Annual Report 2004-2005
 

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 3 > Output 3.1 > 3.3.1 Public information and media services on Australia's foreign and trade policy

OUTPUT 3.1: Public information services and public diplomacy

3.1.1 Public information and media services on Australia's foreign and trade policy

On this page: Overview :: Media services :: Website services :: Trade advocacy and outreach :: Trade publications :: Economic analysis :: Commercial and statistical services :: Other public information activities :: Speeches :: Consultative activities :: Treaties

Overview

Photo - See caption below for description
The staff of the Australian Pavilion at the 2005 World Exposition Aichi, Japan. The Expo ran from 25 March until 25 September 2005. DFAT staff in front from left: Peter Sams (Pavilion Director), Paul Molloy (Deputy Commissioner-General), Andrew Todd (Commissioner General) and Tom Menadue (Director, Business Liaison and Protocol). Photo: Terry Hope
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

There was significant public and media focus on the department's work over the year, due in large measure to the Indian Ocean tsunami, our management of high-profile consular cases and a number of significant foreign and trade policy developments. The challenges presented by the international security environment and their impact on the department's programs and operations received a high level of attention.

We pursued a strategic approach to the media, contributing to balanced media coverage of major foreign and trade policy initiatives, such as negotiations for free trade agreements and the Counter-Terrorism White Paper, and events including the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Leaders' Summit in Laos and the Asia–Pacific Nuclear Safeguards Conference in Sydney. The Enhanced Cooperation Program with Papua New Guinea, the Australia–East Timor maritime boundary and resource issues negotiations, and the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations also attracted strong media and public interest.

The department provided information to the media through briefings in Australia and overseas and through the production of public affairs materials used by posts and disseminated on our websites. We actively promoted the Government's foreign and trade policy agenda, where necessary correcting inaccurate or negative media reporting in Australia and overseas.

We developed and conducted public diplomacy programs designed to advance an accurate and contemporary view of Australia and to promote our cultural assets. The department's visits programs—targeting international media representatives, opinion makers and cultural visitors—generated significant and balanced international coverage about Australia via influential media outlets, and created new opportunities for Australian artists in the global market.

Australia's participation in the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan presented an important opportunity to project an image of Australia as technologically sophisticated and culturally diverse and harmonious. Our presence at the Aichi World Expo highlighted the importance of the Australia–Japan relationship. Our pavilion showcased Australia as a leading business, tourism and education destination.

The Internet continued to be the department's principal tool for communicating advice and information quickly to mass audiences in Australia and overseas. We used it strategically to support whole of government exercises, such as the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster. Specific websites developed for key government programs such as the Australia Group, the Cairns Group, the 2006 Australia–Japan Year of Exchange and passport services, underscored the importance of effective website management in achieving core public diplomacy and broader policy objectives.

Media services

The department's active and systematic engagement with Australian and international media, including through a 24-hour service, facilitated a high level of informed and positive coverage of foreign and trade policy issues.

We responded to 8700 requests for information from Australian and international media, including rural, regional and online media, community radio, pay television and industry publications. This represented an increase of some 2000 enquiries over the previous year, resulting from interest in high-profile consular cases, including the tsunami disaster, the Douglas Wood Iraq hostage case and drugs cases involving Australians overseas.

We provided portfolio ministers, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Prime Minister's Office with strategic media advice and support for events and initiatives. These included major events such as the Athens Olympics, the 90th Anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign at Anzac Cove, the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Leaders' Summit in Laos, the APEC Ministerial and Leaders' Meetings in Chile, the Asia–Pacific Nuclear Safeguards Conference in Sydney and the Pacific Islands Forum in Apia.

Issues of significant media interest included the terrorist attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta, the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), the Enhanced Cooperation Program with Papua New Guinea, the Counter-Terrorism White Paper, the first anniversary of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, the Australia–Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development, Australia–East Timor maritime boundary and resource issues negotiations, the proposed China FTA and other bilateral FTAs, and the WTO Doha Round.

The department's responsive and strategic approaches to media management continued to play an important role in supporting and promoting our portfolio priorities and ensured that portfolio ministers, the Parliamentary Secretary and the department's Senior Executive were fully informed of media interest in relevant emerging issues. Improvements in media monitoring, such as the inclusion of summaries of portfolio-relevant major electronic broadcasts into the department's daily media round-ups, enhanced our ability to anticipate and respond to negative or incorrect reporting and to provide corrections.

The department strengthened its engagement with local, national and international media. One-on-one interviews and briefings by senior departmental officers remained the most popular means of communication for journalists, and proved effective in informing and providing balance to media reports. The department arranged 225 targeted briefings of influential commentators both in Canberra and at posts, on topics such as WTO negotiations and the China Free Trade Agreement negotiations. Continuing strong media interest in portfolio matters saw the department hold 31 general media briefings on ministerial visits and on key foreign and trade policy issues, including joint press conferences with portfolio ministers and their overseas counterparts. Ministers' comments and press releases, which the department drafted, were regularly reported by the media.

The department issued over 350 media releases on behalf of portfolio ministers and the Parliamentary Secretary, 22 departmental releases, and 113 media notes.

Website services

Public interest in free trade agreements and some high-profile consular issues led to heightened activity on the department's websites. Key content additions to the main website included a new edition of Australia in brief and comprehensive material on Australia's approach to negotiations for free trade agreements with Japan, ASEAN–New Zealand, Thailand, China, Malaysia, and the UAE. The department consolidated and made more visible other trade-related material by integrating it into country-specific information under our Tradewatch service, which includes information about the economies of and our trade with important trading partners.

On 26 December 2004, soon after the department activated the Indian Ocean tsunami crisis centre, we established a special purpose website to provide information about the Government's consular response. Consistent with whole of government interests, the department updated the website continuously for several weeks and continues to update some relevant sections.

The department established or upgraded a number of additional websites relevant to the portfolio: a new website was established for the 2006 Australia–Japan Year of Exchange; we assumed responsibility for hosting and maintaining the Australia Group website; and we updated the passports website to reflect changes introduced in the Australian Passports Act 2005.

The department continued to transfer the hosting of overseas post websites from local service providers to a central system in Canberra. More than 60 websites were transferred and a content management system was finalised to allow posts to maintain website content. This improvement will minimise hosting costs, allow consistency in content and presentation of website material, and ensure maintenance of website security standards.

Peak website activity occurred in May 2005, coinciding with interest in the Australia–China Free Trade Agreement and high-profile consular cases. Each week the website provided an average of 19GB of data, attracted 785 000 page-views and served more than 71 000 unique users. In addition, the smartraveller website recorded 217 000 page-views per week.

Trade advocacy and outreach

The department's wide-ranging trade advocacy and outreach strategy uses print and electronic media extensively to inform the Australian public of the benefits of international trade. The Government's active free trade agreement agenda, including the implementation of two new FTAs and the launch of four new negotiations, was the main focus during the year.

The department's website provided detailed information on trade policy developments as soon as it was available, including detailed and up-to-date information on existing or potential FTA negotiations. The Tradewatch service was upgraded and made more accessible.

We published regular electronic newsletters on Doha Round developments as well as on Australia's participation in WTO dispute settlement. We also began preparations for a publication on a decade of WTO dispute settlement. We continued to publish on our website, where possible, Australia's submissions in WTO disputes.

Australia's revised offer in the WTO services negotiations was made public as soon as it was tabled in Geneva on 26 May 2005 and is available on the departmental website. The document was accompanied by a plain English explanatory note to help industry, community groups and others understand what is covered in the offer.

www.fta.gov.au

The Government's new free trade agreement (FTA) website, launched by Mr Vaile on 27 April 2005, is a one-stop online resource to help Australian businesses make the most of Australia's FTAs. It contains a wealth of practical information compiled by Australian government agencies to help Australian businesses understand and take advantage of our FTAs with the United States, Thailand, Singapore and New Zealand. Its development was coordinated by the department in conjunction with Austrade.

www.fta.gov.au helps businesses to:

There was particular public interest in the completion of the joint feasibility study and subsequent launch of FTA negotiations with China. The department maintained a steady flow of information to a broad audience of interested parties, including through close liaison with the media, wide dissemination of newsletters and fact sheets, and a broad range of speaking engagements and consultations to build understanding of why Australia is pursuing an FTA, and to seek stakeholder views. We undertook a similar broad range of communications activities to promote the launch of new bilateral FTA negotiations. The department also ensured there was an extensive information campaign in place related to Australia's revised offer in WTO services negotiations, both in Australia and overseas.

The department's key messages about the benefits of trade and about the Government's trade policy agenda have continued to be reinforced by people-to-people links with industry and community groups across all states and territories, including through the outreach activities of Mr Vaile, Mr Billson and senior departmental officials across the country.

Trade publications

To promote the Government's trade policies the department produced or commissioned a number of targeted publications.

Negotiating free trade agreements: A guide was aimed at officials involved in such negotiations for the first time. It explained the main negotiating steps needed to arrive at an agreement. The guide was launched at the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting in Jeju, Korea in June 2005.

Open economies delivering to people, 2005: Regional integration and outcomes in the APEC region contributed to APEC's Mid-Term Stocktake of progress towards the Bogor Goals of free and open trade in the region. Produced by the Centre for International Economics, the report outlined the significant liberalisation of trade and investment in the region since APEC's formation, and quantified the major social and welfare benefits delivered to the people of the Asia–Pacific, particularly within developing economies.

APEC: Best practice in secure trade highlighted the active role APEC has played in addressing counter-terrorism issues, particularly their impact on regional and global trade. It examined the experiences of individual APEC economies in securing their trade, to identify best practices that may help others develop responses.

Business case for standards (in conjunction with Standards Australia) highlighted the business case for adopting internationally recognised standards in the APEC region, and suggested ways to enhance the development of standards and conformance infrastructures.

Volume III: Asian agrifood demand trends and outlook to 2010, and a special stand-alone report, China: Asian agrifood megamarket, formed part of the 'Subsistence to Supermarket II: Agrifood Globalisation and Asia' series. They analysed the opportunities for the Australian agrifood sector in Asia.

Economic analysis

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Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Bruce Billson, launching the report 'Australia and the United States: Trade and Multinationals in a New Era', at Parliament House, June 2005. Looking on is Nicholas Coppel, Executive Director, Economic Analytical Unit.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department produced four new economic analytical reports on topics reflecting Australia's foreign and trade policy priorities.

Following the restoration of law and order by the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, the department published Solomon Islands: Rebuilding an island economy. It focused on the next most pressing challenge—economic recovery. The report analysed the causes of the island nation's rapid economic decline and the reforms necessary to rebuild the economy. We attracted around 100 people to the Brisbane launch.

Papua New Guinea: The road ahead examined recent economic developments in Papua New Guinea. The report found that after years of contraction, macroeconomic conditions in Papua New Guinea had improved thanks to favourable commodity prices and a number of successful policy reforms. But greater agricultural productivity, increased investment and a stronger private sector were needed to create income and employment opportunities as mine deposits ran out and oil reserves depleted. The report was launched in both Canberra and Port Moresby and the main findings were presented at a major industry conference in Sydney.

Malaysia: An economy transformed analysed Malaysia's strong growth performance and the path to further economic development in the context of improved bilateral relations and a possible FTA. The report gave prominence to strong education links between Australia and Malaysia. It was launched in Canberra and Kuala Lumpur.

Australia and the United States: Trade and the multinationals in a new era found that Australian companies could realise the benefits of the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement by working with US multinationals. The report analysed the importance of US multinationals to the further internationalisation of the Australian economy.

Commercial and statistical services

The department produces a wide range of statistical publications about Australia's international trade relationships. They assist policy-making and business decisions and contribute to community understanding of trade issues. In 2004–05, 4155 publications were distributed to a wide range of users in the public and private sectors.

We launched a new quarterly compendium publication, Trade topics: A quarterly review of Australia's international trade. The publication brought together a wide range of statistics on Australia's international trade. It included articles on Australia's trade policy and performance. The department introduced three electronic publications focusing on regional trade—Australia's trade with East Asia, Australia's trade with the European Union, and Australia's trade with the Americas.

We produced Trade at a glance, a pocket-sized free booklet summarising concisely Australia's trade with the rest of the world, including key policies and statistics.

Much of the department's statistical information is available either at no charge or on a fee-for-service basis for Australian businesses and researchers interested in overseas markets. Our statistical consultancy service answered 8812 such queries.

A set of country/economy fact sheets, including economic and demographic data for more than 165 of Australia's trading partners and summaries of their trade with Australia, is available on the department's website at www.dfat.gov.au/geo/fs. The fact sheets are a valuable resource for Australian business people travelling overseas.

Other public information activities

The department's website continued to provide an accessible one-stop shop to a range of departmental publications with information about Australia's foreign and trade policy. These publications include recent policy white papers, past annual reports, the department's corporate plan, ministerial and departmental media releases and major speeches. This material increases awareness and understanding of Australia's foreign and trade policy among domestic and international audiences. The department's publications officer can be contacted through the website.

Speeches

The department's speechwriters, in consultation with ministers' offices and relevant areas of the department, prepared 176 speeches for ministers and the department's Senior Executive.

Consultative activities

To promote consultation with Australian community groups that helped inform policy processes, the department supported several standing consultative bodies chaired by Mr Downer, Mr Vaile and Mr Billson. They included the Foreign Affairs Council (Mr Downer), the Australia International Cultural Council (Mr Downer), the Trade Policy Advisory Council (Mr Vaile), the World Trade Organization Advisory Council (Mr Vaile) and the Smartraveller Consultative Group (Mr Billson).

We conducted biannual human rights consultations with non-government organisations (NGOs). Where possible, Mr Downer participated in the consultations, covering the full range of human rights issues. The National Consultative Committee on International Security Issues, replacing the former National Consultative Committee on Peace and Disarmament, met for the first time in April 2005. The new committee's remit is better aligned with the Government's policy priorities. We also continued to liaise with the Australian Network of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

Treaties

The Australian Treaties Database lists the treaties signed or that came into force each year. We maintain the database at www.info.dfat.gov.au/treaties . The department links the database to all government legislation and regulations passed or issued relevant to Australian treaty action since 1983.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2004–2005
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