Annual Report 2006-2007
 

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 3 > Output 3.1 > 3.1.1 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 :: Economic analysis :: Commercial and statistical services :: Speeches :: Treaties :: Outlook

Overview

The department pursued a strategic approach to its dealings with media. We promoted the Government’s foreign and trade policy agenda to domestic and international audiences through targeted media briefings for journalists, by managing the media at international meetings, by supporting ministers’ engagement with the media, by operating a 24-hour media information service and providing high-quality media monitoring.

Our work attracted substantial public and media attention. Much of this stemmed from sustained media interest in consular cases, including the evacuation of Australians from Lebanon and the arrest of Australians in a range of countries. There was also a high level of interest in a number of significant foreign and trade policy developments. Targeted media advice and support to ministers in connection with a range of international meetings (ASEAN, Cairns Group, Pacific Islands Forum and APEC) promoted informed and balanced coverage of Australia’s involvement and interests in these forums.

The department provided a comprehensive suite of targeted public affairs material, distributed through our websites and overseas posts, which enabled us to promote the Government’s foreign and trade policy agenda broadly. The internet remained our primary tool for communicating advice and information quickly to large audiences in Australia and overseas.

Media services

The department’s work attracted substantial public and media interest. Consular cases generated sustained media attention as did a number of major foreign and trade policy developments. The evacuation of Australians from Lebanon, the November 2006 civil unrest in Tonga, the December 2006 coup in Fiji, the arrest of Australians in a range of countries including Fiji, Indonesia, Lebanon, Sudan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, and the Yogyakarta air disaster in March 2007 and subsequent repatriation of the five Australians killed in the crash required extensive media management.

We gave a high priority to facilitating informed and balanced media coverage of foreign and trade policy initiatives. Among the issues that attracted particular media interest were Australia’s relationships with Solomon Islands, East Timor and Fiji, the report of the Cole Inquiry into the UN Oil-for-Food Programme, the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations, free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with China and Japan, and Australia’s views on the situation in Zimbabwe.

We responded to 9395 requests for information from Australian and international media, including rural, regional and online media, community radio, pay television and industry publications. 2450 of these were handled by the department’s after-hours media liaison duty officer.

We provided strategic media advice and support to ministers in connection with a range of international meetings, including the 39th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and 13th ASEAN Regional Forum in Kuala Lumpur in July 2006, the 20th Cairns Group Meeting in Cairns in September 2006, the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in October 2006, the 14th APEC Meeting in Vietnam in November 2006, and the Pacific Island Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Sydney in February 2007. Our facilitation of Australian media attendance at and coverage of such major international events successfully promoted enhanced public awareness and understanding of significant portfolio issues.

Our strategic approach to media monitoring enhanced our capacity to provide accurate and timely responses to incomplete or inaccurate media coverage of portfolio issues.

In-house training for graduate trainees and consular officers ensured that the expertise of our media liaison unit was augmented by media management capabilities across the department.

The department built on existing productive relations with local, national and international media, including rural, regional and online media, community radio, pay television and industry publications. We facilitated 115 background briefings and interviews by senior departmental officers and issue experts for groups and individual journalists on portfolio issues. These were highly valued by the media and have proved useful in ensuring informed and balanced coverage of portfolio issues. Issues covered by media briefings included the evacuations of Australians from Lebanon, FTA negotiations, regional counter-terrorism policy, and Solomon Islands.

We conducted 11 general media briefings on the Japan FTA negotiations, the Sub-regional Ministerial Meeting on Counter-Terrorism, APEC, the department’s crisis management facilities and the launch of a number of departmental publications and reports. We issued 328 media releases on behalf of portfolio ministers and parliamentary secretaries, 17 departmental media releases and 77 notes to the media. These releases were used extensively by media outlets in their reporting.

Website services

The department’s suite of websites—providing information across the full range of portfolio issues as well as specific online services, such as the consular travel advice and registration systems and passport services—continued to attract significant public interest.

We employed enhanced server technology and made a number of presentational improvements to ensure our websites remained accessible and could be navigated easily. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) delivery technologies were introduced to the website, enhancing users’ ability to stay abreast of frequently updated content. We also made available, for the first time, downloadable audio of some ministerial speeches, meeting demand, in particular, from small media outlets.

The department introduced a limited print-on-demand service for departmental publications. We aim to extend this to the majority of publications in 2007–08.

Following an external review, we redesigned the smartraveller website to enhance the effectiveness of the revised consular information campaign. We increased the options for delivering travel advice to users to meet demand for syndicated information feeds and for delivery on mobile devices. Technical enhancements improved the service available to users accessing travel advice on the smartraveller automated telephone system.

We continued the program of centralising the hosting of our websites, including those of our overseas network of posts, to Canberra. We enhanced the department’s corporate branding by implementing consistent design features across the sites.

The department’s main website provided an average of 27.7 gigabytes (GB) of data each week, compared to 25 GB of data per week in 2005–06. Average weekly access to the website was over 768 000 page-views per week. The smartraveller website recorded an average of 402 000 page-views per week, compared to 322 000 in 2005–06.

Trade advocacy and outreach

The department encouraged a better understanding of the benefits of trade and the Government’s trade policy priorities through its advocacy and outreach activities in the Australian community.

Much of our advocacy effort focused on promoting the benefits of FTAs with Australia’s key trading partners. To keep stakeholders abreast of progress in FTA negotiations, the department disseminated a steady stream of information through the departmental website and the whole of government website www.fta.gov.au. We also promoted the Government’s FTA agenda through opinion editorials, media releases, speaking engagements by departmental officers and industry consultations.

The department and Austrade produced the Government’s first comprehensive guide to Australia’s FTA policy to raise awareness of Australia’s approach and the benefits of FTAs for industry and consumers. Free Trade Agreements: A Guide to Australia’s Policy was released by Mr Truss at the launch of the 2007 Australian Export Awards in Sydney. To support Australia’s active advocacy program within China, the department produced a high-quality audiovisual presentation on the benefits of a bilateral FTA with Australia.

The department produced a range of concise, plain English trade publications aimed at a wide, non-specialist readership. We enhanced our website presentation of general trade issues. Other advocacy efforts supported the Government’s multilateral trade goals, including the Government’s bid to revive the stalled Doha Round talks at the 20th Anniversary Ministerial Meeting of the Cairns Group in Cairns in September 2006.

The department worked productively on trade advocacy with a number of government agencies including Austrade, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Consultations with state and territory governments on trade advocacy initiatives helped the department target its messages to reflect local interests and issues.

With Austrade, the department produced 24 Trade Matters brochures featuring case studies of successful regional exporters to highlight the benefits of trade and international investment for regional Australia. The brochures attracted positive media publicity and feedback and have proven useful tools for government agencies, industry associations and regional organisations.

Liaison with peak industry bodies resulted in other advocacy initiatives, including a comprehensive policy brief by the National Farmers’ Federation to farmers.

State and territory offices: a vital part of the department’s trade advocacy and outreach program

The state and territory offices (STOs) are a central component of our whole of department approach to trade advocacy and outreach. The offices are a direct point of contact with business and other groups in the states and territories, and promote the Government’s trade interests by representing the department at local trade events and by organising industry or public consultations for senior departmental officials.

The STOs also host ministerial launches of key trade publications. For example, six of the STOs hosted state launches of the annual Trade Statement—Trade 2007—featuring a live broadcast of Mr Truss’s speech at the National Press Club. Other examples of state office advocacy in 2006–07 include:

Economic analysis

We produced a quarterly journal, Trade Topics, which covers a wide range of topical economic and trade policy issues. The journal benefited from a newly developed trade database, which enabled us to provide detailed analysis of the effects on Australia’s trade of FTAs with Singapore, Thailand and the United States. It also featured reports on Australia’s uranium trade, on exports of iron ore, manufactured products, services, and resources to China and India, intellectual property issues, the broadening trade facilitation agenda, and ASEAN economic development and the benefits that would be derived from an ASEAN economic community. Feedback from industry, academia and the media was positive and confirmed that the journal was useful in building understanding of Australia’s trade.

The department produced two new analytical publications on topics reflecting Australia’s foreign and trade policy priorities:

During 2006–07, the department improved the accessibility of its economic analytical reports to the public and streamlined distribution logistics. Reports from the Economic Analytical Unit are now available for download free of charge from the time of publication through the department’s website at www.dfat.gov.au/eau. Hard copies may be ordered on a print-on-demand basis through the same website.

Commercial and statistical services

The department produced 15 trade statistical publications about Australia’s international trade relationships. The publications aim to assist policy making and business decisions and contribute to community understanding of trade issues. In 2006–07, we distributed 3341 copies of these publications to a wide range of users in the public and private sectors. Much of the department’s statistical information is available at either no charge or on a fee-for-service basis for Australian businesses and researchers. Our statistical consultancy service answered 9296 such queries.

We have produced more than 170 country and economy fact sheets which include information on Australia’s bilateral political and economic relationships and background on specific countries. The material 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.

Speeches

The department’s speechwriters, in consultation with ministers’ offices and relevant areas of the department, prepared 77 draft speeches for ministers and the department’s Senior Executive.

Treaties

We maintained the Australian Treaties Database which lists the treaties signed or that have entered into force each year. The database can be found 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.

Outlook

The department will work with Austrade and other agencies to promote understanding of trade policy priorities and trade opportunities for businesses and the community. We will work with stakeholders to ensure that trade advocacy materials remain timely, accessible and responsive to community interests.

The media will maintain its keen interest in consular cases as well as developments in foreign and trade policy. Demand for concise background briefings will continue as will the media’s requirement for timely and accurate responses to their inquiries.

 

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