Event in the Downer Room, Australia House with The Hon Alexander Downer AC, Australian High Commissioner to the UK on 7th February 2017

Lord Howell thanked the High Commissioner for his invitation to Australia House:  he always gets a great uplift every time he comes to this venue.

  • pointed out there was never a more important time to support our ambitions in a stormy world
  • on China, we will do business with them but we will do our own deal
  • quoted HM The Queen:  “The Commonwealth is the platform for the future” giving a fantastic insight into the digital world
  • next May Britain will host the Heads of Commonwealth meeting for Trade Ministers advising that ‘while we continue to trade with Europe we will leave the right EU arrangements and will develop cultural ties with the future’.  The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018 or CHOGM 2018 in the UK will be very important; the PM has appointed a senior official to co-ordinate the event.
  • Asia, Africa and the Americas;  the network of the Commonwealth is key to our future, with common sport, practices and humour and is proud to be part of it.

The President of the CFCC, Sir Ronald Halstead CBE, introduced The Hon Alexander Downer, AC – Australian High Commissioner to the UK

The High Commissioner is a civil servant and went to university in the UK

The Hon Alexander Downer AC was appointed Australian High Commissioner in March 2014.

Mr Downer has had a long and distinguished political career in Australia, and was until recently the United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus.

He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1976 and served at the Australian Embassy in Belgium before moving into politics. Elected to the Federal Parliament in 1984 (Liberal member for Mayo in South Australia), he held this seat until his retirement from Parliament in July 2008. He served as Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, from 1996 to 2007, making him Australia’s longest-serving Foreign Minister.

Mr Downer was a Director, Bespoke Approach consultancy and visiting professor, School of History/Politics, University of Adelaide; held a professorship at Carnegie Mellon University and sits on a number of boards.

Mr Downer was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2013 and the Centenary Medal in 2001.

High Commissioner Speech summary:

- has followed the evolution of the Conservative Party; his father was also High Commissioner to the UK and the Downer Room of this venue was named after him

- Australia has enjoyed 26 years of uninterrupted growth.  30% of its trade is with China, Japan and South Korea. The UK is Australia’s second largest offshore investment destination:  Homebase and Thames Water are one of a number of companies owned by Australians.

- the EU will suffer a budgetary consequence of losing 10% of its funding through UK leaving the EU

- Australia was one of the first countries to call the UK PM when elected and offered to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement as soon as possible. If the UK is protectionist is will be difficult to get a deal. ‘If you want to be protectionist, you can’t be free trade’. However, UK has an opportunity to be a ‘Beacon of Free Trade’ in Europe and a great global leader;  Australia stands ready to help UK be a lot more competitive.  Australia seeks to have full access to the British Market.

- prosperity is driven by free trade. The UK and Australia ‘need to make this deal  successful in the interests of the international community’

See this press article in The Times a few days after this event here

Photo credits:  Elizabeth Hallett