Alexander John Gosse Downer (born 9 September 1951) is a former Australian Liberal Party politician who was Foreign Minister of Australia from March 1996 to December 2007, the longest-serving in Australian history. He was also the leader of the parliamentary Opposition for eight months from 1994 to 1995.
Downer was born in Adelaide, South Australia, into one of the state's prominent established political families. His father, Sir Alec Downer, also reached cabinet rank in federal politics, and was then High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1964 to 1972. His grandfather, Sir John Downer, was twice Premier of South Australia and a Senator in the first federal Parliament in 1901. His mother, Mary, Lady Downer (née Mary Gosse), is descended from early immigrants to South Australia. Downer is related via the Gosse family to Edmund Gosse, a famed English literary critic.
Downer was educated at Geelong Grammar School in Australia, then in England (while his father was High Commissioner) at Radley College between 1964 and 1970, and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. From 1975 to 1976, he worked as an economist for the Bank of New South Wales, before entering the Australian Diplomatic Service, where he served until 1982. Some of Downer's time in the Diplomatic Service was spent at a posting in Brussels, where he undertook a French language training course. He then worked as an adviser to the then Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser and subsequent Leader of the Federal Opposition Andrew Peacock. From 1983 to 1984, he also served as the Executive Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce. In 1984, he was elected to the federal Parliament as Liberal member for Mayo, in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia. He held this seat until his resignation from Parliament in 2008.