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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

Part of UK in Australia

13th November 2013

Opening of Australia’s new Parliament

The 44th Australian Parliament opened yesterday. The diplomatic corps were invited to attend and observe the splendid ceremony. The Australian system is a hybrid: with an elected upper chamber it has some important differences from Westminster; but there are many similarities in procedure.

HE Paul Madden with PM Tony Abbott
HE Paul Madden with PM Tony Abbott

First the members of the House of Representatives were sworn in, either by oath or affirmation. Many had brought personal, sometimes ancient, family bibles with them on which to swear. A couple of Jewish MPs donned yarmulke for this rather moving ceremony. In the gallery proud family members watched as 42 new members – a large turnover in a house of 150 – took their seats.

Then the redoubtable and vastly experienced Bronwyn Bishop was elected as Speaker. Following Westminster tradition she was “dragged” to the chair by PM Tony Abbott and House leader Christopher Pyne. This practice goes back to 1377 when becoming Speaker, representing Parliament to the King, could be a dangerous business. In fact Ms Bishop didn’t take much persuading: she looked absolutely delighted to be taking on the prestigious role as the culmination of a long parliamentary career. The Opposition Business Manager joked that it was like being back for a new term at Hogwarts and finding that Dumbledore had been replaced as head by Madam Umbridge.

Later the Representatives were summoned to the Senate Chamber where the Governor General opened the new Parliament by reading a speech containing the new government’s legislative agenda, just as the Queen does in Westminster.

Then we joined the politicians for tea accompanied by scones and cream (which, coming from Devon, I always enjoy.) Unsurprisingly the Coalition members I chatted to seemed happier than the Labor ones, now that their turn to be in charge had come, after a six year wait. I suppose that’s part of the ups and downs of political life, and a salutary reminder that all politicians in democracies are ultimately there at the behest of the people.

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.