Annual Report 2007-2008
 

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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 ::Speeches :: Treaties :: Outlook

Overview

The department gave high priority to assisting the media to provide informed and balanced coverage of foreign and trade policy issues. We did this through targeted media briefings, responses to media enquiries, and strategic media advice and support to ministers in connection with a range of international meetings, including APEC, the Pacific Islands Forum, the Bali meeting on Climate Change and free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations. We supported ministers’ engagement with the media through arrangement of media conferences and the issuing of media statements. We operated a 24-hour media liaison service and provided strategically focused media monitoring.

Sustained media attention on the department’s work was generated by developments in East Timor and Fiji, Japanese whaling, the Doha Round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, relations with India, FTA negotiations with China and Japan, potential uranium sales to Russia, and Australia’s response to the situation in Zimbabwe. There was also a high level of interest in a range of consular cases including arrests and trials of Australians in Indonesia, Vietnam and Lebanon.

Targeted public affairs material, distributed through our websites and overseas posts, assisted our broad promotion of the Government’s foreign and trade policy agenda. The internet remained our primary tool for communicating advice and information efficiently to mass audiences in Australia and overseas.

Media services

Significant foreign and trade policy developments and high-profile consular cases attracted sustained media interest throughout the year. In the absence of a major consular crisis, however, the total number of media inquiries was lower than in the previous two years.

We responded to 6906 media inquiries from Australian and international representatives of regional, rural and online media outlets, community radio, pay television and industry publications. An after-hours duty officer handled 2156 of these. We assisted with the issuing of 308 press releases from portfolio ministers and parliamentary secretaries and from the department on foreign and trade policy and corporate matters. We issued 75 notes to the media advising them of such matters as accreditation requirements for overseas events and details of media conferences. Our media releases were drawn on extensively by media outlets in their reporting.

Other issues that generated high levels of media inquiries included: the Australians arrested on drug offences in Bali; death penalty cases in Vietnam; the arrests of Australians in Lebanon; natural disasters in Burma and China; and individual consular cases in a range of countries including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Singapore and the United States.

In addition to managing enquiries on high-profile issues, we arranged 85 background briefings and interviews by senior departmental officers and those with subject matter expertise, for groups and individual journalists. Individual media briefings covered, among other things: FTA negotiations, the Doha Round, developments in Zimbabwe, the Middle East, the Pacific and South Asia, and nuclear issues. We provided general media briefings on APEC and FTA negotiations. These briefings were highly valued by the media and contributed to more accurate coverage of portfolio interests.

We provided strategic media advice and support to ministers in connection with a range of international meetings including the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Sydney in September 2007, the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Nuku’alofa in October 2007, the Bali meeting on Climate Change in December 2007, the Australia–United States Ministerial Consultations in Canberra in February 2008, Anzac Day commemorations in Turkey in April 2008, and the Dublin Diplomatic Conference on Cluster Munitions in May 2008. Our facilitation of Australian media attendance at and coverage of these major international events promoted enhanced public awareness and understanding of significant portfolio interests.

Our monitoring of media reporting ensured that portfolio ministers, parliamentary secretaries and the department’s senior executive were kept fully informed of media interest in and reporting of key portfolio and emerging issues. Our monitoring facilitated provision of informed and timely responses to occasionally incomplete or inaccurate media coverage of portfolio issues.

We delivered in-house training on dealing successfully with the media on portfolio issues to departmental graduate trainees, consular officers and other officers going on overseas postings. These programs ensured the expertise of our media liaison unit was supported by media management capabilities across the department.

Website services

The department’s suite of websites was a key tool in disseminating information and providing online services in Australia and overseas. Information across the full range of portfolio issues and specific services, such as consular travel advice and registration systems, and passport services, attracted significant public interest.

The department began implementing the recommendations of an external review of its website, including measures to improve content, usability and management of content. A new home page design includes regularly updated current issues and public events sections. Another new feature is an interactive Google map so that users can more easily find details of Australian missions overseas and departmental offices in Australia.

Work began on finetuning the website so that it can be delivered to mobile platforms while maintaining its look and feel. The server capacity of the site was increased to handle unexpected demand while server redundancy was improved to cope with possible system failures.

The website recorded high usage, underscoring its importance in our overall public advocacy strategy. Average weekly access to the website was around 755 000 page-views per week, down slightly from 2006–07 resulting from a reduction in the number of pages on the website due to post-federal election website content reviews. The smartraveller website recorded an average of 476 000 page-views per week compared to 402 000 in 2006–07.

Trade advocacy and outreach

The department continued to produce a variety of public diplomacy materials to encourage a deeper understanding of the benefits of trade and government trade policy in the Australian community.

We played a lead role in delivering to the Australian community key messages on the broader benefits of trade and investment to the economy. The department also regularly produced and disseminated information materials to the media, stakeholders and the public on issues such as the progress of WTO and FTA negotiations, the success of Australian companies in exporting to the world, and the latest trade statistics and analysis.

In order to raise awareness of trade policy issues, the department produced more than 30 000 copies of the popular Trade at a Glance and Why Trade Matters publications, which were distributed to business and industry stakeholders, media, members of parliament and, for the first time, every high school in Australia. We received positive feedback about the efficacy of these publications.

Public diplomacy, business and youth outreach

The successful hosting by Australia of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Sydney on 8–9 September 2007 focused national and international media attention on Australian trade and investment engagement with the Asia-Pacific region. The department took advantage of this high level of interest to not only enhance the awareness and understanding of APEC, but also of Australia’s broader trade and investment policies and linkages. We supported a wide range of public diplomacy activities including speaking engagements at business gatherings, provision of targeted information materials for special supplements in the media, and numerous media briefings during APEC itself.

The department delivered a successful youth outreach campaign based on the development of a comprehensive APEC education resource that was distributed to over 3000 high schools in Australia. In addition, we partnered with key youth leadership groups including the YMCA Youth Parliaments, UNICEF, National Youth Roundtable, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and Voices for the Future of APEC, resulting in an expanded youth awareness of the key role of trade in Australia’s economic future.

Economic analysis

The department produced an analytical publication, APEC and the rise of the global middle class. The publication highlighted the opportunities and challenges posed for the APEC region by the rapid improvements in per capita income experienced by the populations of developing economies. It was launched by the then Prime Minister in the margins of the Sydney APEC leaders meeting, and attracted favourable media coverage.

The department’s quarterly journal Trade Topics included articles focusing on our trade relationship with FTA partners Singapore and Thailand and with prospective FTA partners, the Republic of Korea and India. There were also articles on China, APEC issues, statistics on Australia’s trade in services and on rising prices for agricultural commodities. The articles registered around 33 000 website hits in 2007–08.

Market information and analysis

The department produced a range of trade statistical publications, covering the composition and direction of Australia’s international trade in goods and services, available free online. These publications are a valuable resource for Australian businesses and researchers interested in overseas markets. There were around 500 000 website hits on the publications in the reporting period, with the Composition of Trade Australia, which is produced on a calendar and fiscal year basis, receiving some 140 000 hits.

The department also offers a consultancy service providing statistical information and advice, on a fee-for-service basis, to Australian businesses and researchers. The service specialises in trade and economic data on Australia’s trading and business relationships with over 220 countries, as well as wider information on the global trade of over 100 countries (accounting for around 90 per cent of total world trade).

Commercial and statistical services

In 2007–08, the department produced 15 trade statistical publications about Australia’s international trade relationships. All were available free of charge on the department’s website. In addition, our statistical consultancy service answered around 6000 inquiries.

A set of country/economy fact sheets, including economic and demographic data for more than 170 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.

Speeches

The department’s speechwriters, in consultation with ministers’ offices and relevant areas of the department, prepared 105 speeches for ministers and the department’s Senior Executive.

Treaties

The Australian Treaties Database lists the treaties signed or that entered 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.

Outlook

The media will maintain its very close interest in high-profile consular cases and in significant foreign and trade policy developments. Demand for timely and accurate information and focused background briefings to the media will continue.

The completion of the Mortimer Review of Export Policies and Programs will heighten interest in trade issues in the coming year. The department will continue to work closely with Austrade and relevant agencies to promote a stronger understanding in the community of trade policies, outcomes and issues. We will continue to expand our stakeholder base in the business community and among students in order to advocate the benefits of trade through the provision of timely, accessible and accurate public advocacy materials.

 

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