8 May 1995
ROBERT HENRY JOHNSTON AO - CHAIRMAN OF AUSTRADE
The Minister for Trade, Senator Bob McMullan, was saddened to hear of the death today of Mr Robert Johnston, Chairman of Austrade.
"Mr Johnston made a major contribution to Australian industry in general, and the development of the automotive industry in Australia in particular," Senator McMullan said.
"He understood the importance of manufacturing to Australia's economy, and believed strongly in the ability of Australian manufacturing industry to compete
and take its place in the international marketplace."
Robert Johnston was born 26 May 1924 and educated in Sydney at Newtown Intermediate High School and Sydney Technical College. He began his career as an accountant with the Sydney Morning Herald, and later spent four years in the Royal Australian Navy during World War 2.
In 1951, he commenced what became a long and distinguished career with the automotive industry when he joined the Leyland Motor Corporation - rising to the position of Managing Director, Truck & Bus Division. From Leyland, Mr Johnston moved in 1972 to Theiss Toyota Pty Ltd as Chief Executive.
In 1986, Mr Johnston became President of the Toyota Corporation Australia.
Senator McMullan said that as President, and later Chairman, of the Toyota Corporation Australia, Mr Johnston was uniquely placed to advance the interests of both his company and Australia generally in Japan.
"He worked tirelessly to build relationships with Japanese business and he strongly influenced the perception among Japanese businessmen of Australia as a competitive and attractive destination for business and investment," Senator McMullan said.
"In later life, at a time when many would seek a quiet retirement, Mr Johnston continued to make an active contribution to Australian industry."
Mr Johnston was appointed Chairman of Austrade in December 1993, bringing with him a wealth of relevant background including his first-hand experience developing the Australian motor industry's export capability.
"His term as Chairman coincided with a crucial time in the development of Austrade as a performance-driven, client-focused organisation," Senator McMullan said.
"His guidance to Austrade as Chairman of the Board was greatly valued, and considerably strengthened the organisation's ability to win exports for Australia."
In the 1994 Australia Day Honours list, he was appointed an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his services to Australian manufacturing.
"Robert Johnston was a man of good humour and dedication," Senator McMullan said.
"He never allowed his recent illness to deter him from his work for Australian industry and his commitment to Australian exports.
"He will be missed by family, friends and all who worked with him. He will be a hard act to follow."