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Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
27/02/2012
Australia's overseas representation

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

Committee met at 17:02

CHAIR ( Mr Champion ): I declare open this public hearing into Australia's overseas representation. This is the fourth public hearing for the inquiry being conducted by the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade which will look at the work and structure of Australia's international diplomatic network. Today the committee will receive evidence from two industry groups: the Australia Africa Mining Industry Group and the Australian Industry Group.

The committee's recent inquiry into Australia's relationship with Africa contains several recommendations aimed at strengthening Australia's representation in Africa, including in francophone Africa and in West Africa. The Australia Africa Mining Industry Group has supported this view. The committee is interested in further discussing this topic, including whether, as proposed by the Moroccan ambassador, an embassy should be opened in Morocco.

Promotion of trade and business links is an important aspect of Australia's diplomatic activity. The committee will seek the views of the Australian Industry Group on Australia's performance and whether Australia's diplomatic footprint is adequate to this task. The fourth public hearing will be followed by a hearing in Canberra on Monday 19 March, when the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will appear again to discuss some of the evidence presented during the inquiry.

Before commencing the hearing I refer any members of the media who may be observing to the need to report fairly and accurately the proceedings of the committee as required by the Senate order concerning the broadcast of Senate and committee proceedings.

On behalf of the committee I welcome the Australia Africa Mining Industry Group. Mr Hart, you have before you a document which provides some procedural advice to witnesses. I will pause to allow you to familiarise yourself with that information.

Mr Hart : That means I cannot libel anyone in here—is that right?

Senator MOORE: No!

Mr Hart : Comforting thought!

CHAIR: Before proceeding to questions, Mr Hart, do you wish to make a short opening statement?

Mr Hart : Yes, Chair, and members of committee, I thought I would to elaborate on some of the points in our submission and perhaps make a couple of general points, given my own experience, which I will come to at the end of my statement. I would like to make a few points to begin with elaborating the role of AAMIG. Its key objectives are to support the Australian mining and services industries in Africa; build the adaptive capacity to lead in areas of governance, human rights, community and social development, and environmental management—and to see that capacity utilised on the ground, including through a collaborative approach involving the Australian government, development NGOs and academia.

Resource development in our view 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 Africa Mining Vision Action Plan, the implementation of which is being supported by global development agencies such as the World Bank and national governments, including Australia.

The Australian government 's Mining for Development initiative supports implementation of the action plan inter alia via support for African governments to build their capacity to manage the various aspects of the mining process. However, the essential ingredients for effective mining outcomes in Africa will also need to be owned and implemented by all stakeholders at the local and regional level. Hence the critical role of individual mining companies on the ground.

With an existing portfolio of more than 600 projects in 42 countries, the Australian mining industry is already a major player in African economic development. We need only look at our own history to see the extraordinary advances made in Australia from the middle of the 19th century on the back of exploitation of mineral wealth with its multiplier effects—a process of growth which continues today.

A detailed material on AAMIG and its ongoing policy development and work program can be seen on the website, which is on the bottom of our submission: www.aamig.com.

Let me emphasise now the importance of Africa to Australia. I just want to speak in economic terms. Apart from the potential of up to $50 billion of Australian mining investment in projects existing or in the pipeline—at least half of that is already on the books—Africa with a population of over one billion already has GDP of $1.7 trillion, larger than India's or Russia's, and 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 economic peril as this century unfolds.

Unfortunately, as I am sure some of you perhaps understand, Australia is currently very poorly equipped to effectively pursue its international interests across many regions of our increasingly interconnected world. The DFAT submission puts Australia at the bottom of the table of G20 countries 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. While Australia continues to achieve key foreign and trade policy objectives, less is said about what is not done and the impact on those doing or trying to do the work on a day-to-day basis.

Continuing the focus on Africa, it is interesting to compare the South African data in the DFAT submission with Australian data. South Africa, with a GDP of $354 billion in 2010 has a total network of 117 overseas posts, including 102 embassies or high commissions. Australia, with a GDP of $1.22 trillion, has a diplomatic network of 108 posts, with 80 embassies or high commissions. It is hard not to conclude that South Africa attaches far more importance to its engagement with the rest of the world to secure its interests than does Australia.

The Lowy Institute in several important studies in recent times also pointed to the inadequacy of the resourcing of the resourcing of the institutional framework for the protection and advancement of Australia's international interests. The table on page 2 of the Lowy submission's titled 'Defence, DFAT and ODA expenditure 1996-2015'—obviously, with the out years estimated—is telling. DFAT notes in its submission that it has less staff now than it had in 1996. Is the world less challenging or complex and is the need to protect and advance all of Australia's interests less compelling? I would leave that, members of the committee, for you to consider.

Why does this extraordinary situation exist? I cannot answer that in concise terms. I can say that DFAT budget cutting began, in my experience, with the Lynch expenditure review of 1983, and cuts and budget tightening have been visited on the department by all governments since that time. While there has been belated recognition recently of the need to reverse this trend, DFAT, along with other departments, is currently having to deal with a four per cent efficiency dividend in this financial. I would actually prefer to call it an inefficiency dividend, frankly. Besides which, what has been done in recent years is not the total revamp of the DFAT budget which is required to fully address the situation.

Before concluding, let me touch on some of the statistics in several of the submissions before you pointing to the thinness of Australia's representation in Africa. There are 193 countries in the United Nations, 54 of whom are in Africa. DFAT manages 95 posts in 77 countries, eight of which are in Africa. Having mentioned the United Nations, I also want to dismiss out of hand the argument sometimes put that Australia's re-engagement with Africa is solely related to Australia's Security Council bid. In my view the forward budget projections give the lie to this thesis since all of the very important new African programs peak in 2015 in the current budget framework. The UNSC vote occurs in October this year. I hope that AAMIG's submission at least helps reinforce the point that Australia's re-engagement with Africa is for far more important reasons than one UN candidacy and properly reflects critical Australian interests now and into the future.

My second point is that a note on the DFAT submission, on the table on page 13, notes that there are 37 A based staff in African representing six per cent of A based staff overseas. This is the lowest percentage for any region. That is designated in that submission. The DFAT submission, at page 33, notes that there are 46 honorary consuls, but only two of them are in Africa. I could offer a comment on this later if you are interested.

I also want to acknowledge, as the chairman noted at the beginning of his statement, the committee's inquiry into Australia's relations with Africa, completed in June 2011. The AAMIG submission to this inquiry has strongly reinforced a number of the recommendations contained therein, and Australia's engagement with government and NGOs since mid-2011 has been facilitated by the implementation of recommendation 8 in that committee report.

Finally, I offer a brief word about my own career and experience. I was asked to accept a role with AAMIG when it began its formal functioning in September 2011 and did so strongly believing what properly managed mining-led development can achieve for Africa in the 21st century. Previously I had served as an officer in the now Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1973 to 2010—38 years in effect, with a three-year secondment to the United Nations in the 1990s and, lastly, as Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, from 2007 to 2010, where I also had responsibility for 10 other West and Central African countries.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Hart. You sound well qualified to give us advice and evidence. In your evidence you referred to the work that is not done, and I guess that is hard to measure but I think it would be of benefit to the committee if we could know what that is. We understand from the evidence given already that we have a limited diplomatic footprint, and the question for the committee and the Australian people is what sort of bang for our buck would we get if we were to invest more.

Mr Hart : Let me offer a couple of comments. One of the points that we made in our AAMIG submission was that in the African context heads of mission often have impossible choices between priorities. At the moment I think most heads of mission in Africa can visit their countries of accreditation perhaps once or twice in the year and for other staff it is perhaps on a non-ongoing basis but occasionally. Clearly, therefore, the capacity of a non-resident accredited head of mission to engage intensively on issues—on behalf of the commercial sector or more generally in terms of the government's interest—has to be limited. In my case while I was in Nigeria I had 10 other countries. I did not visit all of them; I couldn't, frankly. The post now in Abuja is somewhat better placed. It has four staff including the head of mission. I had two other staff, A based, so there were three of us. As I said in the submission as an example, Nigeria itself is a country of 150 million. That is quite a large country for a post of three A based people to manage. n top of that, we had 10 other countries to try and look at. One of those was Cameroon, where a major Australian mining project was underway involving Sundance resources—and there was, of course, a tragedy attached to that in 2010 when many of the members of the board were killed in a plane crash. I went to Cameroon more frequently than to any of the non-attached countries because there were specific issues where I could play a role—not as a negotiator, because that is between the government and the private sector, but as a representative. That meant, of course, that I could not go to other countries where there were other Australian business people who would have been very happy to see me go there—possibly at a time they were there discussing matters of interest to them.

We also said in our submission that we often had to play a role in support of our broad government interests doing the work of Austrade, DIAC or AusAID. Certainly in Africa that still remains the case, notwithstanding the fact that there are improvements in the disbursement of resources there. Austrade, even at this moment, has one office in sub-Saharan Africa, in Johannesburg. It has a local office in Accra. It is beginning to slowly increase its resources. Naturally, if an Australian business group wants to come to Nigeria, they would want to come and see us—and, of course we want to see them; it is a priority for us. But if you are doing that you cannot do something else. If there was no Austrade person there then we did that work as well. When there was a visa issue, we had to deal with it because DIAC were not there. We did a lot of work, as the policies on Africa have unfolded, on aid related work because there are no AusAID people there. There are many examples that you can look at.

The other thing I would say more generally based on experience in terms of comparable organisations is that there is a lot of debate in Australia about how strong our public diplomacy work is. Certainly, it is always the area that gets the squeeze when there is any budget tightening because it is a bit fluffy. You will see in some of the submissions—I also read the submission of the Lowy Institute—how some of these areas, particularly when it is linked into social networking and so on, are major new directions in diplomacy. I would have said that for a long time our foreign ministry kept up, was able to keep up and, in many cases, was a leader. I do not for a moment decry the talent, ability and commitment of these people, but it is not possible for them to keep up in all areas now because there is just not enough money to do it—in my judgement, anyway.

Mr RUDDOCK: In some of the evidence you have given in relation to Nigeria, you have spoken about Canada. Can you tell me the extent to which Canada, with its larger presence, has achieved far better economic outcomes than Australia—more mining developments underway, bigger projects, income earned?

Mr Hart : I cannot think of a date off the top of my head. But they have a consulate general in Lagos—of course, we do not have anyone there—and that is where a lot of the commercial relationship between Nigeria and the rest of the world is grown and developed from. We are not there. Austrade would be there, I guess, if they had a post in Nigeria.

Mr RUDDOCK: You say Canada is only one third bigger than us yet it has a far larger presence. Does that far larger presence in fact give it a far larger economic footprint?

Mr Hart : Yes.

Mr RUDDOCK: It would be very persuasive if you were able to substantiate that. I was part of the African delegation that visited mines in Ghana, so I understand the importance of diplomacy to the mining companies. If we had a user-pays arrangement do you think the mining industry would want to contribute to boosting our diplomatic presence? In other words, is the diplomatic activity so important that, rather than spending on their own activity in country, they would prefer to subsidise Foreign Affairs to do it?

Mr Hart : I can hardly speak for all of them, but I suspect they would say they already pay their fair share of taxes and therefore have a right to get something back for them.

Mr RUDDOCK: I have heard a whole lot of argument about mining industries having to pay more domestically—

Mr Hart : Yes, let us not get into that.

Mr RUDDOCK: So, if they have got to pay it domestically, why shouldn't they pay it on their offshore operations?

Mr Hart : AMEC is a newly established organisation. It grew out of a desire from people in government to have closer links with the mining sector in Africa and it was only formalised in the last year and a half. One of the beliefs of the people who are involved in that—including the chairman, Bill Turner, who was the former chairman of Anvil, a hugely successful mining company in the Democratic Republic of Congo—is that a lot of synergies are available for government and the private sector to work closely together and that we have to find ways to do that, including not using the aid program but, rather, looking for partnerships. Indeed, if you look at Anvil's record, they spent a great deal of money on social and technical development in the country to help prepare the ground for the relationship, and they think government can also play something of a role in that—with most of the budget coming from the private sector, not from government. It is always easy to say, 'Can you give X, Y and Z'—and I agree that, to be persuasive, one should be able to do that—but my experience is that there are many, many opportunities which will advance the Australian national interest if our government's international footprint is a bit heavier. I say that as a general statement. But I take your point about user pays—and, in some instances, that already happens.

I will give you an example of where I think the private sector has led on Africa to an enormous extent. There is a mining meeting in Perth each year called Africa Down Under, with which I am associated—and we are going to have the first Latin American conference in Sydney in a couple of months. I was at that conference last year. It is something which is being driven by the private sector, not by government, but government have been enormously supportive of it. At that meeting last year, apart from the large number of delegates, were some 14 African ministers of mining and delegates from commerce. The major speakers at the conference were Stephen Smith—who was standing in because the then Foreign Minister Mr Rudd was medically indisposed—and also the Premier of Western Australia. We had the government and all of the community engaging. My sense is that, in Australia, the private sector and government have not always worked together—and I have been on the government side. I think the mining sector is one area where in many areas, notwithstanding the differences on certain policy issues, we have worked very well in advancing and developing our interests overseas—and often the private sector have led.

Dr STONE: I would like to hear your views on the honorary consuls—it seemed that you wanted to elaborate on your remarks. Could you also tell us your views about the growing proportion of locally engaged staff? Do they fill the gap, or do they not necessarily represent the same value for money as Australian based staff?

Mr Hart : I wanted to make the point that, when you look at the data, there are fewer honorary consuls in Africa than anywhere else. One of the reasons is that it takes quite a lot of resources and time to push that sort of process through—and, of course, you always have to be careful about dealing with people. In my time in Nigeria we identified someone in Cameroon. It was not completed in my time and, as far as I can see, it still has not been completed. There may be reasons for that. There were questions about whether he would be in the capital city or the commercial capital. If you read the list, Africa has not done so well in the honorary consul stakes. That is simply because we already have people who are very busy doing other things, so they do not have enough time to actually nail that down. When the government launched its honorary consul initiative it was easier to fill in some gaps than others, and one that has been least filled in is Africa because it is the area where there are the least government resources on the ground.

In terms of locally engaged staff, there is a longstanding issue in foreign service life about having fewer Australian staff overseas and more LES. I think the answer is that there are areas where good LES—we had some very good ones in Nigeria and we had excellent ones in the Netherlands, where I was previously—can serve some of the functions and, of course, they do not cost us much. But ultimately the representational work of a government has to be done by the diplomatic representatives of the country. It cannot be done in a fully effective way by people who are in fact members of the country in which they are living.

Dr STONE: Could you comment on whether e-diplomacy helps to overcome some of our deficits in personnel on the ground.

Mr Hart : It is an issue I did not touch on in my statement mainly because there just seemed a number of other things that I did and I did not want to spread myself too thinly. E-diplomacy is an interesting issue. It is changing the nature of the way in which the work is done. People seem to think it is a panacea. But if you get 50 emails in your box from 50 Australian companies interested in something, and you are the people on the ground having to deal with that, it does not necessarily make it a panacea. The ease of communications means there are more of them coming in, but someone still has to deal with all that. So I do not really see e-diplomacy as a magical thing where you press the button and it means you do not need people. I know there is a view that foreign services are a bit old hat and that we could just Google everything and we would not need anyone on the ground. I think Professor Langmore in his submission made some comments about all this. Of course, our experience shapes our perceptions. But my experience is that you have to have a certain number of people on the ground to represent you. Anyone can now send you an email, and someone has to reply to those emails. So it is not just a panacea that means you need fewer people.

Senator MOORE: You talked about your own experience when you worked in the area. We were lucky enough to be on the African inquiry, and I also went to Rwanda, which would have been in your Nigerian area of coverage.

Mr Hart : Rwanda is not in my area. If memory serves me right, it is under Zimbabwe, the High Commission in Harare—no, not Rwanda, unfortunately.

Senator MOORE: It is under Nigeria now, I know, because the person was travelling with us at the time. What kinds of services would be most used by people who are in the area? You touched on your own things—that you had AusAID with you, and you had to do visas because there was no-one there, and Austrade. One of your things was to go to a francophone area, where we are a bit on the thin on the ground—like not at all. What are the major services that would have to be there in any new outlets that would go into Africa?

Mr Hart : Can I comment on the francophone issue, because it was covered in your previous report as well. At the moment, our francophone work is done from Accra and from Abuja, largely. In the case of Accra, you have four people and you have, I think, 10 countries of accreditation. In the case of Abuja, you have now six countries of accreditation. When you look at all of that, you say: how much time is there to cover all of those additional countries? It is not that somehow the services would be so dramatically different; it is rather: are the people there?

We have recently been improving, I think, and requiring stronger francophone language skills. That is helpful, but it has not always been the case. Before I went to Nigeria, I had some time and I went to my colleagues and said: 'My French is quite weak. I should do some French.' They said: 'No. We don't need it. We haven't got the time and we haven't got the money.' So we did not do it. That was a disadvantage. It would have been very helpful to have been better equipped. That has been somewhat addressed since then. My successor has quite good French. Our high commissioner in Accra has some. They have one third secretary in Accra who has very good French.

If you are looking at a region where we do not have a post, we have no post in any francophone country in Africa. A number of countries have attached posts in Accra and in Nigeria. You would move some of those people away, you would create a new post and that would be purely a francophone post. And the other two would get some relief and be able to give some more attention to the balance of their portfolio of countries.

What services would they provide? If you were in the country—and you had chosen the right one—you would be much more of a focal point for any commercial or any other sort of development. In terms of political developments in the region, there are certain sorts of francophone related issues and there is a slightly different profile for francophone countries in the region. I had a number of them. It would just mean that their perspectives would be shaped by that purely francophone region where they are located in Africa. We have never had a francophone post in Africa. We have always tended to fly the British flag.

Senator MOORE: Where do you think it should go?

Mr Hart : One or two of the larger ones in the region. All of them have got pluses and minuses. Cote d'Ivoire is one but it has some issues. You will have to remind me what the first priority is. It is not Cote d'Ivoire. I am just trying to think where it is. There has been a common sense of another country, but it is not in my mind at this moment, I am sorry to say.

Mr RUDDOCK: Morocco?

Mr Hart : No, not Morocco. It is Senegal. That is the other post that there may be a case for. On the question of Morocco and the north, I read a number of your submissions and I noticed that you got a number of special pleadings from heads of mission in Canberra about Venezuela and so forth. I respect their views, of course, but you cannot do it all. Do we need a post in Morocco? I cannot answer that. The ambassador in France would perhaps know better than me. I would say that, on balance, probably francophone Africa would be a better choice than a somewhat francophone country in North Africa, Arab Africa. I think I would choose a sub-Saharan francophone post.

Ms PARKE: Thank you for coming here today to speak to us. The Australia Africa Mining Industry Group has been working with AusAID to promote corporate social responsibility among Australian mining companies upgrading in Africa, including at a seminar that I participated in which was organised by Murdoch University at the Africa Down Under conference last year. I note the group recommends the establishment of further diplomatic presence and further Austrade presence, but there is no recommendation for further AusAID presence. Do you think that would be beneficial?

Mr Hart : That is true. What I know is that there is no AusAID person today in Abuja. There are now increased AusAID staff in Africa, of course, including out of South Africa, but also in Nairobi. I am a little bit out of touch. My understanding is that there is also now someone, is there not, in Accra. I think in a submission I made to the previous review, the African review, I said I thought we should have AusAID staff in all of our African posts. We should have at least one aid based AusAID person in each if we are going to deliver programs. One of the reasons I said this was that one of the really good new programs or the programs that have grown are the small grants programs—DAP and SAS—where you might only have between $5,000 and $10,000 in some cases. But you can give $10,000 or $7,000 to a village and they can put a bore hole in, and the impact of that on their lives is amazing. Among the most satisfying work that I did in Nigeria was to go to these little projects that we were opening and see what was done, and it was very effective.

The problem though is that now of course we have grown the budget and we get hundreds of applications. It takes a lot of time to go through those applications and give everyone a fair go, if you want to do a good job. I had a subcommittee in Abuja that was doing it, chaired by our second secretary, but it took a long time and a lot of time. Even though DAP and SAS are DFAT programs they are still AusAID, and AusAID could steer it all and just be an extra pair of hands there. The more that we grow our aid budgets in the region, the more people we should have on the ground.

One of the other points I made in that submission was that there has been a disposition, as we have grown our budget in Africa, to say that some of that money should go through the multilateral system, and that is fine. Maybe it should go through the multilateral system to the UN agencies, but we should have people who can know firsthand whether that money is being used effectively, and to do that you have got to have people on the ground. It is no use asking headquarters in New York or Geneva or something. Of course they will say it is all terrific. If we want to use the multilateral system to dispense more of our aid program, we have to be able to be satisfied that those programs are working effectively on the ground.

Ms PARKE: Thank you.

CHAIR: You talked about the special pleadings that the committee has got about putting in new posts. What criteria do you suggest the country should go by when we are establishing posts? It does seem that it is a bit opaque, as it were.

Mr Hart : Yes. There have been some famous decisions in history. I do not want to be flippant, but the Venezuelans would like us to go back there. I have got no doubt, having served in Columbia for the UN, that if we open another post in that region we should go into Columbia, not into Venezuela. I think we opened the post in Venezuela in 1975. Dr Cairns went. There was a lot of oil. He thought it was a good idea, and we opened it. Venezuela is a complicated country and now there are a lot of political issues in Venezuela, but it has never been a driving force in Latin America.

If you look at that northern region—Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador—you would say that Colombia is the key country. Then you go to Peru; we are in Peru. Columbia is more important. Obviously, we make decisions to establish posts for any number of reasons. Perhaps people at a higher pay grade than I will ever reach will ultimately make those decisions but I do not think there is a clear-cut set of criteria. We would have to admit that the predilections of decision makers are often as important as any rigorous analysis that is put on the table.

Dr STONE: I will just very quickly follow on from those remarks. We did take some evidence that we are very light on the ground in the UN, as well. You have had experience in the UN.

Mr Hart : I have.

Dr STONE: Would you say that there is as much need for us to supplement our numbers in the UN, in its various committees, as there is in, say, Africa?

Mr Hart : I suppose many countries would not say that it is 'either/or'. They would be doing it in both places. That would be my first point. I served in New York from 1975 to 1978. I served in Vienna from 1990 to 1994. I think our numbers in New York are about the same as they were in the seventies; they have not grown very much, although our deputy is now called an ambassador. And we do have the Security Council.

We are no more than moderately well served by the numbers that we have in New York. We could always have more in the major multi-lateral centre of the world. But if it was a choice between whether you are going to put more people into the United Nations or, say, establish another post in Africa, my judgment would be that it would be better to strike out and put in another post, because the impact would be quite dramatic. One would be an add-on and one would be a new focal point.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: So far as the mining industry is concerned, from the Mining Council's point of view, is it more useful to have diplomatic representation at the head offices of the miners in London or, particularly, Switzerland—where Xstrata is based, where we do not have a post—or do you think it is more important to have it in Africa, where the mining is actually happening?

Mr Hart : From our point of view we are only concerned with Africa. I am not sure that if we had a post in Switzerland—we once did, in Bern—the relationship with Xstrata would be more important. I am somewhat involved with Xstrata at the moment because of their potential involvement in this conference in Sydney on Latin America. Their work and their contact with our people is with the people on the ground—in Latin America, say. So, not really, because it is the operational side. It is project work on the ground that is more important, frankly.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: This question is completely from left field. You mentioned that one of the most rewarding things you did was to see the bore in operation—in Nigeria, was it?

Mr Hart : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Did it have an Australian sign on it?

Mr Hart : Yes, absolutely. They have to. There are things about that. You put a sign up. It says that it is Australian aid. If possible you would find ways to source things from Australia. We do that too—not always but we try.

Dr STONE: That is a good question, because when we were in Indonesia recently they stuck a little sticky label on the boards—remember?

CHAIR: Yes.

Dr STONE: It was in anticipation of our arrival—I mean the Australian parliamentarians. It was AusAID or DFAT or something. This sticky label, of course, was already peeling off.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: In the Pacific islands, of course, the Chinese build these grandiose buildings with 'China' written all over them, whereas Australia does the real work with the blind, the deaf, the disadvantaged and the hospitals, and you do not know Australia is doing it—not that we are in it for self-aggrandisement, but it is nice to be recognised.

Mr Hart : In terms of AAMIG's wish to work on aid development and aid programming, which would have some government involvement—not paying all the bills but rather having some involvement—Bill has done this on the ground very much in the Congo. The view was that it would help enormously if we had more Australian government signs up to show people around that it is not only a particular business that is involved but that the government is involved.

Mr RUDDOCK: Give them a vote and we would get it!

Mr Hart : I would also say that I know that recently in the case of Namibia, where there are several Australian companies which have important mining concessions for uranium but others are very interested in them, one of the things that were said to the company by the Namibian government was, 'There's never been a minister from your country visiting us.' The High Commissioner to South Africa goes and they work and focus a lot. But we have developed a small project; AAMIG helped facilitate this project in Namibia. So governments do count, arm in arm and side by side a bit. People like to see government there.

Mr RUDDOCK: We have had a lot of special pleading, and one of the reasons we are having this inquiry is that I am strongly of the view that we need to be looking for objective evidence to support, particularly, the Africa conclusion that we were being asked to support. Most of the evidence we have had to date suggests that Australia would be better served by putting additional resources into China, particularly western China, and parts of South-East Asia and the Middle East. These would be, I think, accorded greater priority than Africa by many that are making those submissions. I wonder whether you want to comment on that.

Mr Hart : As I said, I think the answer is that we should not be in a situation where we have to choose. I agree that we have to decide on what our priorities are—of course we do—but does it have to be either/or? I know that our Austrade representative in South Africa is a very able fellow and worked extremely hard. I have just come back from Africa and was at the Indaba mining conference. There were 7,000 delegates at that conference. It was a hugely successful event involving Austrade—their lounge and so on. It was very, very good. The Austrade representative in South Africa, having looked at the numbers of Austrade people on the ground in China and the number in Africa, said that surely we would be better off putting one or two more into Africa. What is the added value if you have 30 or 40? China is a country of a billion, of course, but India is too, and Africa also has a billion. It is very hard to say, 'Where will we get the biggest set of numbers from?' I agree it is a fair question to ask. I am not saying it is not a fair question to ask, but it is very hard to make that judgment. I think the answer is that you have to make sure you cover all of your bases, and I think what we would say is that in the case of Africa we are still a bit thin. If you look at the investment levels and at the potential—in terms both of the general economic growth of Africa and of Australian interests—we are still a bit thin on the ground there.

CHAIR: On that note, dead on time, thank you for your attendance here today. If there are any matters on which we need a bit more additional information, the secretary will write to you. The secretary will also send you a copy of the transcript of your evidence to which you can make any necessary corrections to errors of transcription. Thank you very much, Mr Hart.

Mr Hart : Thank you very much, Mr Chairman and members of the committee.