Exeter Visited by Dr. Christian Hirst
Exeter was recently visited by Doctor Christian Hirst – the Minister-Counsellor for Political and Economic Affairs from the Australian Commission – where, in partnership with the Diplomatic Hub, he delivered a lecture to Exeter students.
Dr. Hirst began by introducing himself and his career thus far. He began his diplomatic life at the Australian Ministry of Defence where he worked for six years before transferring to the Foreign Ministry. He has since worked as a diplomat acting for Australia’s interests within important international and regional allies like the United Nations, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and India. In his role at the UK High Commission, he oversees the political, public diplomacy, and policy branches of the Commission and works directly with the Australian High Commissioner, Stephen Smith.
Dr. Hirst outlined the key areas of development for UK-Australian relations in the future, repeating Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s priorities articulated during his recent visit over the Coronation. These included: the development of the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement, AUKUS and Australia’s procurement of new nuclear-powered submarines from the UK and US, prioritising net zero and intending to host COP 31, sharing technology and science, and representing Australia’s First Peoples in Australian foreign policy (including the first ever First Peoples Ambassador).
There was then a series of questions from students across a wide range of topics concerning Australia’s foreign policy outlook. The first question raised concerns that Australia’s newfound focus on the AUKUS relationship could undermine their links to strategic allies in the region. Dr. Hirst replied that some of this concern is being spread by bad actors in the region like China. Australia is aiming for peace and stability in the region, and they are hoping to neutralise threats in the region like China through their new submarines.
On further developments between the UK and Australia, Dr. Hirst was very complimentary of the free trade agreement between the two countries and hoped for the UK’s further integration into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). He also talked about Australia’s commitment to the Commonwealth, such as their delegation to the Coronation including members of the First Nation community for the first time.
Exeter will also be visited by the Minister and Deputy Head of Mission from the Swiss Embassy – Chantal Moser – on Wednesday 24th May. She will deliver a lecture at 14:30 in the Alumni Auditorium.