Annual Report 2004-2005
 

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OUTPUT 1.4: Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Reporting against effectiveness indicators

1.4.1 SERVICES TO DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR CORPS

1.4.2 PROVISION OF PROTECTION ADVICE THROUGH LIAISON WITH THE PROTECTIVE SECURITY COORDINATION CENTRE

Overview

The department ensured that Australia met its obligations under 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. We worked closely with the Protective Security Coordination Centre to protect the security and dignity of missions, the members of a mission, and their right to free and secure communication with their home government.

The department, in consultation with law enforcement agencies, continued to send a strong message that abuses of privileges and immunities were unacceptable and that contravention of Australian law, including speeding and drink driving, would not be tolerated. The vast majority of the corps complied with this expectation and we took effective action, consistent with international conventions, against the small number of breaches that occurred in 2004–05.

At the close of the reporting year, the department was providing services to 88 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 26 non-resident diplomatic missions and 324 consular posts representing 153 countries, and 9 international organisations. We facilitated the establishment in Canberra of the new Bulgarian embassy in August 2004 and the Algerian embassy in February 2005, and the re-opening of the Iraqi embassy and Ugandan high commission in November 2004.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

The department's efficient and professional delivery of protocol services contributed to our constructive engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps. This engagement enhanced Australia's bilateral, regional and multilateral relations, complementing the work of our overseas missions.

The department organised the diplomatic corps' successful visit in April 2005 to Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, which Mr Downer led. The visit introduced Canberra-based heads of mission to the region's economic vitality and its trade and investment opportunities.

In December 2004 we hosted a reception in honour of the diplomatic corps, strengthening links between the corps and the department. An annual function co-hosted by Mr Downer and Mr Vaile in August 2004 facilitated constructive exchanges between the corps and senior members of Government.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

Photo - See caption below for description
Iraqi Ambassador His Excellency Ghanim Taha Al-Shibli (seated centre left), after presenting credentials to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (seated centre right) in November 2004. Also pictured are Deputy Secretary Nick Warner (seated, far right) and the acting Chief of Protocol Anne Plunkett (seated, far left). Photo: Michael Jensen
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

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

Concerns about the international security environment resulted in a significant number of requests from diplomatic and consular missions for additional security measures. The department continued to work closely with agencies with primary carriage for protecting foreign diplomatic and consular missions and their staff. We provided advice on the management of personal protection of heads of several diplomatic missions and consular posts. The department continued to be active in providing security advice and services to the many consular posts in Australian cities.

In consultation with relevant state and federal agencies, we managed a number of security incidents in which embassies and consulates received suspicious packages containing powder and other possible threats. We responded promptly and effectively to the security incidents and helped the embassies involved increase their preparedness for future threats. Affected embassies expressed their appreciation for the Government's decisive response.

Diplomatic corps visit to the Hunter Valley region

Mr Downer accompanied a group of 37 foreign heads of mission and their partners to Newcastle and the Hunter Valley from 13–15 April 2005 for the sixth interstate familiarisation visit. The visit provided Canberra-based diplomats with an insight into the successful transformation of Newcastle and the Hunter region from a coal and steel dominated economy to a robust, modern and diversified economy where the new drivers are trade, business services, valueadded manufacturing, higher education, tourism and the agriculture, equine and wine industries.

The Newcastle program included briefings by the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr Bob Carr; Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Mr John Tate; a tour of the port hosted by Newcastle Port Corporation and visits to Piano Australia and Williamtown RAAF base. In the Hunter Valley, the program included visits to Coolmore, a world-class thoroughbred horse breeding stud, CB Alexander Agricultural College, Tocal Homestead and Tyrell's Winery.

The visit strengthened the relationship between the corps and the Minister and helped the corps develop a more complete picture of Australia's diverse culture, society and economy.

Services to the diplomatic and consular corps

Feedback from the corps indicated that the department continued to provide high-quality service. The department issued most diplomatic visas and identity cards within two to three working days and streamlined procedures relating to privileged vehicles.

The corps commented positively on the department's Protocol Guidelines as a source of clear advice to diplomatic and consular representatives on relevant Australian laws, regulations, policies and practices. The value of the guidelines, and their currency, were enhanced by their availability on the department's website, together with the guidelines for honorary consuls in Australia and diplomatic and consular lists. The department maintained up-to-date records through an annual staff return exercise to provide accurate census data for all missions and posts. We produced a DVD on credentials ceremonies for incoming heads of mission.

The department negotiated a number of new concession packages and amendments to existing packages under the Indirect Tax Concession Scheme (ITCS), which helped reduce the operating costs of foreign missions in Australia and Australian missions overseas.

The department continued to negotiate reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries to improve access to paid employment for the dependants of home-based officers of diplomatic and consular missions. A bilateral employment arrangement with India was adopted on 23 June 2005. These agreements facilitate foreign representation in Australia, and Australian representation overseas, by providing work opportunities for spouses and other dependants of diplomatic and consular officers.

The department and the Australian Electoral Commission provided a well-received briefing to the corps on Australian electoral processes in advance of the Federal election. Briefings were also provided on security issues. In particular, with the Department of Transport and Regional Services, the department organised briefings on airport screening procedures to clarify expectations about Australian practice.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2004–2005
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