Three Australian Ambassadors in Paris?

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.


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19 Responses to Three Australian Ambassadors in Paris?

  1. boy on a bike

    Screw that. How about one ambassador to cover the entire EU, plus these positions.

  2. Roberto

    No more inconceivable than Clive Palmer calling himself a Professor.

  3. Samuel J

    Yes, Roberto, but Palmer is not commiting a crime. Impersonating an Australian Ambassador is a serious crime.

  4. Crossie

    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?

    Neither Gillard nor Rudd thought that we peasants needed to be told anything. As for the cost, they probably reasoned what’s a few more millions on top of all the billions of debt we already have.

    And of course, it could just be jobs for the boys that Labor think are the best jobs.

  5. Do we really think that a New Zealander can do the job of two (or three) Australians?

    If the job is sheep shagging, then the answer is most certainly yes.

  6. According to DFAT…
    Bilateral trade and investment
    Trade and investment links between Australia and France are substantial but with the balance firmly in France’s favour. France is the fifth largest economy in the world and is Australia’s 18th largest merchandise trading partner overall (A$4.9 billion in 2012). Australia’s merchandise exports to France totalled A$1.1 billion in 2012, dominated by coal (A$499 million). Imports from France in the same period totalled A$3.8 billion, with major products including medicaments incl. veterinary (A$535 million) and alcoholic beverages (A$261 million).

    In 2012, Australia exported A$662 million in services to France. Services imports were valued at nearly A$1.1 billion, with the bulk of exports and imports comprising personal travel services. France is the most tourist-visited country in the world, and links between the two countries are significant. Australia receives close to 100,000 French visitors every year. Total Australian investment in France in 2012 was valued at close to A$30 billion (A$972 million of which was FDI). Total investment by France in Australia was valued at A$18.2 billion in 2012 (A$7.6 billion of which was FDI). France is Australia’s 10th largest source of FDI. More than 70,000 Australian jobs are attributed to France’s FDI in the country.

    I’m sure we could round up a coupe of dozen potential ‘ambassadors’ who’d drink champagne for free if the French grog and drug companies footed the bill. Cadel Evans might be persuaded, he’s in Belgium where all the french movers and shakers moved to dodge taxes. Mark Webber could cover those in Monaco.

  7. sabrina

    To be fair, it is impossible difficult for one person to have fine wine and fine dining every week, sometimes several times every day, and yet maintain a tough schedule of running from one corner of Paris to another, participate in meetings, even though one is supported by junior staff.

  8. Des Deskperson

    One fascinating fact about DFAT is that it has by far the largest SES of any APS agency, both in terms of ratio to other staff and overall numbers. At 30 June this year, DFAT had 237 SES, or about 1 in 14 employees. The largest department, Human Services, ten times the size of DFAT, has only 190 SES.

    My understanding is that this reflects a policy that all overseas posts have to be headed by an SES level employee. Years ago, it was quite common for medium and smaller sized posts – many African and Pacific posts for example – to be headed by an EL 2 or even an EL 1. I also understand that the main reason for the change in policy is that visiting Ministers and other VIPs don’t want to be glad-handed around by mere middle managers.

    The costs of employing SES staff in these jobs is, of course, exponentially more expensive.

  9. Rabz

    Impersonating an Australian Ambassador is a serious crime.

    How could anyone tell the difference? The taxpayers get screwed, regardless.

  10. You just need a few functionaries around Europe for when Aussies lose passports, get into blues etc. Maybe an ambassador to protest something or other.

    If the French want to know more about us, just tell ’em we lie to the west of New Caledonia and you can get here on one of those hops via Reunion. Tell ’em we sell coal and iron to Asia to keep our heads above water. Really, they don’t care. I’ve recently hiked over a thousand miles across Europe. The people are far more insular than us, and they don’t care.

    Aussies straining to appear cultured and involved and big “on the world stage” just come across as annoying and pretentious hicks (see Evans, Rudd, Carr et al). If anybody asks our opinion on something like Syria it’s just to get a vote or some money out of us. They don’t care.

    On the other hand, Australians being themselves without strain will have the world eating out of our hands. The world ridicules what we pretend to be…but craves what we really are.

  11. Fleeced

    Impersonating an Australian Ambassador is a serious crime.

    Really? Given what they have ambassadorships for, it’s barely a serious job – why should pretending be a serious crime?

  12. Myrrdin Seren

    Regrets to all if this has already been posted – busy weekend and following The Cat has suffered as a result.

    Richard North and his colleague Christopher Booker, who co-wrote ‘The Book’ on the EU, have been diligently following the trail of supra-national governance through and beyond the EU.

    In his post yesterday, North ties a few of the recent strands together, in a post which I think is informative in these Cat threads about why so many international representatives:

    What almost everyone has been missing is the startling extent to which regulation of all kinds, covering anything from food labelling to vehicle manufacture, from banking and insurance to fisheries, now originates from a network of global governance, forcing the EU to frame its own rules accordingly, thus downgrading it to a mere regional branch office…….

    With more and more law being made at a global level, independent countries such as Norway get to sit at the “top tables”, which are more often in Geneva, Basel, Paris and Rome than they are in Brussels.

    The European Union in Brussels is turning out to be the backwater of the “little Europeans”, with the Commission processing rules originated elsewhere into laws for its client member states.

    I highly recommend this article and some of the others cross-linked. Supra-national governance is well and truly in place.

  13. Nuke Gray

    Since the NZ economy isn’t doing as well as ours, perhaps they can only afford one person for the posts? And perhaps Kiwis are spending their holidays here, looking for work? So there’s far less Kiwis in France?
    Sorry to throw some practical issues into an ideological post, but sometimes the real world should be acknowledged, I feel.

  14. mike a.

    NZ is a poorer country than OZ and tends to be more economical in just about every area that you can think of. The Commerce Commission, for instance, is not only smaller in absolute terms than the ACCC but also per capita as well. Nearly all NZ government agencies are like that.

  15. stackja

    ALP needs jobs for the boys.

  16. PoliticoNT

    Somebody please kick me if I’m just repeating une legende urbain, but under an older pay & conditions regime at our Paris embassy a situation arose where a long serving member of admin staff ended up being paid more than the Ambassador. The agreement they (yes, yes, I’m avoiding the subject of gender) were employed under meant their salary simply increased year in year out.

    The story was repeated to me in 2006 by some disgruntled DFAT finance staff who were trying to untangle the different admin and budget arrangements each of our posts runs under.

  17. Des Deskperson

    PoliticoNT; I’ve never heard of that story, but if true it could refer to a locally engaged staff (LES) member – A French national doing admin work for the embassy. The fact that the person was reportedly ‘long-serving’ would seem to bear this out, since Australian diplos and consular staff staff are regularly rotated.

    IIRC, LES are subject to the employment laws and conditions of the host country, so there may be some Froggy long service or other labour entitlements that boosted this person’s salary package over the years.

  18. PoliticoNT

    Des – I think the individual in question was LES, but Australian by birth. DFAT’s financial system was/is a complicated mess, which used to throw up all kinds of special cases. Again, from memory, there were only a handful of staff still on this particular award and nothing much could be done apart from waiting for them to die (of natural causes, ASIS personnel being too busy on twitter/blogs to ‘remove’ anyone). But the salaries in question were astronomical.

    On a bright note re APS staffing levels, there is a proposal doing the rounds (within the new government) to abolish the EL1/EL2 levels and transition to a single ‘Director’ level. In effect it’ll get rid of EL1s, who unless they’re in an acting up role, are duty & responsibility wise simply overpaid APS6s. I accept there’s a lot of differences from department to department but the proposal would appear to have merit.

    Rampant EL1 numbers aside, the real problem for the APS is the current convention of enforcing a lack of accountability.

  19. Samuel J

    Des / PoliticoNT – I heard that a number of these long-‘serving’ LES were on a special carte de sejour which meant they did not pay any tax at all. Although they were married to French nationals, they did not take out French citizenship because they would then pay tax. So I could well imagine that the person could be paid more on a net of tax basis than the Ambassador. But of course the Ambassador is getting a free residence thrown in + staff.

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