Cyprus Envoy Downer Brags of Asia Business, Says No Conflict But What
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, September 17 -- Former Australian foreign minister Alexander
Downer, now working for the business consultancy Bespoke Approach and
part time for the UN on Cyprus, was again
asked Thursday by Inner
City Press if the
two roles might conflict, and what safeguards the
UN has in place.
most of his work with Bespoke Approach is in East Asia, with
Indonesia and China. He said that because he was foreign minister of
Australia for twelve years, he has good relations with China, "better
than many people I know." Some thought this sounded like a form
of advertisement, as did Downer's statement that he was asked about
Cyprus during a dinner with Indonesia's Foreign Minister a few weeks
said that he
does no work with Cyprus, Turkey or Greece, and by this appeared to
mean he does not negotiate contracts in the three, not that Bespoke
Approach does not have business relations with enterprises active
asked about an initiative in Australia to ban former minister from
serving as lobbyists for two years. While Downer said this must have
been passed only yesterday, since he'd never heard of it, from the
audience in the briefing room Australian parliamentarian Paul Neville
clarified that Queensland and New South Wales are moving on such a
added that working for the UN wouldn't be considered
lobbying. But what about working
for Bespoke Approach?
Downer, last time at UN, questions multiply
connection in this regard was listed in a recent story about the ban
on lobbying for two years:
State Government will restrict the activities of political lobbyists
to guard against corruption, cronyism and conflicts of interest. In
London last night, Premier Mike Rann announced a ban on former
ministers acting as lobbyists for two years after leaving Parliament.
Lobbyists will be listed on a public register from which they could
be struck off if they breach rules governing integrity, honesty and
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN LOBBYISTS AND THEIR CLIENTS
Liberal minister Alexander Downer
Labor senator Nick Bolkus
Liberal staffer Ian Smith
include: Minmetals Australia,
Energy, Forbes Oil & Gas,
Coal Mining Company Limited,
year, the Australian
Labor senator Nick Bolkus was paid a reported sum of $136,500 to
lobby the Rann Government on behalf of the beleaguered South
Australian Jockey Club, a board member says. SAJC director Bill
Spear, who brought legal action last November against the state's
biggest gallops club that resulted in its chief executive being
sacked, yesterday raised further questions about the board's
conduct... Mr Spear had earlier confirmed that during the past two
months, while the board and the SAJC's now-sacked chief executive
Steve Ploubidis were the subject of an independent inquiry over
vote-rigging and alleged corruption, two payments each of about
$68,000 were made to Mr Bolkus for lobbying on behalf of the club. Mr
Ploubidis denies the allegations. Mr Spear said payments in excess of
$10,000 had required board approval, which, to his knowledge, had not
been forthcoming in this case. Mr
Bolkus is a founding partner in
Adelaide lobbying firm Bespoke Approach, with former Howard
government foreign minister Alexander Downer, and businessman
Smith, who is married to former senator Natasha Stott Despoja."
said that he fills out a form for the UN Secretariat. But it is not
clear if this form lists Bespoke Approach's clients. The UN's
safeguards against conflicts by part time envoys appear lax, all the
more so after the questions that have arisen since part time UN envoy
to Niger, Canadian ex-diplomat Robert
Fowler, was kidnapped while on
non-UN business, visiting a Canadian owned gold mine. Click here
that story -- more than a week after basic questions were put to the
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, still no answers
have been received.
Paul Neville the parliamentarian explained to Inner City Press that
he has been sent to New York for the UN General Assembly for the next
thirteen weeks. Responding to Robert Fowler's detour in Niger,
Neville said that if he ventures beyond New York City, he has to get
his own insurance.
also asked Downer about leaked UN documents about his role in Cyprus,
and will report that -- and attach some of the documents --
separately. Watch this site.
* * *
UN, Downer Says Has No Conflict
in Cyprus, What Of Turkey, KKR?
Russell Lee of
Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 --
How does the UN police for conflicts of interest in
its ranks? The answer appears to be, it doesn't. Last week the UN's
Cyprus, Alexander Downer, took questions from the Press. Inner City
asked, as it had in 2008,
what safeguards are in place to ensure that Downer's
job with business consultancy Bespoke Approach doesn't conflict with
activities in and around Cyprus.
assured that he wouldn't allow conflicts,
adding that Cyprus
doesn't have that much business. Neither is a satisfactory response at
organization like the UN. Only a few month ago, the UN's stealth envoy
former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, was kidnapped in Niger while on
a Canadian-owned gold mine, apparently not on UN business. The UN
refused to answer questions, even after Fowler had been released,
reportedly in exchange for the freeing of terrorism suspects.
Downer's answer as to Cyprus is particularly
Bespoke Approach work with Turkey (or Greece) would also be a conflict.
firm KKR lists an affiliation with Bespoke Approach. Who is
these conflicts? Not the UN.
Downer at UN, questions being raised, answers awaited
Cyprus foreign service has made this
transcript of Inner City Press' Q&A with Downer:
Press: there’s been some controversy or questioning about if you can be
envoy and also have side job as a businessman?
was employed part-time not full-time so I have to keep body and soul
I’ve got a wife, I’ve got children. My daughter got married last week,
have to pay for the wedding and thank you for congratulating me. It’s
part-time job. Of course I have absolutely no business with Cyprus at
have absolutely no business involvement there. To have business
there would be a conflict of interest. Cyprus would be the greatest of
perspective, I love Cyprus, is not a very big place, it’s not like the
States. So business doesn’t arise day-by-day between Australia and
Press: I found on the UN website of bespoke approach, it says you are a
person to hire in part, because you work for the UN. So some people
whether it’s appropriate to …..
just say I’m a good person to hire because if you read it carefully,
work for the UN, it just explains my CV. You are working in the media
and so I
think you would appreciate this point in the way that I do. I think
transparency is incredibly important. Therefore, it wouldn’t be honest
from anybody who may use bespoke approach. But it’s a fair question to
because obviously I have to be careful there is no conflict of
interest. Also I
work as a professor at Adelaide University. In that capacity I do talk
people about Cyprus from time to time. In Australia there’s quite a lot
interest on Cyprus. There are nearly 100,000 Australian Cypriots. They
about 60 – 40 Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots. So they keep me busy as
some of them are on campus of the university. One of them was at my
wedding actually last week and started lobbying me furiously about some
to what I’m going to do.
for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters
footage, about civilian
in Sri Lanka.
Click here for Inner City
Press' March 27 UN debate
Click here for Inner City
Press March 12 UN (and AIG
Click here for Inner City
Press' Feb 26 UN debate
12 debate on Sri Lanka http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/17772?in=11:33&out=32:56
Click here for Inner City Press' Jan.
16, 2009 debate about Gaza
Click here for Inner City Press'
review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate
Click here for Inner
City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger
Click here from Inner City Press'
December 12 debate on UN double standards
Click here for Inner
City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics
and this October 17 debate, on
Security Council and Obama and the UN.
* * *
usually also available through Google
News and on Lexis-Nexis.
for a Reuters
AlertNet piece by this correspondent
about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click
for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali
Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an
undefined trust fund. Video
Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017
earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available
in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.
2006-08 Inner City Press, Inc. To request
reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]