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Alexander Downer appointed to High Commissioner to United Kingdom

Alexander Downer is headed for London.

Alexander Downer is headed for London. Photo: Andrew Meares

As widely forecast, former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer has been appointed high commissioner to London.

The announcement, which prematurely ends the term of former South Australian Labor premier Mike Rann, was made by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop on Monday.

However, it's not all bad news for Mr Rann. He has been named the new ambassador to Italy, a move foreshadowed by Fairfax Media last month. He will take up the posting in Rome next month.

<i>Illustration: Rocco Fazzari</i>

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Mr Downer was Australia's longest-serving foreign affairs minister, from 1996 to 2007.

He follows in his father's footsteps, with Alexander Downer snr holding the high commissioner post from 1963 to 1972.

This is the second time the Abbott government has dumped a former Labor premier from a diplomatic post in favour of a former Howard government minister. Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks was blocked on the eve of his departure for the consul-general post in New York after Mr Abbott came to power last year. Former Howard government minister Nick Minchin was named as his replacement.

Mike Rann has been appointed Australia's next ambassador to Italy.

Mike Rann has been appointed Australia's next ambassador to Italy. Photo: David Mariuz

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek called for an explanation from Ms Bishop why Mr Downer was ''so abruptly installed to the position''.

''It is understood Mr Rann's term was not due to expire for around 18 months,'' Ms Plibersek said. ''In a clear sign of how controversial such a blatantly political appointment is, the Abbott government kept its decision secret until after the … state election in South Australia.

''The previous Labor government inherited Liberal appointments, like Amanda Vanstone as ambassador to Italy, who were given the opportunity to finish their terms. Labor also appointed former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson as ambassador to NATO and Tim Fischer as ambassador to the Holy See.''

Mr Downer was until recently the United Nations' special adviser on Cyprus.

 

135 comments

  • I am not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with their history, but South Australia, for some reason, seems to be the last redoubt in Australia of the fawning, bunyip Aristocracy that yeans after the good old days where everyone was in their place and there was a place for everyone. Downer and Pyne beautifully illustrate that backward looking, Empire worshipping colonial class dividing milieu. Downer will love the pomp and circumstance associated with the Feudal British crown and aristocracy that still permeates the British Isles. The bulk of Brits are likely to see him as something that reminds them of when they had an empire and Britain was Great.

    Commenter
    Lesm
    Location
    Balmain
    Date and time
    March 31, 2014, 9:45AM
    • and he will fit in well with his stockings and stilettos......

      Commenter
      shemp
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 9:52AM
    • With any luck he might be accepted as a Pom because of his affected accent, and they might keep him there amongst the real socialists.

      Commenter
      adam
      Location
      yarrawonga
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:00AM
    • What a load of whining about the appointment of a High Commissioner to the UK! Are you suggesting that we don't have one?

      Commenter
      rob1966
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:01AM
    • The "bulk of Brits" aren't "likely to see him" as anything. They wouldn't even know about a change of guard. Do we know when the last UK Ambassador to Australia changed ...or even the incumbent's name?

      Commenter
      Speed Bump
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:05AM
    • Jolly well said Lesm. One does get that similar impression.

      Commenter
      meatatarian
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:06AM
    • Seems the LNP really have embraced recycling, well, at least certain types thereof, with an almost indecent vigour. I suppose, considering Abbott suggested politicians won't be considered for Knighting, he has to give them the something and it would seem this something is a revamped, Royal Entitlement, being ''Revolving door to the Public Trough'.

      Commenter
      Warwick
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:07AM
    • 'Extremely Liberal with the truth' - that sounds like an excellent qualification for the job.

      Commenter
      adam
      Location
      yarrawonga
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:34AM
    • The stench of those years doesn't seem to leave us,
      Iraq laid to waste, Timor in poverty, the distribution of wealth upwards,
      the skyrocketing house prices,
      the crippling structural deficits set in place with their halved capital gaiins tax,negative gearing private school,private health funding middle class welfare and the demonizing of desperate humans to garner votes.
      It was a shameful and embarrassing period in our history .

      Commenter
      nkelly
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:39AM
    • Actually he'll be quite a hit with the Torys. Apparently they're quite partial to that fishnet look.

      Commenter
      Vacqueyras
      Date and time
      March 31, 2014, 10:23AM

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