You grew up in a Slovenian migrant family in Western Sydney. Were you involved with the Slovenian community as a child? In what ways?
As a teenager I enjoyed attending the two Slovenian associations and the church community in Sydney where many social and cultural events were organised.
Yes, I was active as the president of a youth organisation, for eight years. As a young man I had lots of ideals and I believed it was very important to build a bridge between the older and the younger generation and to actively include them in the Slovenian community. Among very successful activities were regular monthly parties, picnics etc.
Some of us joined the folk dancing group which was at the time very active.
I have nice memories of this time. I had an opportunity to meet many good people with whom I still keep in touch on a regular basis.
As an adult, you built up your mortgage brokering business and were recently appointed to the position of new Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia. How do you see your new role? In what ways can the Slovenian community in NSW expect to be served by you?
I take the position of Honorary Consul very seriously and responsibly. I will try to work for the benefit of all and to assist people who will turn to me for advice in solving their problem. I will consult the community on ideas that could be realised, on what people wish and what the most pressing problems are. At the same time I will encourage young people to take their time and learn about the country of their ancestors and to think about opportunities for business connections and investments. Personal contact is very important. I will make an effort to meet them regularly in Sydney or here in Ljubljana - I regularly travel between the two destinations.
This position was previously held by Mr Alfred Brežnik who is one of the most respected members of our community. In our interview in November 2013 he said: "To be appointed an Honorary Consular officer of a country/state is great honour indeed. It is a prestigious position. (...) the most important thing is sincerity and courtesy when dealing with people and to be a good listener. People who come to see you expect to be helped, and they can be very appreciative when granted assistance." Do you agree with his views?
I absolutely agree. I have great respect for Mr Brežnik. We often meet in the Slovenian church or at the Slovenian Association. His character, experience and his work can serve as a role model for many.
Do you feel that a Honorary Consul should position himself as a community leader? How do you see your position in relation to Slovenian organisations in Australia?
Not at all. It would not be appropriate for me to interfere in the community leadership. Each organisation has its own representatives that members select themselves.
As a Honorary Consul I am required to be neutral and to act in the best interest of the whole community. I wish to act as a bridge in cultural and linguistic information exchange and especially in promoting business activities between the two countries.
How would you like to see the Slovenian community develop in the future?
I wish that the Slovenian community could act more unitedly and to appeal to the younger generation. I would also like to see more activity in integrating new Slovenian migrant families who chose to make Australia their new home.
You are a distinguished businessman with business interests in both countries. What is the main difference between conducting a business in Slovenia and in Australia?
Doing business in Australia is considerably easier. Unfortunately, there are many unnecessary administrative obstacles in Slovenia, not to mention high taxes. Additionally, politics is too involved in the economy here.
It is however a fact that due to the financial crisis and banks not approving new loans there are currently many well established companies with good business results for sale in Slovenia at relatively "low" prices.
What are your views on the trade exchange between Slovenia and Australia? Do you think it is adequate? Is there room for improvement?
The trade exchange is very positive.
For Slovenia, Australia is the fourth most important market in Asia. Looking at the trade exchange, it improved more than 100% in the last few years. Currently exports are valued at about 200 million EUR **. It is worth noting that Harvey Norman is one of the biggest Australian investors in Slovenia.
There is always a lot of room for improvements.
What would be your advice to a company in Slovenia that wishes to sell its products in Australia?
It is necessary to do a good market analysis to ascertain the need for a certain product; to take account of standards, exchange rate, shipping costs due to great distance. It is especially advisable to connect with local brokers or partners who can help distribute and market new products.
Thank you for the interview and all the best in your new role.
** Correction: According to DFAT Fact Sheet on Slovenia total trade exchange between Slovenia and Australia in 2013 was 125 million Australian dollars (exports to Slovenia: AU$38.24 million; imports from Slovenia AU$86.49 million).