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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

Program management (services to diplomatic and consular representatives)

1.1.12 Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Overview

The department provides visa, accreditation and other services to diplomatic and consular representatives and their offices in Australia. Despite an increase in the size of the diplomatic and consular community (including dependants) to nearly 5300, we met the demand in this area quickly and efficiently, with few exceptions. The department received positive feedback from the corps on our promptness and responsiveness in providing support consistent with Australia's obligations under the Vienna Conventions.

We placed a high priority on protecting the security and dignity of diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia. Productive working relationships with agencies, in particular the Security Coordination Branch, Attorney-General's Department, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, ensured the department responded to issues of concern voiced by missions and posts.

Services to the diplomatic and consular corps

Protocol Branch provided services to 99 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 37 non-resident diplomatic missions, and 350 consular posts (a total of 153 countries), as well as nine international organisations with offices in Australia. Twenty-three new resident and ten non-resident heads of mission presented their credentials. We worked closely with Government House to ensure the smooth handling of credentials ceremonies.

The department liaised with other Australian Government agencies to assist the corps on issues such as security, immigration, employment, airport security, customs and quarantine matters, land and premises for foreign missions, taxation and motor vehicle ownership and disposal. We worked closely with agencies on their frequent requests for VIP airport facilitation.

A total of 41 bilateral employment arrangements were managed that regulate employment of dependants of diplomatic officers in the host country. Negotiations for new arrangements were completed with Austria and Switzerland.

We facilitated the establishment of diplomatic representation by Qatar, Georgia and Paraguay, and preparations by other countries to establish missions in Canberra. We also facilitated the establishment of three new consular posts, as well as 12 new honorary consular posts.

The department continued to liaise closely with the ACT Government and the National Capital Authority on issues of importance to the diplomatic corps, including managing the diplomatic estate, environmental protection, and building standards and certification requirements.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

The right of freedom of expression and peaceful political protest is a key part of Australia's system of democracy. The department worked with the AFP and local authorities to ensure that the safety and dignity of missions was respected and protected on the occasion of such protests.

The department ensured that Australia met its obligations under international law to protect the security of diplomatic missions and consular posts in Australia. We worked closely with agencies to respond promptly to specific security issues raised by various missions during the reporting period, notably following a protest that damaged the Syrian Embassy premises.

We supported the AFP and local authorities in seeking waivers of immunity to assist investigations of alleged criminal offences. In the interests of safety on public roads, we supported local authorities by bringing to the attention of heads of mission individual diplomats with poor traffic infringement records.

Photo of The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, delivers the biennial Sir Alan Westerman Lecture on Australian Trade Policy at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, November 2011.

The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, delivers the biennial Sir Alan Westerman Lecture on Australian Trade Policy at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, November 2011.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, delivered the biennial Sir Alan Westerman Lecture on Australian Trade Policy in November 2011, on the topic of 'Can Free Trade Be Fair?'. The event was well attended by members of the diplomatic corps. In March 2012, we hosted a reception to enable the diplomatic corps to meet the new Foreign Minister, Senator Carr, following his appointment.

Outlook

The department will continue to provide high-quality, efficient protocol services to diplomatic and consular staff throughout Australia. Protocol guidelines are continually reviewed with an aim to facilitate and expedite the delivery of protocol services to diplomatic missions in Australia. Efforts to increase the number of bilateral employment agreements for dependants of diplomatic officers will continue. We also intend to make better use of available information technology resources to streamline the handling of forms in Protocol Branch.

Table 6. Services to diplomatic and consular representatives: statistics

2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
Number of diplomatic representatives for whom the department provides services
1016
1068
1148
Number of consular representatives for whom the department provides services
936
950
1023
Number and category of services provided:
visas issued for the corps
2111
2330
2925
arrivals and departures processed
1279
1226
1692
identity cards issued
1278
1274
1362
presentation of credentials
25
22
33
exequaturs issued
18
21
33
facilitation of purchase, registration and disposal of cars by privileged personnel
960
1384
1057
requests processed for foreign awards to Australian citizens
65
59
91
requests processed for dependants seeking permission to work
104
99
111
approvals for new foreign missions in Australia (includes diplomatic missions, consular posts and offices of international organisations)
8
9
19
approvals for defence advisers/attachés
14
14
13

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade