Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.10 Security, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation


The accelerated shift of strategic and economic weight to the Asia-Pacific following the global financial crisis; the rise of China and of India; Indonesia as a regional player of renewed weight and influence; and the state of relations between the United States (US), China and Japan—all form the backdrop of Australia’s strategic engagement. Non-traditional issues such as terrorism and emerging international issues concerning cyber and space continue to grow in importance.

The department pursued Australia’s interests in these traditional and non-traditional issues by engaging in productive bilateral strategic dialogues with the US, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, NATO and the EU, as well as through the Senior Officials’ Meeting of the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with Japan and the US. We contributed to the coordination of Australia’s international engagement on cyber and began work on the development of international cyber norms. Recognising the growing importance of space in international security, and to our US alliance, the department upgraded engagement on space security with a range of countries.

Through the Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, the department coordinated Australia’s activist international counter-terrorism engagement, multilaterally and regionally. Working with the Indonesian Government, the department helped build its counter-terrorism capacity while expanding our activities in South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. We continued to lead Australia’s engagement on international strategic issues including with the US and other key allies.

We advanced Australia’s non-proliferation and disarmament agenda by establishing, with Japan, the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI)—a cross-regional ministerial-level grouping to promote and support implementation of the outcomes of the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. We led whole-of-government delegations to United Nations-hosted preparatory meetings on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which will improve regulation of the global conventional arms trade.

National security and strategic policy

The department supported participation of the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Smith, and Mr Rudd in the National Security Committee of Cabinet and was active in other high-level strategic policy and coordination bodies, including the Secretaries’ Committee on National Security, the Strategic Policy Coordination Group, the Homeland and Border Security Policy Coordination Group and the National Counter-Terrorism Committee.

In response to the emergence of cyber on the international agenda, the department worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other agencies on a framework for Australia’s international engagement on cyber. The department took the lead for Australia in contributing to the development of international cyber norms by undertaking work on messaging, principles to underpin norms, and mapping international activity. The department also worked with the Department of Defence to strengthen cooperation with the US and the United Kingdom on cyber in AUSMIN and AUKMIN consultations and contributed to planning for the United Kingdom’s London conference on international cyber norms, scheduled for November 2011.

Recognising the growing importance of space in international security, and to the US alliance, the department upgraded engagement on space security with a range of countries. Australia and the United States established a senior officials-level Space Security Dialogue. A key outcome of AUSMIN 2010 was a Joint Statement on Space Security, Australia’s first major public policy statement on the issue.

The department and other agencies advanced Australia’s principal intelligence relationships and contributed to whole-of-government work on intelligence policy through the National Intelligence Coordination Committee and the 2011 Independent Review of the Intelligence Community.

The department made a strong contribution to inter-agency work on initiatives to improve Australia’s contribution to international stabilisation and reconstruction activities, such as the Australian Civilian Corps and the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence. The department increased its involvement in defence exercises focused on stabilisation scenarios, as part of the whole-of-government effort to ensure the success of future civil-military operations.

In February 2011, we led Australia’s team to the third ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting on maritime security which agreed to a draft work plan. In March, Border Protection Command and the department attended, for the second time, the Governing Council meeting of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia in Singapore as an external participant to demonstrate our continued interest in possible accession to the Agreement.


As highlighted in the February 2010 Counter-Terrorism White Paper, Securing Australia – Protecting our Community, Australia’s counter-terrorism engagement with countries in our region, led by the Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism is broad-ranging and increasingly complex.

The department coordinated cross-portfolio counter-terrorism activities with South-East Asian partners, including in regional forums such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and APEC. We supported regional programs to counter violent extremism and promoted social cohesion and building community resilience against extremist propaganda. In Indonesia, support for reform and capacity-building in the prison system funded by the department and AusAID is improving the management of extremist inmates.

The Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism hosted the Sixth Trilateral (Australia, the United States and Japan) Strategic Dialogue Counter-Terrorism Consultations in Melbourne in December 2010. We strengthened departmental support for counter-terrorism capacity-building in Pakistan including projects to heighten parliamentary action on legislation to counter terrorist financing and money laundering.

The department enhanced our partnerships in the Middle East, with the Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism undertaking consultations in the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Lebanon, Israel and Saudi Arabia in 2011. We also sponsored a visit by the East African Community Secretariat focused on implementing its Strategy for Regional Peace and Security in East Africa. We worked through the UN and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to enhance regional counter-terrorism capacity-building activities, including supporting an ongoing UN Office of Drugs and Crime–PIF Secretariat project on ratification of counter-terrorism instruments and implementing legislation in the Pacific.

Australia participated as a founding member in preparatory meetings to shape the agenda of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, an initiative to be launched in September 2011 in New York.

The department contributed to international capacity-building activities to reduce the risk of terrorists acquiring and using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials. Two international tabletop exercises on countering the financing of nuclear terrorism were conducted as a contribution to the work programs of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Nuclear Security Summit.

Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, with members of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in Berlin on 30 April 2011.
Photo: Thomas Trutschel/

Building on the momentum generated by the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, in September 2010, Australia and Japan convened a ministerial meeting of states—Canada, Chile, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates—dedicated to finding ways to advance the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament agenda. In April 2011 the group, known as the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), determined to promote entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), develop a standard nuclear disarmament reporting form and promote universalisation of the Additional Protocol to improve the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) ability to detect illicit nuclear activities.

NPDI Ministers agreed that if the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) remained unable to agree on launching Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations during its 2011 session, they would ask the UN General Assembly to address the issue. This sent a strong signal to those preventing negotiations that the impasse could not be allowed to continue. Our Geneva mission initiated with Japan a series of well-attended ‘expert side-events’ on FMCT technical issues focussing on definitions and verification. These helped build confidence and momentum for an early start to FMCT negotiations.

Australia’s position on the IAEA Board of Governors helps us to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime. Throughout 2010–11, Australia continued to press concerns about the nuclear activities of Iran and Syria. In June 2011, the IAEA Board of Governors found Syria had not complied with its safeguards obligations with the IAEA by failing to declare the construction of a likely nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour and referred this non-compliance to the UN Security Council. The Security Council has a crucial role to play in deterring would-be proliferators from developing nuclear capabilities outside of international controls required by the NPT.

Counter-proliferation and export controls

To ensure Australia does not inadvertently contribute to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the department worked with other agencies to implement measures that included visa-screening and controls on exports of WMD-sensitive goods. The department led and coordinated Australia’s preparations for the 7th Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Review Conference, to be held in December 2011, helping forge consensus on measures to enhance the treaty’s effectiveness. The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office and the department worked with international partners to minimise potential damage to the Chemical Weapons Convention that could arise from the failure of states to complete destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles by the extended deadline of April 2012.

The department chaired the annual Australia Group meeting which sets export controls on chemical weapons precursors, biological agents and related technology and equipment and led an outreach program to non-members. As former Chair of the Missile Technology Control Regime we also participated in outreach seeking broader adherence to the regime’s controls.

To enhance counter-proliferation capabilities, the department worked bilaterally with regional partners and through the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). We supported the Department of Defence’s hosting of the first meeting of the PSI’s Regional Operational Experts Group, and an associated air interdiction exercise in Cairns in September 2010.

The department led Australia’s delegations to preparatory meetings for the 2012 UN Negotiating Conference on an Arms Trade Treaty with the aim of strengthening controls on the international transfer of arms. With AusAID, we sponsored workshops designed to ensure the concerns of Pacific and Caribbean countries were appropriately reflected in those negotiations. The department worked closely with the Attorney-General’s Department and Department of Defence to realise Australia’s earliest possible ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, signed in December 2008.


The department will increase engagement internationally on cyber issues by mainstreaming cyber engagement through strategic and security dialogues. We will ensure the development of the Cyber White Paper leads to greater clarity and understanding of Australia’s objectives and interests in the international cyber agenda.

The department will continue to be an active participant and contributor to the national security community.

Australia will play a constructive role in the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, including in our immediate region. The department will continue cooperating with Indonesia on a broad range of capacity-building activities. In an effort to counter violent extremism, Australia will work with partners to promote social cohesion and resilience against extremist propaganda. The department’s work in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa will continue to expand. We will remain actively engaged on national counter-terrorism coordination and advisory structures.

The first preparatory meeting for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, to be chaired by Australia’s Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, will take place in 2012. The work of the NPDI, which Australia co-chairs, will contribute to building confidence and momentum in the lead up to the Review. With Japan and the Philippines, Australia will host an ASEAN Regional Forum meeting on non-proliferation as a further contribution to the NPT Review process.

A robust whole-of-government approach will be taken to Arms Trade Treaty negotiations due for completion in 2012, by working with domestic and international stakeholders. The department will seek agreement on practical measures to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention at the 7th Review Conference in December 2011. We will work progressively to refocus the activities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention from destruction of stocks to non-proliferation to ensure that chemical weapons cannot again threaten international security.

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