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OUTPUT 1.1: Protection and advocacy of Australia’s international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

Output 1.1 Quality and quantity information

Quality indicators

Quantity indicators

Provision of policy advice, analysis, speeches and briefings

The department received informal feedback on its performance through the daily contact of the Senior Executive with portfolio ministers, constant interaction between ministers' offices and departmental employees at all levels, and cooperation in the conduct of ministers' international visits and their participation in international meetings. There is also regular interaction with the Prime Minister and non-portfolio ministers on foreign and trade policy issues.

Structured mechanisms for ministers to provide performance feedback include:

Ministers expressed general satisfaction with the level, intensity, diversity, alacrity, and effectiveness of the department's policy work.

The department provided secretariat support to the Foreign Affairs Council. The Council provides a mechanism through which distinguished Australians working in business, media and academia can share their expertise and views on a broad range of foreign policy issues with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We also provided secretariat support to the Trade Policy Advisory Council—see sub-output 1.1.6 for further information.

Ministerial submissions and briefings

During the reporting period, the department produced over 2000 written submissions and over 4700 briefings for ministers' consideration. Portfolio ministers expressed broad satisfaction with the department's policy advice and analysis.

Ministerial correspondence

The preparation of replies to ministerial correspondence is an important means of responding to public interest in foreign and trade policy matters. Ministers allow one week for draft replies for ministerial signature and two weeks for departmental replies. The Senior Executive monitors our performance of this function closely.

The amount of ministerial correspondence we handled increased significantly during 2002–03. We received and processed 11 233 letters in the period, an increase of 3569 or 47 per cent over the previous year. The bulk of the increase is attributed to the strong community interest in the Iraq crisis. The timeliness of preparation of replies continued to improve. In the last three months of the year, we responded within required timeframes to all letters received and processed a total of 2885 items.

Questions on notice

The department prepares written responses for ministers' consideration to Questions on Notice (QON) asked of ministers by members and senators and to questions taken on notice during appearances by the department before parliamentary committees. The department prepared responses to over 400 QON during the reporting period. Improvements to the department's QON database, and enhancements to electronic tasking of responsible divisions, assisted the department to meet deadlines for submission of responses to ministers.


Speeches provided by the departmental speechwriters, in consultation with ministers' offices and relevant areas of the department, were well received by ministers. We prepared 200 ministerial and senior executive speeches.

Protection and advancement of Australia's international interests

Ministers were generally satisfied with the department's work. Following are some examples of feedback:

Capacity to respond to international developments

The reporting against effectiveness indicators earlier in this report provides instances of appropriately timed and scaled responses to international events with significant consequences for Australia.

To maintain 'surge capacity' to react to the unexpected—as distinct from the cultivation of corporate strengths in predicting, anticipating and shaping developments—the department ensured that its staff were trained in Emergency Call Unit procedures and Crisis Centre management. The principles of Working Smarter continued to be implemented, especially overseas, to ensure efficient work practices were applied (see Section 3—Corporate Management and Accountability for further information).

Quantity information for output 1.1
Indicator 2002–03 2001–02
Scope and composition of the department-managed diplomatic network See Appendix 13 (Summary of the overseas network)
Number of units of policy advice delivered:
Ministerial submissions 2 075 1 556
Cabinet submissions1 28 12
Ministerial correspondence2 11 233 7 664
Speeches3 200 134
Briefings not under submission4 4 955 4 608
Cabinet briefings for ministers5 95 65
Meeting briefs 307 314
Number of consultations conducted with other Commonwealth agencies, state and territory governments, and business and non-government organisations in the context of the department’s development of foreign and trade policy advice6 30 778 23 043
Number of representations made to other governments and international organisations in support of Australia’s international interests7 39 306 34 681
Number of international meetings or negotiations attended, including on behalf of other Commonwealth agencies8 14 542 15 731
Number of official programs prepared for portfolio ministers and senior officials9 839 881
Number of official programs prepared for the Prime Minister, other Commonwealth ministers and senior officials10 905 912
Number of reporting cables produced by our overseas posts 84 220 75 019
Number of occasions on which the department has contributed to the development of policies by other Commonwealth agencies11 5 293 3 561
Number of Foreign Affairs Council meetings organised12 2 3
Number of Trade Policy Advisory Council meetings organised 3 2
  1. The department was the lead sponsor of 17 cabinet submissions and co-sponsor of 11.
  2. Much of this increase reflects strong community interest in the Iraq crisis. We also received and processed 89 183 items of campaign mail.
  3. Includes speaking notes for both ministers, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Senior Executive.
  4. This figure includes daily consular briefings for ministers and senior officials.
  5. Cabinet briefings increased as a result of an increased number of cabinet submissions.
  6. This number includes semi-formal consultations such as telephone conversations and email correspondence.
  7. This information was collected by all areas of the department, including overseas posts, and collated centrally. The difficulty in defining what constitutes a representation, given our different operating environments overseas, means that this figure is necessarily an approximate one. The increase from 2001–02 is attributable to a number of factors, including international events such as the Bali bombings and the Iraq crisis.
  8. This figure includes meetings with non-government organisations and business representatives.
  9. This figure includes programs prepared for senior officials (broadband 4 level and equivalent and above).
  10. This figure includes programs prepared for senior officials (broadband 4 level and equivalent and above).
  11. This figure includes formal contact between departments such as interdepartmental committee meetings in which staff provided significant input to the policies of other agencies.
  12. Lists of members of the Foreign Affairs Council and Trade Policy Advisory Council can be found on the department's website at www.dfat.gov.au/fac and www.dfat.gov.au/trade/opening_doors/tpac.html.


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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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