Monday, February 21, 2011

Foundation Expo '88 Response re: Australia at Yeosu Expo 2012

The following is an email sent to my local member of Federal Parliament, the Honourable Mr Graham Perrett MP, for forwarding on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Mr Kevin Rudd MP.

Previous posting of the Minister's letter refers.


20 February 2011

The Honourable Mr Graham Perrett MP
Federal Member for Moreton
Sunnybank Qld 4109

c.c.  Australia-Korea Foundation, Canberra
       Mr Rod Rothwell, Executive Director, the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Korea
       H.E. Mr Sam Gerovich, Australian Ambassador to Seoul

Dear Graham:


I write to you on this occasion with regards to the above. Thank you for forwarding my concerns to the Minister's office. I wish to also thank the Minister for his response.

I acknowledge Minister Rudd's response, and wish to state the following, which I request your office forward to the Minister.

The precedent for Australia not being represented at the 'smaller, 3 month' or 'recognised' Expositions (in Bureau of International Expositions parlance), occurred with Zaragoza Expo 2008 in Spain. The three month Expo, which had as it's theme "Water and Sustainable Development", was not participated in by the Australian Government, despite the excellent thematic context in which it was held, a theme with which Australia, as one of the driest regions in the world, and one of the world's leaders in sustainable 'green' development, could have brought a great contribution. 

The most recent three month Expo before Zaragoza was the Taejon International Exposition of 1993 (Korea) which Australia did participate in, to great acclaimed success. 

Late in 2006, I wrote to the then Howard Government to ask about the Australian representation for Zaragoza, however was told that Australia would not be represented. When the Rudd Government was elected to power, I wrote again to the Prime Minister's office, asking that Australia re-consider it's position on Zaragoza, however was told that Australia was 'out of time' with regards to putting together a Pavilion for Zaragoza. 

I am not sure when or why DFAT chose to make Australia not being represented at the smaller, three month Expo's a considered 'policy' - this was certainly not the case with Korea's first International Exposition of 1993 in Taejon. Nonetheless, I disagree with the rationale that Australia should not be 'bothered' with the shorter three month Expo's - for whatever reason - which usually comes down to justifying Australian tax payer funding.

May I give the Minister some historical background into the new "Registered" and "Recognised" Expositions template, which the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) Paris brought into effect predominantly for the 21st century, to give a continuity to the World Expositions movement, without it being as financially taxing on Governments by restricting how often Governments are able to host a large-scale 6-month Expo (Registered) to every 'fifth' year, with the smaller 3 month Expos (Recognised), in between.

This occurred because of 'back-to-back' six month Expositions in the 1980s (nearly every second year), of which Brisbane's World Expo '88 was a part. Brisbane's, although a financial success, was the exception more than the rule, and the American Expositions of 1982 and 1984 both were financial disasters. America has not hosted an Exposition since. 

The BIE hence introduced the new "Registered" and "Recognized" Exposition template to restrict the frequency of Expositions, and where they could be held, partly as a response to increasing costs by hosts and participants expected to be represented at "every" World Exposition.

Correspondingly, now, a 6-month Exposition, such as the recent Shanghai World Expo - can only be held every 5 years, and the shorter 3-month Expositions, can only be held in the in between years. The shorter 3-month Expositions give developing nations, and smaller cities the opportunity to host an Exposition, at a considerably smaller financial footprint, also for the participant. 

Nonetheless, the smaller Expositions still represent a unique opportunity for nations to participate at a World Expo and further their nation's public diplomacy objectives in a targeted, and compact manner. They are still important, especially in terms of furthering Australia's bi-lateral relations, as World Expositions. Australia should not 'give up' on the 3-month Expositions simply because they are 'smaller', and hence perhaps viewed - wrongly - as 'insignificant'. 

Furthermore, in terms of justifying the expense of participating at a recognized Exposition from a tax payer's point of view, I wish to take this opportunity to remind the Minister that since the recognized Expositions are only three months, and because the host constructs the Pavilion's shell, the costs of being represented at a 3-month recognized Exposition is nearly 1/7 that of the larger Registered Expositions. Shanghai cost us $70 million. The USA budget for Yeosu, including all bumping-in, bumping-out, staffing and other costs is only $10 million. There is no reason to suggest why an Australian Pavilion at Yeosu will also not cost us more than $10 million - TOTAL.

This represents therefore, an excellent opportunity - an invitation even - for Australian Governments and enterprises to be represented in the Korean heartland - at the fraction of the cost of being represented at a larger-scale 6-month Registered Exposition.

You mention Minister of Australia's excellent diplomatic, trade and security relations with Korea. The Yeosu Exposition is a big effort by the Korean Government, and it means a lot that Australia will be represented there. Meeting personally with the Yeosu delegation at Shanghai Expo 2010 has impressed upon me that. Furthermore, an Australian representation at Yeosu fulfills all of our diplomatic and trade objectives - if there was a DFAT checklist for whether or not our representation meets DFAT's - and the Australian Government's charter - it meets every objective. 

Finally, Minister, I wish to impress upon you the alternative - the cost of NOT being represented at Yeosu. This is considerably more than the cost of representation - in terms of a diminished Australia-Korea relationship, missed business opportunities, whether that be in trade or education, as well as being unable to fulfill that more intangible yet most important objective - one which DFAT holds close to it's heart - the furtherment of bi-lateral and international goodwill.

Simply put, we are invited, Minister - we should attend. We represent a Government, we also represent an entire continent - Korea will notice Australia not being at Yeosu. It will be a glaring remark not even discussed in diplomatic circles, a considerable downgrade in the importance of the Australia-Korea relationship. For $10 million dollars, it is an investment in one of our most important trading partners that we cannot afford to miss.

We should be there.

Minister, I trust this email has been able to further influence you and your Department in making your decision for Australia to be represented at Yeosu Exposition 2012 Korea, as well as the longer-term picture regarding Australia's commitment to be represented at the Recognized, as well as Registered Expositions, whilst reminding your Department that cost-cutting in furthering Departmental objectives in this manner is in fact counter-productive and is not in the Australian tax-payer's interest. 

It is in our nation's best interests - we should be there.

Yours sincerely,

John McGregor 

John R McGregor
Executive Director Foundation Expo '88

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Co-host The World's Fair Podcast

Tel +61417 434105

"It is a great and glorious end to bless the sons of man,
And meet for peace and doing good, in kindness, while we can;
It is a greater, and more blest, the human heart to raise
Up to the God who giveth all, with gratitude and praise." 

Excerpt from prose by Martin Tupper Farquhar, on the 1851 London Crystal Palace Exhibition

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