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Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Page: 6406

High Commissioner to Singapore


Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:39): My question is for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister Payne. Yesterday it was announced that the former Liberal Premier of Tasmania, Will Hodgman, will be Australia's next High Commissioner to Singapore. Mr Hodgman replaces Bruce Gosper, former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Mr Gosper replaced Philip Green, the First Assistant Secretary in DFAT's International Security Division. Mr Green replaced Doug Chester, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Mr Chester replaced Miles Kupa, former Deputy Secretary of DFAT. Mr Kupa replaced Gary Quinlan, former Deputy Secretary of DFAT. Mr Quinlan replaced Murray McLean, former Deputy Secretary of DFAT. I would like to know, Minister, did you run out of DFAT deputy secretaries or is the Liberal Party just a deeper talent pool these days?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:40): I am very pleased to acknowledge the strong service of former high commissioners for Singapore that Senator Lambie has been kind enough to read into the Hansard record. In fact, I will acknowledge Mr Bruce Gosper, the incumbent high commissioner in Singapore. He and his team have been doing an exceptional job in the context of COVID-19 challenge in particular, including supporting my most recent visit to Singapore, which is one of the very few international visits that we have been able to make as a government in the context of COVID-19.

I will assume Senator Lambie's question, notwithstanding her humour, goes to the appointment of the former Premier of Tasmania, Mr Will Hodgman. Mr Hodgman is a highly qualified, very appropriate appointment to be Australia's High Commissioner to Singapore—one of the most important regional partners, a key member of ASEAN, a country with whom we have a very important strategic partnership and a digital engagement that is one of the most significant that Australia has undertaken in recent years. What former Premier Hodgman will bring to this role is a view of Australia as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in ASEAN and particularly with Singapore. He is well known for putting Tasmania on the world stage, putting Australia first in everything that he does. He is eminently well qualified. I look forward to working with him into the future as he leads Australia's representation in Singapore. It will be welcomed by Prime Minister Lee and it will be welcomed by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. It is a recognition of the important relationship we have with Singapore. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a supplementary question?


Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:42): I'm glad you mentioned that Will Hodgman was highly qualified. If he is so highly qualified, what was the selection process you followed for his appointment?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:42): Senator Lambie, the government has a range of—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left. I'm going to ask people to take a breath after I call for order before they start being disorderly again. Senator Payne.

Senator PAYNE: Thank you, Mr President. Mr Hodgman has extensive experience across key sectors of importance to the Australia-Singapore relationship, particularly trade and tourism. He will be an outstanding advocate for Australia's interests in Singapore and an outstanding advocate for our engagement through Singapore and with ASEAN in particular. He will complement the extensive work done by the incumbent, Mr Gosper, who as I said has been a fine high commissioner in Singapore and continues to be so. It is important to note that Mr Gosper does not conclude his term until January of next year. When our ambassadors and our high commissioners—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Lambie, a point of order?

Senator Lambie: I did ask what the selection process was—we haven't quite got to that yet.

The PRESIDENT: You've reminded the minister of the question. She has eight seconds, according to the Clerk. Senator Payne, have you concluded your answer?

Senator PAYNE: Yes.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a final supplementary question?





Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (14:44): Besides being a job for a mate, what professional personal relationship does Mr Hodgman have with Singapore that could possibly qualify him for this role?


Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women) (14:44): I think it is important for Senator Lambie and for those opposite, it would seem from the cacophony opposite, to really appreciate the importance we place on growing our relationship in priority areas, continuing Australia's and Singapore's work together in responding to, particularly, the health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Hodgman's extensive experience in government, trade and tourism, which are key aspects—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Lambie, on a point of order?

Senator Lambie: Mr President, I'm simply asking: what professional personal relationship did Mr Hodgman have with Singapore that could possibly qualify him? I just want to know what professional personal relationships he has to qualify him for that.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, I think, with respect, Senator Payne is being directly relevant. She is answering the question, if not necessarily in the form requested. She is being directly relevant. Senator Payne.

Senator PAYNE: Thank you. I have spoken to Mr Hodgman's particular expertise as an outstanding leader of government in Australia—an outstanding leader of government who moved Tasmania into a place on not just the Australian stage but the world stage in trade and tourism terms—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator Payne: which those opposite may wish to decry and which Senator Lambie may not accept, but which this government sees as— (Time expired)