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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

Part of UK in Australia

25th June 2012

Blood and opium in Tasmania

Nestling amidst the verdant farmlands of northern Tasmania, I saw British companies engaged in fascinating high tech businesses linked to agriculture. Around half the world’s legitimate opiates are produced in Tasmania, half of them by UK pharma giant GSK. They process poppies grown by some 400 farms around the island, which go on to become the basis for many important global medicines. It is a very R&D oriented business, as new plant varieties are constantly being developed to produce increasingly sophisticated alkaloids.

HE Paul Madden and Sarah Madden with Steve Morris GM, GSK Latrobe

The business was set up here in the 1960s when the UK needed to find secure alternatives to production in other parts of the world. It has become a significant contributor to Tasmania’s economy. Nothing is wasted: the poppy seeds which are a by-product are sold into the catering industry. When you tuck into a lemon and poppy seed muffin anywhere in the world, the chances are the seeds came from GSK in Tasmania. My only disappointment was to learn that these poppies are all white, rather than the red ones we associate with Poppy Day in the UK.

A much smaller niche enterprise, Selborne Biological, which takes its name from the Hampshire town where its HQ is located, produces serum and proteins for the medical and veterinary industries. Its charismatic founder, Neville Pope, showed us round their state of the art high tech clean rooms and described how they own local farms with large herds of sheep and cattle, and shortly even a few camels. They also buy all the blood from Tasmania’s abattoirs to extract useful serum.

I also had the chance to discuss economic trends in Tasmania with Premier Lara Giddings and with the Launceston Chamber of Commerce. The island lags the more booming mainland states, and benefits from significant fiscal transfers from the federal government. But it has a number of important niche strengths, not least in Agriculture.

About Paul Madden

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017. He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia…

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017.

He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia until February 2015. Prior to this he was British High Commissioner in Singapore from 2007-2011.

A career diplomat, he was previously Managing Director at UK Trade and Investment (2004-2006), responsible for co-ordinating and
implementing international trade development strategies to support
companies across a wide range of business sectors.

As Assistant Director of Information at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (2003-2004) he was responsible for public diplomacy policy,
including managing the FCO funding of the BBC World Service, the British
Council and the Chevening Scholarships programme. He led the team
responsible for the award-winning UK pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan

He was Deputy High Commissioner in Singapore from 2000-2003 and has
also served in Washington (1996-2000) and Tokyo (1988-92). Between
1992-96 he worked on EU enlargement and Environmental issues at the FCO
in London.

Before joining FCO he worked at the Department of Trade and Industry
(1980-87) on a range of industrial sectors and trade policy, including
two years as a minister’s Private Secretary.

He has an MA in Economic Geography from Cambridge University, an MBA
from Durham University, studied Japanese at London University’s School
of Oriental and African Studies, and is a Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society. His first book, Raffles: Lessons in Business
Leadership, was published in 2003.

Married to Sarah, with three children, he was born in 1959, in Devon.