Since 1988 there have been two Australian Ambassadors in Paris: the Australian Ambassador to France and the Australian Ambassador to the OECD. Previously there had been an Ambassador to UNESCO (famously held by Gough Whitlam from August 1983 until October 1986).
The Hawke Government decided that our delegation to UNESCO was insufficiently important to justify a specific Ambassador and downgraded the position to Permanent Delegate, usually the Deputy Head of Mission to France.
And so it was that the previous Ambassador to UNESCO was Charles Mott who held the position from November 1986 until January 1988.
On two occasions since then, the Ambassador to France simultaneously was Permanent Delegate to UNESCO (Edward Pocock from January 1988 until September 1990 and Alan Brown from March 1994 until September 1996).
But otherwise the Deputy Head of Mission has been the Permanent Delegate to UNESCO – from John Lander in 1990 until Gita Kamath in 2013. These officers have specifically not been appointed as Ambassadors with all of the extra costs and trappings associated with that office. For example, the correct title was Ms Gita Kamath, Permanent Delegate to UNESCO.
Until now. George Mina (who I understand is also the Deputy Head of Mission to France), is down on the Australian Embassy to France website as “Ambassador to UNESCO”, and in the UNESCO directory is listed as His Excellency, Mr George Mina, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate.
What gives? Did the previous Government decide to upgrade our representation to UNESCO without telling anyone? Is Mr Mina falsely claiming to be an Ambassador (which would probably be a criminal offense)? Do we really have three Ambassadors in Paris for the first time since 1988?
What we do know is that Ambassadors are appointed at the pleasure of the Governor General; that is, on the advice of the Government. Notification of the appointment of an Ambassador is made by the Foreign Minister. Here is the notice of the appointment of Ric Wells as Ambassador to France. And here is the notice of the appointment of Chris Barrett as Ambassador to the OECD.
Yet there is no press release for the appointment of George Mina as Ambassador to UNESCO.
The 1988 decision of the Hawke Government to downgrade our representation to UNESCO was correct. I would go further and withdraw from UNESCO. But if the Labor Government (Gillard / Rudd) decided to increase our representation why have we not been told? And if the level of representation has been validly increased, how much extra does it cost the taxpayer?
Because it is surely inconceivable that George Mina would falsely claim to be an Ambassador.
Australia should really have only one Ambassador in France to cover all three responsibilities: bilateral, OECD and UNESCO. That’s what the New Zealand Ambassador, Rosemary Banks does. Do we really think that a New Zealander can do the job of two (or three) Australians? I hardly think that the Abbott Government would think we need three Ambassadors based in Paris when Bob Hawke thought two would do.