Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Response from/to DFAT re: Australian Representation

Ms Lou Anderson
A/g Secretary
Public Diplomacy Division
DFAT Canberra ACT 2600

16 September 2015

Dear Ms Anderson

Thank you for your considered response with regards to my enquiry concerning Australian representation at the next two World's Fairs in Astana and Dubai.

I acknowledge your comments re: the tight budgetary position which has precluded Australian representation at Milan, however this, as in the USA case where no State Government funding can be used for representation at an Expo, and other similar cases, need not be a stumbling block in forging a Pavilion at future Fairs, but rather should be a conduit for a Government facilitated and private enterprise funded Pavilion. Diplomatic ties are of course not the only consideration here - and this is perhaps where Austrade through DFAT can pull more weight.

World's fairs are the cultural and trading Olympic games and are the pinnacle event for public diplomacy and nation branding for their given year. Being absent is a glaring and embarrassing omission, not only in bilateral relations with the host nation, but also in terms of the microcosm web of interlinked multilateral exchange amongst participating nations at the Expo itself.

Given the above, I find tight budgetary concerns by cabinet, or perceived lack of compelling geopolitical reasons to be represented at the host nation is a weathered down argument that does not wash well with me, who has seen a string of very successful Australia Pavilions since our own hosting of our very successful World Expo 88 in Brisbane.

In terms of diplomatic reciprocity alone, given that Italy was represented at World Expo 88, the Australian representation at Milan should have been given a high priority from 2 years out. And yet there was no communication from the Government - or even Parliamentary debate for that matter concerning Australia's glaring absence from Milan. A very disappointing outcome.

Australia has been an active participant in the world of world's fairs almost since their inception over 150 years ago, as a young vibrant nation they give us an unparalleled opportunity to further Australia's interests on the world stage.

The decision to not be represented at Milan must be criticised at the highest levels, hence my representation to the Senate.

We must make sure that such short-sightedness does not become the absent rubber stamp from representation at future World Expositions, and correspondingly I shall continue to lobby the Commonwealth Government to raise awareness of this issue, including considering moving the portfolio of representation at World's Fairs to Austrade and not Foreign Affairs.

I look forward to keeping your office informed.

With sincere regards

John R McGregor
Celebrate 88!
- Celebrating Brisbane's World Expo '88 and Australia at World Expositions -

Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Co-host The World's Fair Podcast

Tel +614384 89135

"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

"Anderson, Lou" <> wrote:

Hello John
Thanks for passing on a copy of your letter to Lisa Wright.

I am unable to meet while you are in Canberra tomorrow as I have a full dairy, but I can tell you that has been no decision taken on Australia's participation in Dubai Expo 2020.

As you are aware, in light of the very tight budget environment in Australia and the high cost of participation in world expos, the Government decided not to participate in the World Expo in Milan in 2015. Through our Embassy in Rome and Consul General in Milan, we continue to support Australian trade, tourism and networking events in the lead up to, and during, the Milan Expo.  And while Australia will not participate in the Expo, we have a significant public diplomacy footprint in Italy during 2015 through the Venice Biennale, managed by the Australia Council.

The Australian Government will consider any future participation in world expos on as a case by case basis evaluating events which reflect strong economic links, compelling business benefits and private sector support, as well as the right fiscal environment in Australia for Government to finance participation.

Happy for you to keep in touch but I imagine there will be no developments to share before the end of the year.

Kind regards

Lou Anderson
Director | Advocacy, Events and Outreach
Public Diplomacy Branch | Public Diplomacy and Communications Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

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