Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
05/12/2012
Australia and the countries of the Indian Ocean rim

HART, Mr Jeff, Special Adviser, Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group

[11:35]

CHAIR: Welcome. The committee has not received a submission from your group, but would you like to make a brief opening statement?

Mr Hart : Yes. I would first like to make a few points to elaborate on the organisation I represent, which is the Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group—AAMIG is the acronym. AAMIG aims to support the Australian mining and related services industries in Africa in building the adaptive capacity to lead in areas of governance, human rights, community and social development and environmental management and aims to see that capacity effectively utilised, including through a collaborative approach involving the Australian government, development NGOs and academia. We firmly believe that resource development will be a cornerstone, if not the cornerstone, of African economic development in the 21st century. The African Union has recognised this and has developed its African Mining Vision and Action Plan, the implementation of which is being supported by global development agencies such as the World Bank and national governments, including Australia.

With an existing portfolio of more than 600 projects in 42 African countries, the Australian mining industry is already a major player in African economic development. This engagement should continue to grow over time. While my comments on the Indian Ocean rim will largely focus on Australian interests in Africa, we must also recognise that, as a major Indian Ocean littoral state, Australia needs to be alert to geographic change throughout the Indian Ocean region and how this might impact on Australian interests.

Let me emphasise the importance of Africa to Australia, just in economic terms. Apart from the potential of up to $50 billion of Australian mining investment projects, existing or in the pipeline—and more than half of that is already firmly on the books—Africa, with a population of over one billion, already has a GDP of $1.7 trillion, larger than India's or Russia's. It is expected to grow by six per cent a year into the future, with consumer spending at double the OECD average. Australia will ignore Africa at its peril as the 21st century unfolds. Clearly not all African states abut the Indian Ocean. Indeed, only 11 do so directly. If you add the gulf states and the Indian Ocean-landlocked states you would still only get 22 African states out of a total of 54, although the proportion of sub-Saharan African states with a connection to the Indian Ocean is somewhat higher. But that is not really the point. In foreign policy terms, Australia has been talking about its interest in the Indian Ocean region for quite some time. In 1987 as director of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Western Australian office, I helped arrange the visit of the then deputy secretary Duncan Campbell to speak at the opening of an Indian Ocean study centre at Murdoch University. This was the beginning, I think, of academic efforts to study and improve Australia's focus on the region. Since then, Indian Ocean studies has been taken up by a number of academic institutions in Western Australia. We have, therefore, been gazing out at the Indian Ocean, particularly from Perth, for quite some time and thinking about what Australia's interests are, without ever having got quite to the point of determining what those interests are, perhaps beyond feeling the need to deploy significant naval assets along our western seaboard.

Let me fast-forward to August 2012 and the Africa Down Under mining conference, which has been held annually in Perth for the last 10 years. This year, 28 African delegations were present, including 18 African mining ministers. Total attendance exceeded 2,500 delegates. This conference is now the largest mining conference in Australia and the second-largest mining conference focused on Africa in the world, after the Mining Indaba in Cape Town. It is held in Australia's gateway city to the Indian Ocean. This is not to suggest that our mining links with Africa generally are our only Indian Ocean interests, but those links now provide some critical ballast which arguably was not there in the more distant past.

About two weeks ago, I was invited, with others, to meet Mr Issa Farah, who is Director General of the Puntland Petroleum and Minerals Agency. Puntland is essentially the northern half of Somalia. It is now an autonomous region, although the governance arrangements and borders are still to be fully articulated. Mr Farah has residence in Australia but, like a number of other high-ranking Puntlanders who have resided here, he has largely returned home to help rebuild his country. There is already some Australian interest in Puntland's considerable petroleum reserves, by Range Resources and Red Emperor, but the region is also rich in solid-state minerals, including iron ore, gold, copper, tin, titanium and gemstones. Farah noted that China and India are already quite active in Puntland, including at the political level. Puntland needs a great deal of help into the future in developing and managing its very significant resource wealth. Farah would like to see more Australian energy companies involved in the process. Farah attended Africa Down Under in 2010, and I said to him that Puntland should make a major effort there in 2013. I also said that the Australian government would need to help the process of Puntland's engagement along. I further suggested to Farah that, if he were to be in Perth before August next year, then AAMIG would advise its membership of the visit and explore the potential for contact. In talking about Puntland, we are of course talking literally about the Horn of Africa, with the Indian Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Aden on the other. Is this an area that Australia should be interested in? Given the human resources—including Defence lives lost—and the financial resources we have committed in Afghanistan to fight the threat of global terrorism, one would like to think so.

I spent 38 years of my full-time working life in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. For the last 28 of those years, I saw the organisation subjected to budget cuts, under governments led by both major parties. At some point during that process, I became convinced that DFAT was poorly resourced, and later hopelessly underresourced, to do the work that a foreign ministry in a country the size and importance of Australia should be doing. We know that Australia is at the bottom of the table of G20 nations in terms of our diplomatic network. When you juxtapose that data with national GDP, the relative weakness in Australia's capacity to project itself internationally is even more glaring.

There are several conclusions that I think need to be drawn. The first is that our growing relations with Africa, including in the mining sector, add weight to the importance of also looking at regional framework issues, of which the Indian Ocean regional frame of reference is an integral part. We also know that a number of Indian Ocean states are increasingly looking to Australia for leadership and support on various issues. The island country of Mauritius and the landlocked Indian Ocean country of Botswana are two cases in point. We in Australia seem to want to talk about North Asia being a priority or the Pacific rim being a priority, when a country of Australia's size and wealth, underpinned by foreign trade and strongly growing international investment interests, must adopt a global view consistent with the totality of our multifaceted interests.

Obviously there are important Australian interests in the Indian Ocean region. I have mentioned India only briefly, but it is both a potentially important partner in the region and also a competitor, including in the economic context. But there is really little point in talking about international policy issues and Australian interests unless Australia is prepared to commit the resources necessary to promote and advance those interests, which in my opinion it is certainly not doing today. I am conscious of one regional organisation, the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation. In recent times I have known little about it or its effectiveness, but I would be very surprised if Australia were investing in much time or resources in it, yet such a regional organisation could give Australia the opportunity to compete for influence.

I would like to make one final point in a slightly different context. AMMIG was established with the intention of building partnerships, including with government, to promote common Australian interests in Africa. Progress has certainly being made, but I also think the government can do more in engaging actively with the private sector. I say this having looked at the perspective from both sides. Working together to support the future economic development and stability of Puntland is an obvious case in point, not that the task there would be an easy one. Many of Australia's international security interests can in fact be advanced by effective economic development programs which, in terms of sustainable economic take-off, can only be achieved through active engagement with the private sector.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Hart. That was a very good presentation and I think we will turn your opening remarks into a submission so that everyone can get to read them before the Hansard is printed. I am very interested in what you said about Africa growing at a very considerable rate for a very long time. We are told the middle class is expanding, that the population has gone up from around 200 million towards one billion people, so they are obviously great opportunities there. Your focus is obviously on mining. Do you want to tell us a little bit about where Australia is involved in mining in Africa and what you see as the long-term potential? Is Africa going to be a competitor for the Australian mining industry in markets like China?

Mr Hart : Yes. I know this sometimes is an issue—whether our foreign mining investment creates competition or synergy. I am not a mining expert but my sense is that the Australian mining sector—and in my organisation we are working with medium-sized and so-called junior miners more than with the larger companies—tend to go where they think there are opportunities. I was in West Africa in Nigeria from 2007 to 2010 as the Australian high commissioner. We saw active engagement in a number of countries from Ghana to increasing interest in places like Burkina Faso. There are companies now in Niger looking at uranium. Obviously historically we have had a lot of mining investment in Africa and now in Botswana on the east coast—and I noted in one of the other submissions that the department of resources talk about some of the countries, particularly like Kenya where there are significant Australian interests. There are something like 600 projects with Australian mining companies involved in 42 countries. That statistic has been around for a year or so. It may have adjusted at the edges one way or another but the presence and the activity of this sector is very high and all of the Australian diplomatic representatives who tend to go to conferences like Africa Down Under also go to Mining Indaba where so many of those who they are working with in the field are also in attendance. It is a very pervasive element of our relations. In terms of our economic relations, I would argue that obviously there are some important trading relationships including with South Africa, but I would have thought the mining sector is the first sector at the moment in terms of Australian economic interests in Africa.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Thank you, Mr Hart, for your opening comments. Can you tell me a bit about your organisation? You said you were working with Australian government, NGOs and academia. Are you an NGO, are you a corporate entity or are you membership-based? What is your source of funding?

Mr Hart : AAMIG is a member-based organisation. The membership are from mining companies, both mainly junior and the medium-sized companies, and service companies. The funding, which frankly is quite modest, is based on a sliding scale for fees.

There were two elements to the genesis of this organisation—really, the driving force behind it. The general one was that the governments wished to engage more closely with the Australian mining sector, which manifested itself in periodic meetings, whether those were at Africa Down Under or Mining Indaba, between governments, diplomats and the sector. That led to the thought that maybe there needs to be some sort of more formal arrangement on the mining side. A man named Bill Turner, who is now the chair of—

Senator MARK BISHOP: Who?

Mr Hart : Bill Turner, who is the chairman of AAMIG, and who previously was the chairman of a mining company, Anvil Mining. He took the chairmanship of this, and the organisation was incorporated in 2009. It is now growing its membership; its membership now is something over 100. Because we say that there are perhaps 250 or 280 mining companies in Africa, we would like to continue to grow that.

The objective behind it is recognition, I think. From the point of view of the membership, we want to better prepare the members to be ethical development partners; to be able to contribute actively to the development effort through their mining work. We would like to see the Australian mining sector badged in that way in Africa.

Obviously, there is competition; there are other big players and other countries have different ways of doing business. We would like the Australian reputation to be one of fairness and an ethical position. There are always issues, and I suppose that one can always look at shortcomings and failures. But, generally speaking, the sector has performed very well in Africa. Twenty-eight African governments sent delegations to Perth in August, and 18 ministers came; that is a lot of ministers.

Senator MARK BISHOP: I will come to that in due course. I just wanted to find out who you were.

Mr Hart : They recognise the value of working increasingly with the Australian sector.

There are a number of ways in which we are working with our membership. If you look on the website—it is quite a good site—

Senator MARK BISHOP: What is your address?

Mr Hart : It is a Perth-based organisation in WA—

Senator MARK BISHOP: No—website address?

Mr Hart : Just aamig.com. If you just type the initials, it is there. You will see that there is a large number of documents—the international framework for development for security, OECD and Australian government documents—that we want our membership to endorse and to embrace. We are now working on a process of accreditation over time so that people fully internalise and accept that they will apply those arrangements fully.

Senator MARK BISHOP: So you are an incorporated entity, you have a membership of over 100 organisations, you are growing, you have a website and you represent mining and mining-related services, particularly in Africa. That is correct, is it?

Mr Hart : Yes, that is correct.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Could you just give me a concise mission statement of your organisation? Its fundamental purpose is what I want to get to.

Mr Hart : For its fundamental purpose—I would love to have the words in front of me, I do not have them actually—let's look at what we said in the statement, because I think that is right. It is to support the Australian mining services industry in working in Africa by building and strengthening capacity to be a leader and to be seen as the best sort of partner possible for government—regional and central government—in mining development in Africa. So it is to see—

Senator MARK BISHOP: That is good enough, that is fine. I understand exactly what you are saying.

You made reference in your opening remarks, and we have had evidence in this inquiry and had a whole range of other inquiries, about the Africa Down Under conference and the large number of senior ministerial visits which are followed up by delegations of bureaucrats and officials and the like.

We had a discussion earlier with Austrade about the potential utility or value, if any, in the government moving to facilitate or establish some form of one-stop shop where mining interests out of Africa could come to Australia and receive the advice and the expertise they need. Austrade advised that they were not doing any work in that field of a one-stop shop nature. They referred us to AusAID and the work that has been done by—

Mr Hart : Mining for Development.

Senator MARK BISHOP: the UWA and UQ through that $30 million development grant.

Mr Hart : Yes.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Your organisation seems to be very broad in its approach and what it is seeking to achieve. Do you see any value in that type of one-stop shop approach—being able to centralise and give advice of an administrative or regulatory nature on all the things that are attached to development and development services?

Mr Hart : I would have to say that I am not quite sure how you would put together such an entity. If you were looking at the expertise, it would come from such areas as the Commonwealth department of resources, of course. But in Australia a lot of mining expertise in terms of the management and regulation of mining operations is at the state level.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Correct.

Mr Hart : So you have to think about both of those things. Where would it be?

Senator MARK BISHOP: With respect, they are all secondary questions or consequential questions.

Mr Hart : Yes.

Senator MARK BISHOP: You see, what I am hearing you and other companies and organisations say is that you have a heap of senior ministers coming from Africa on a regular basis seeking advice of an administrative or regulatory nature on what sort of approach they should pursue. They go to the Western Australian or Queensland departments of mines or mineral resources, or whatever they are called. They get that advice, they like what they see and they send down bureaucrats to examine our system and take it back. There are a whole heap of other things, of course, that you have to do. I just wonder if we are sufficiently exploiting the value that lies in this country to assist in the development of other industries as they start at the bottom of the chain and move up over time.

Mr Hart : What I would certainly say—and it is based on my own time in Africa as well as my subsequent work over the last two years with AAMIG—is that what we have seen in the last five years is the development of synergy with the AusAID programs rolling out in Africa, the Mining for Development initiative and the private sector as well. We got the attention of Africa in a number of ways, and people come because they believe that there is something here for them to learn but also because they know that there are programs and activities that their people can be brought into. So it is substance and it is everyone working together, frankly. The conference in Perth run by Paydirt Media is a conference where government and the private sector work very closely together in promoting it, inviting people and so on. It is a very effective area of cooperation, I think.

Senator MARK BISHOP: So is your advice to us that the system that is evolving—and you outlined a number of fronts then and in your introductory remarks you addressed other issues—

Mr Hart : Yes.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Is the system that is evolving suiting the purposes of the market?

Mr Hart : The final point that I made in my statement was that we are developing close relationships between government and the private sector in the mining sector but there is more that can be done. Next week there is a conference here in Canberra organised by Cardno, one of AusAID's significant agents in Africa. This is to look at Mining for Development. Mining companies and, obviously, government will come together and talk in more detail about what can be done.

Let me give you two concrete examples—one of the things that we have done and one of what we would like to see done. AusAID has four priority countries for mining development in Africa at the moment, one of which is Liberia. There are a number of Australian companies who are members of AAMIG who are in Liberia. A group was convened in Perth. What are the experiences? What are the issues? What are the sticking points? A paper was prepared, and that paper was given to AusAID to help AusAID in developing their programs for engagement in Liberia.

They found it a most helpful document. We also think that, over time, miners on the ground can help identify the very good people, the promising people, for government programs. At the moment, governments put in the nominees for scholarships and that sort of thing. Sometimes those nominees are good; sometimes they are not so good. The views of the private sector could help make the programs more nuanced and more effective over time. But it does mean that people have to share information and talk, and there has to be a mechanism for that; it does not yet exist. I think that is one of the things we will be talking about next week.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Does AAMIG have the large corporates like BHP and Rio involved?

Mr Hart : They are not members. We are seeking to encourage their interest and support. The fees that AAMIG charge are not vast. A year and a half into our operation, we recognise we need a little more financial ballast as well. One of the arguments you make to people like BHP and Rio is, firstly, that we are contributing to the general wellbeing of the operations of Australian mining companies in Africa—that is, the way that they organise and conduct themselves. So that is very good for everyone, including the major players, in the general reputational thing. The other issue which is equally valid is that, over time, some of these smaller companies often come across things. For example, if they are explorers, one of the things they do is find something, scope it and then they will often sell it to major developers. If that is to happen where a member of AAMIG is involved, you could argue that a lot of the due diligence that the larger takeover companies might want to do will help them and they should be able to move more rapidly if they are dealing with members of an organisation that they know something about. We are working with them but also with others to encourage what we are calling 'sponsorship'. While I say they will not be active members, sometimes they will come and make presentations of course but as organisations they are not members of AAMIG—Rio, BHP, Xstrata are not.

Senator FAWCETT: I notice you were the high commissioner in Nigeria until 2010.

Mr Hart : Yes.

Senator FAWCETT: What areas of investment in our representation would assist Australia to open up more markets in Africa? I notice you also did work with the UN in Colombia, I think.

Mr Hart : I did work in Colombia at one stage.

Senator FAWCETT: Whether it is South America, Central America, Africa or even the Subcontinent, what specific areas of increased investment would assist Australia in terms of a national security strategy and our economic engagement?

Mr Hart : Your question related to what Australia should be doing?

Senator FAWCETT: You made the comment in your opening remarks that we were underinvesting.

Mr Hart : I was talking about government engagement.

Senator FAWCETT: In your experience in those areas, you have worked both in the diplomatic scene and in a range of areas. Where would you like to see more investment?

Mr Hart : It was something also that Peter Varghese, the incoming secretary, said in an interview a day or two ago that over time we will have to have more people on the ground and more posts in Africa. In 54 countries, we have eight. In Latin America, we have six. That means that one ambassador is looking after three or four countries. I suppose the answer is where there is a reasonably promising and significant potential in terms of the relationship, if we are not on the ground it is very difficult for government to work and facilitate activity. You always have to choose. When I was in Nigeria, I had eight other countries that I was looking at. Where there is potential and where there is investment, government working together with the private sector can facilitate economic relationships. In my working life I would not have kept doing it if I did not believe it was valuable and worthwhile. But if there are so few government posts in some parts of the world, there will not be enough connection with countries.

In Africa, hopefully we will open a post in Senegal next year. There is nothing in francophone Africa. This year in August we had four or five francophone ministers in Perth, but there is no Australian diplomatic representation on the ground in francophone Africa. Hopefully that is going to be corrected. You can look at others and you can look at your priorities. I know that we want to open more posts in China. The logic is that you want to open in a number of places to improve your footprint. Our representation is too thin. If the posts are relatively small, you simply do not have the capacity to have an impact and go and do things. I am sorry if that is rather general.

Senator FAWCETT: In this inquiry we have spoken about CSIRO joint research programs, trade missions et cetera. But what I am hearing you talk about is that it is about the investment in bricks and mortar and people so that they can actually build relationships with the countries.

Mr Hart : Let me talk about the CSIRO for a moment. I was recently in Latin America because I also work in that region. The CSIRO have now opened an office in Santiago, Chile. When the Chilean president was here in August or September an MOU was signed. In Latin America there is a recognition of Australian expertise in a whole range of areas and they want to access this. You can achieve that to some extent with these sorts of things, but I think we could do more if we were more actively engaged.

Senator STEPHENS: While you were speaking I looked at your website. You have quite an interesting focus in supporting industry. I was particularly interested in the by-line 'making a difference with African communities in reducing investment and operating risk'. I imagine there are many Australian and other mining companies interested in finding a community of interest like this to assist them in that challenge. I looked too at the conference agenda and I saw that the Foreign Minister had spoken at the conference in August. Is it your intention to publish the papers that were presented there?

Mr Hart : You are speaking about Africa Down Under?

Senator STEPHENS: Yes.

Mr Hart : That is a fair question. Paydirt Media, which I also have some connection with, does not produce a collected set of the papers. It is not like there are proceedings. Essentially—

Senator STEPHENS: No, but there were quite interesting presentations through the program and I wondered where we might be able to access them.

Mr Hart : I can certainly ask about that and come back to you through the secretariat. What happens is that those papers are often available on the websites of the companies that present, of which there are a large number, including the mining companies themselves. On the Tuesday of that conference it was research day.

Senator STEPHENS: That was going to be my next question. The Africa-Australia Research Forum—

Mr Hart : Which was organised by Murdoch University.

Senator STEPHENS: I could not find a web address for the conference itself, except to link me back to the conference. Given the range of research papers that were presented there, I am quite interested.

CHAIR: I wonder whether the WA Chamber of Mines would be able to help.

Mr Hart : No. The person you would speak to-—I have got his email address but I do not have it with me—is David Doepel, a former vice chancellor of Murdoch University. He convened the conference.

Senator STEPHENS: Okay. I will chase that.

Mr Hart : We could help you.

Senator STEPHENS: Also, on your site you make mention of the Australia-Africa Universities Network.

Mr Hart : Yes. It is not something that we are centrally involved in, but we were invited to participate in a conference that was held in Canberra at the Hyatt about two years ago which six or eight of the key Australian universities attended. They are moving more on Africa. You probably know that around the country there are various institutions that do things on Africa. It was felt that there was a need—and I am speaking for them, and they should speak for themselves. They have a working group. They are looking to develop a more focused and intensive engagement with the African universities. They want to identify the universities that they should be looking at more closely and developing links with some of them. Clearly, in terms of training, sometimes training can be delivered in Africa and sometimes it can be delivered in Australia. Some of the institutions that you would want to look at in Africa are universities, obviously. But that is a separate sort of thing that we are marginally involved in.

Senator STEPHENS: It is amazing what you uncover as you start to click through the layers. In terms of the African continent, where do you see Australia's biggest opportunity to make a difference not in the aid and development space but in connecting? I think that you were here during the previous discussion that we had, which was about sovereign risk and sovereign wealth funds and investment. Given your personal knowledge of those communities—

Mr Hart : There is one thing that I believe in; it is a matter of conviction. In this century, as it goes on, there will be more and more focus on Africa, because Africa is so rich in resources. It is rich not only in minerals and those sorts of resources but also in people. Potentially, there is a great pool of semiskilled and skilled labour. There are resources. Once it was a great agricultural continent. In recent decades, through instability, wars and god knows what else, a lot of that agriculture has fallen away. I believe that if Africa is to escape the poverty trap, if you want to call it that, it will only do so like the East Asians did it: through their own efforts. That is to say that there has to be a development model. It cannot just be a resource transfer model. You can obviously create an enabling environment for economic take-off, but you cannot give people enough. There needs to be home-grown economic development. We should look at where we can work with them. That is why the organisation that I am speaking about today, AAMIG, has that objective. Yes, of course there are common interests on the Australian side. Mining companies want to be successful and so on. But ultimately that is part of the Africa development equation if it is properly done. If it is done in the right way, the African mining boom will leave a legacy of sustainable development. We should find areas in which we can help the countries of Africa help themselves and focus on them.

AusAID have done a great deal of work in the last few years. With this vision, you have to deal with health issues as well, and that is a lot of what they are dealing with. Then there are education issues. These fundamental building blocks are also very important.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Is it a matter of us finding areas where we can help, or is it more a matter of us listening to the requests that are made by these ministers and bureaucrats for particular assistance and different approaches?

Mr Hart : I am sure that it is both. The AusAID vision—I am not here to speak for them—is essentially where they look at comparative advantage, value adding. One of the sorts of things that Australia can do better than or as good as anyone else in the world is in certain areas of health delivery. Africans might ask for a range of things, and we might say: 'We're not the best to do that; someone else is. But we are very good at doing this.' It is both, I think, to be frank; it is both sides of that sort of equation.

CHAIR: As somebody who spends a lot of time in Africa—

Mr Hart : Three years, but it is longer than a lot of people; it is not a lifetime—

CHAIR: certainly you have some knowledge of Africa. We are told that the population has grown substantially and that the middle class is growing very fast. What do you see as the future of Africa in, say, 50 years? What will we be dealing with—a population like Australia's, educated et cetera?

Mr Hart : There are still question marks and there are areas. We have just had an example of instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have periodically had military coups and so on, but much less than we would have had fifteen years ago. Let me speak personally for a moment. When I say 'personally' it is from the heart. We sometimes look at Nigeria and we think that these people are trying to con us. They scam. They use computers—blah, blah, blah. These people are terribly smart. The trouble is that for so many of them there is nowhere for them to go to get out of what they are in. Hence, they take to the airwaves and try to charm people to handing over money—and many of them do, of course. There are a lot of extraordinarily talented people there. I came across many very talented people, smart people, in Africa. We think: why aren't they doing better? There is a whole mix of reasons for that, of course. In a country like Nigeria, you could have three countries or more; it is such an extraordinary place. The talent of the people is there. They are very talented and amenable.

CHAIR: If we are talking about Australia engaging with Africa, there is obviously plenty of scope for all sorts of development—business, education and so on.

Mr Hart : Yes. We have moved significantly in the last decade. I do not know whether you know the Botswana High Commission here, in Canberra. It is the largest of any African diplomatic mission here. That is where they have the Africa Day every year. Botswana looked at Australia and said, 'This is a country that we should be more closely connected with.' They are not a littoral state; they are a landlocked state. But they have put a great deal of effort into their relationship, and it is a very significant relationship now. They are a small country but they are a rich country in terms of mining resources. And Mauritius, historically, was the other one: an island state in the Indian Ocean. Think of the number of Mauritians in Perth and elsewhere around the country. They look at Australia—and of course a lot of the world does—and think, 'This is a terrific place; we all want to get here.'

I think it is really to keep going in what we are doing, but I suppose as someone who worked in the foreign policy framework for much of my life, I often thought that we were in general terms very much focused on looking inward more and not looking outward. Also, we did not think it was that important to go out, reach out, touch people and engage with them. Clearly, it is not a zero sum thing. We are an active country in some things in the world—obviously we are. But I suspect we will find that the more we put out the more we will get back, frankly.

CHAIR: Do you think that change is occurring in our approach to the rest of world and, specifically, the countries of the Indian Ocean since that is what our inquiry is about?

Mr Hart : Well, there is the fact that you are talking about the Indian Ocean. As I said, we have been talking about the Indian Ocean, and we recognise that there are a lot of issues there. I looked at some of the submissions that were talking about minerals and the rise of India. The question is: what should be a coherent strategy for our engagement with the Indian Ocean and to articulate that and then, of course, we have to have the resources to pursue those issues. It costs financial resources and human resources. We are in a prioritising world—North Asia or Asia—and we should think about all of the world and think about where we want to be in our relationships with all of the world and, maybe, invest a little bit more in that as a long-term objective. That would be my hope.

CHAIR: Of course, that would include Africa.

Mr Hart : It would include Africa and Latin America, which is an area where people are looking increasingly across the Pacific to Australia. Interestingly, I was in Argentina recently—and you think about where Argentina is as against Chile—in the mining sector. Chile, of course, has had a major mining sector for 100 years; the Argentine has only been doing it for about 25 years. Of course, they are looking across the Atlantic. If you go to the north of Argentina, they are more interested in their relations with Chile than they are with Buenos Aires. They are looking out across to Asia, not through Buenos Aires where there is still a sort of drift towards Europe. It is an extraordinarily dynamic world we live in, and we have to take account of all of that.

CHAIR: Thank you very much indeed, Mr Hart, for your appearance today. It has been very, very interesting and very useful. If you wish to make any further comments, please let us know.

Mr Hart : Thank you for the opportunity and I am pleased to see that this subject is being addressed.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Proceedings suspended from 12:22 to 13:34