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Australia-Thailand Institute.

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AUSTRALIA-THAILAND INSTITUTE I am pleased to announce the establishment of an Australia-Thailand Institute to further promote our relationship and expand institutional, cultural and people-to-people links. I am also delighted to announce that the Institute will be headed by former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade Tim Fischer AC. Mr Fischer has long-standing associations and contacts in Thailand and his knowledge and leadership will be major assets as the Institute develops its work program.

Our relations with Thailand are already strong and broadly based with close cooperation across a wide range of areas including law enforcement, counter-terrorism, education, defence, migration and tourism. The depth of our partnership was illustrated after the Boxing Day tsunami where both countries worked closely together to trace the victims of the disaster and help those in need.

The Institute’s objectives include implementing the treaty-level Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation signed by Prime Minister Howard and his Thai counterpart in July last year. This agreement identifies possible cooperation in science and technology, public sector reform, education and the environment.

Other objectives will be to promote the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) which entered into force in January and economic relations more broadly; develop professional networking and institutional links; encourage Australian community interest in Thailand and vice-versa; and promote increased knowledge of Australia’s educational, scientific and technological capabilities.

The Institute will also sponsor exchanges and foster institutional links across the public and private sectors, business, academia and the arts and civil society.

Other members of the Institute’s Executive Committee will be Dr Vijoleta Braach-Maksvytis, Director of CSIRO Global Development; Mr Mike Courtnall, President Asian Building and Manufacturing Markets of BlueScope Steel; Mr Doug Hall, Director of the Queensland Art Gallery; Mr Peter Hendy, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Ms Prue Holstein, Executive Director of the Asia Society; Professor Tony Milner, Dean of Asian Studies at the Australian National University; and Mr Sidney Myer of the Myer Foundation.

The Institute’s activities will be funded from my Department’s budget. Funding will increase gradually to around $500 000 in 2007-08 as work programs are developed.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 0419 206 890 Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

Media releases and speeches are available from DFAT via the internet.