Annual Report 2003-2004

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OUTPUT 1.4: Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Reporting against effectiveness indicators




Australia bases its conduct of diplomatic relations on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which codify international practice regarding the rights and responsibilities of diplomatic and consular officials. The department ensured that Australia met its obligations under the conventions, liaising with the Protective Security Coordination Centre and the Australian Federal Police to protect the security and dignity of missions, their staff and their right to free and secure communication with their home government.

The department is responsible for regulating privileges and immunities, including protecting against any abuse of those privileges and immunities and, where abuse does occur, taking effective action consistent with international conventions.

Photo - See caption below for description
Chinese Ambassador, Her Excellency Madame Fu Ying (seated centre left), after presenting credentials to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (Retd) (seated centre right) in March 2004. Also pictured are Deputy Secretary Joanna Hewitt (seated, far right) and Chief of Protocol Louise Hand (seated, far left). Photo: Michael Jensen.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department provided high-quality and timely services to facilitate the work of diplomatic and consular representatives and to respond to specific issues of concern to the corps. We emphasised that foreign representatives are expected to obey the laws of Australia and managed a number of sensitive cases relating to the behaviour of foreign diplomatic and consular officers based in Australia.

At the close of the reporting year, the department was providing services to 84 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, nine international organisations in Australia, 27 non-resident diplomatic missions, and 317 consular posts throughout Australia representing 145 countries. We facilitated the establishment of the new Syrian Embassy in Canberra in March 2004.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

The department's constructive engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps in Australia is important to the development of our bilateral, regional and multilateral relations and complements the work of our overseas missions. As a first point of contact for diplomatic and consular officials, we continued to contribute to positive impressions of Australia, its government and its people among the diplomatic corps.

The reception we organised and hosted in December 2003 in honour of the diplomatic corps helped strengthen links between the corps and the department. The annual function co-hosted by Mr Vaile and Mr Downer in August 2003 facilitated exchanges between the corps and senior members of Government.

The department managed two successful visits to regional Australia by theChinese Ambassador, Her Excellency Madame Fu Ying (seated centre left), after presenting credentials to the
Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC
(Retd) (seated centre right) in March 2004. Also pictured are Deputy Secretary Jo diplomatic corps, led by Mr Downer. The visit to Cairns in July 2003 and Darwin and Kakadu in May 2004 exposed Canberra-based heads of mission to the economic vitality, trade and investment opportunities, and social and cultural diversity of Australia's states and territories (see box on the following page).

Diplomatic corps visit to the Northern Territory

Mr Downer accompanied 41 heads of mission, led by the Dean of the corps, the Argentine Ambassador, HE Mr Stancanelli, to Darwin and Kakadu from 5 to 7 May 2004 for the fifth interstate familiarisation visit. These annual visits allow Canberra-based diplomats to see first hand the economic opportunities and social and cultural diversity that Australia's states and territories have to offer.

The group met the Northern Territory Administrator, Mr Ted Egan AM, and the Chief Minister, The Hon. Clare Martin MLA. Heads of mission were briefed on: the Northern Territory's extensive commercial networks into Asia; the new Darwin port development; the trade and investment benefits flowing from the completion of the Adelaide to Darwin rail link; and the role of the Ranger Uranium Mine, including its contribution to Australia's economy and its response to environmental and land management issues. The visit to the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park gave the diplomats a deeper appreciation of Australia's Indigenous history and culture and the uniqueness and diversity of our natural environment. The active participation of the local Aboriginal communities was a special feature of the program.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

The department continued to accord a very high priority to protecting the security and dignity of foreign diplomatic and consular missions and representatives in Australia, in line with international law and practice.

Concerns about the international security environment led to requests from a growing number of missions for additional security measures. The department continued to work closely with those agencies with primary carriage for protecting foreign diplomatic and consular missions and their staff. This included providing advice on the management of personal protection of heads of several diplomatic and consular posts, as well as advising missions about other security measures. The department continued to be active on security issues relating to the many consular posts in Australian cities.

We initiated and coordinated a well-received briefing for the diplomatic corps on protective security and other issues concerning the Rugby World Cup.

Services to the diplomatic and consular corps

The department provided a high quality of service to the diplomatic corps. Our protocol guidelines provide clear advice to diplomatic and consular representatives on relevant Australian laws, regulations, policies and practices. The guidelines, diplomatic and consular lists and a Heads of Government list of key office holders in every country are available on the department's website. They are regularly updated for the corps' and the public's reference. The department maintained a high standard of record keeping through an annual staff return exercise to provide up-to-date census data for all missions and posts.

The department replaced its protocol database with a new information system to deliver more efficient, timely and accurate processing of documentation for diplomatic and consular representatives and their families, including visas, identity cards and privileged vehicle purchases. Identity cards are normally processed within three working days and most visas within two working days.

In a welcome advance, the department helped resolve key policy issues in relation to the Indirect Tax Concession Scheme (ITCS), benefiting both affected diplomatic and consular missions in Australia and the department's own capital works projects overseas. Important objectives of the ITCS are to assist diplomatic and consular missions to operate more economically.

The department sought reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries to improve access to paid employment by the dependants of home-based officers of diplomatic and consular missions. An employment agreement with Belgium was ratified on 17 September 2003, a dependants' working arrangement with Fiji was signed and entered into force on 19 December 2003 and an employment agreement with France entered into force on 1 May 2004. The department is continuing negotiations with a number of other countries. These agreements facilitate foreign representation in Australia, and Australian representation overseas, by providing spouses, and other dependants, of diplomatic and consular officers the opportunity to seek work.

The department provided input to a large number of nominations for awards within the Order of Australia, not only for departmental officers but for the Australian community in general.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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