The Department

1.7 Global Issues

Table 18: Resources Summary for Sub-program 1.7

Figure 30: Global Issues Program and Organisational Structure as at 30 June 1998

Sub-program Objectives

In 1997-98, the objectives of sub-program 1.7 were to:

  • enhance the international and regional security environment, in ways which promote Australia’s security interests
  • limit the proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and missile delivery systems, particularly in our region
  • strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations
  • advance and safeguard Australia’s political, security, economic, trade (including multilateral procurement) and environmental interests in international forums and negotiations.


The International Organisations and Legal Division and the International Security Division administer the sub-program, with specialist support from the Australian Safeguards Office and the Chemical Weapons Convention Office. ILD and ISD also administer four Australian overseas posts but most posts contribute routinely to achieving sub-program objectives. In January, responsibility for multilateral procurement was transferred to sub-program 1.6, Trade Strategy Development and Business Liaison, administered by the Market Development Division. Refugees, immigration and asylum issues, formerly listed under sub-program 1.8, were transferred to this sub-program. The International and Legal Division provided a base for the Ambassador for the Environment, appointed in September.

The sub-program pursues strategies designed to help achieve three of the Department’s corporate goals: to enhance Australia’s security; to promote Australia’s economic growth, jobs and standard of living; and to strengthen global cooperation in ways which advance Australia’s interests. These strategies include using multilateral and regional coalitions, forums and dialogues, promoting reform in major international organisations, and advancing Australia’s security, trade, economic and environmental interests in key international negotiations, for example by providing the base and services for Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment.

Performance Information

In 1997-98, the Department indicated that it would evaluate its performance using:

  • Australia’s contribution to, and influence in, developing and implementing international nonproliferation and disarmament regimes covering weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and pursuing a global ban on anti-personnel landmines
  • continued effective operation of the multilateral export control regimes and Australia’s national export control mechanisms
  • maintenance and development of effective bilateral, regional and multilateral mechanisms, including nuclear safeguards and safety, for Australia to safely and securely participate in uranium exports, nuclear cooperation and other trade of strategic significance
  • maintenance and extension of security dialogues particularly with Asia Pacific countries and key non-regional partners
  • further evolution of the ASEAN Regional Forum and other regional mechanisms in support of confidence-building and preventive diplomacy in the Asia Pacific region
  • effective monitoring, and where necessary, influence on regional developments affecting security, including proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and regional expansion of nuclear energy
  • effective monitoring and provision of high-quality and timely analysis and advice on strategic and security developments relevant to Australia’s security, including through high-level government National Security Committee mechanisms and the Australian intelligence community
  • development and implementation of policy on strategic issues, including inputs to defence policy, crisis management and counter-terrorism
  • outcomes in key UN and other multilateral bodies which reflect and advance Australian interests
  • directions and outcomes of key international environment negotiations which safeguard or advance Australian economic, environmental and other interests, particularly those on climate change, hazardous chemicals, movement of hazardous wastes and biosafety aspects of transboundary movement of genetically modified organisms
  • progress in reforming the United Nations, its specialist agencies (especially the World Health Organization) and the Commonwealth, including reforming their governance and financial and personnel management, and eliminating duplication
  • practical outcomes at multilateral, regional and bilateral levels on human rights concerns
  • success of Australian candidacies in UN elections and other international organisations
  • effectiveness of coalitions and regional and bilateral cooperation to pursue Australian interests
  • increased involvement by Australian companies in UN and multilateral development bankfunded procurement and increased share of multilateral procurement opportunities for Australia.

Performance Outcomes

1.7.1 International Organisations

In the review period, the Department worked closely with representatives of other like-minded countries to ensure the adoption of reforms across the United Nations, including institutional streamlining, elimination of duplication, better coordination of UN activity and significant resource savings. Most UN specialised agencies achieved zero real or zero nominal growth budgets. This will continue to be a priority for the Department in coming years. The Department also secured commitments for long overdue reforms of the Economic and Social Commission of the Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) work program. Continued Australian representation over the years on the UN Committee on Contributions has ensured the United Nations’ costs are equitably distributed among member states.

The Department, including through Australian posts overseas, was directly involved in electing Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, a reformist, to the post of Director General of the World Health Organization. Her election should lead to necessary major WHO reforms. Reform of the Commonwealth Secretariat has been another, long-term objective of the Department on which we are now starting to see signs of movement.

The Department is responsible for coordinating Australia’s election to UN governing bodies and committees. Australia won all four of the international elections it contested in the review period: the Intelsat Panel of Legal Experts, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Statistical Commission and the International Maritime Organization.

The Department coordinated Mr Downer’s visit to the fifty-second Session of the UN General Assembly in October where he delivered Australia’s annual UNGA address. Mr Downer’s General Assembly statement focused on three themes: Australia’s approach to human rights, emphasising the need for institution-building to assist developing countries in the promotion and protection of human rights; Australia’s strong support for the Secretary-General’s reform of the United Nations; and our interest in fostering serious debate among UN members on the issue of reconfiguration of the existing UN electoral groupings to better reflect modern geographic realities.

In conjunction with the Victorian Education Department, the Department organised an International Conference, ‘Education for the 21st Century in the Asia Pacific Region’. Held in Melbourne under the auspices of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the conference provided an opportunity for Australia to showcase its educational expertise to 650 participants from more than 60 countries.

The Department worked effectively in UN forums to promote and protect human rights, with like-minded countries and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It made particular efforts towards integrating national human rights institutions into the programs and priorities of the UN system and supporting their establishment and operation. This included continued strong support of the work of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and direct engagement with regional governments and institutions. At the first round of a human rights dialogue with China, the Australian Government raised a wide range of issues and agreed with China on a program of technical assistance. The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade welcomed and extensively used the Department’s submission to the inquiry into the effectiveness of Australian regional dialogue on human rights. The Department also made over 500 representations on individual human rights cases to other governments, ensuring that these governments were aware of international concern and scrutiny.

The Department, largely through effective liaison with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, ensured the Government took foreign policy interests and perspectives into account in developing immigration policies and practices, including in the introduction of quasi visa-free access for some nationals via the Electronic Travel Authority. The Department continued to work with DIMA to improve the process of obtaining information for decision makers and review tribunals involved in determining refugee status.

1.7.2 Environment

The strong outcome for Australia at the December Kyoto Conference on Climate Change was a major achievement for the Department; the Minister for Foreign Affairs described it as ‘a triumph for Australian diplomacy’. The Climate Change Task Force developed the negotiating strategy which delivered a final agreement that was fair and equitable for Australia. It also designed and pursued a major diplomatic campaign which secured the necessary international support for Australia’s concept of differentiated emission targets for all countries. Australia secured a realistic target for itself (an 8 per cent growth in emissions between 1990 and 2010). Although Australian environmental NGOs did not support the negotiating strategy, industry stakeholders and the states and territories all publicly expressed their satisfaction with the Kyoto outcome and the task force’s work.

Photo: (From right to left) Minister for the Environment, Robert Hill, Australian Ambassador for the Environment, Meg McDonald, Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Penny Wensley, and DFAT officer, Amanda Hawkins, at the Kyoto Protocol Signing Ceremony on 30 April in New York. (photo: Alex Towle Photography)

Photo: The Department's Climate Change Task Force receives a Secretary's Citation at the 1998 DFAT Australia Day Achievement Awards ceremony. (Left to right) Karen Gilmour, Ted Knez, Jenny Dee, Rob Sturgiss, Lyn MacKay, Daniel Emery, Meg McDonald (Ambassador for the Environment), Michael Mugliston, Ali Noore and Robin Hamilton-Coates. (photo: Michael Jensen)

Australia began negotiating the detailed rules which will govern the international implementation of the Kyoto outcomes. This is expected to carry over into the next review period. The Department led the negotiation of a whole-of-government strategy, intensive consultations with states, territories, industry, NGOs and unions, and a diplomatic campaign focusing on key countries.

The Department similarly contributed to developing whole-of-government positions which safeguarded and advanced Australian interests in other international environment negotiations. Departmental officers led Australia’s delegation to the negotiation of an international convention on Prior Informed Consent for trade in hazardous chemicals which concluded in March; it will open for signature in September 1998. The convention will formalise and strengthen the existing voluntary system without adversely affecting Australia’s access to pesticides, chemical feedstocks, chemical technology or export markets. The Department also coordinated Australia’s position in negotiating a new international convention to control the manufacture, supply and release into the environment of certain persistent organic pollutants. This position aims to protect Australia’s trade, environmental and health interests.

The Department chaired the OECD and other key country groups in the negotiations for a Biosafety Protocol; this contributed to mutually supportive positions favourable to Australia’s national interests. The Department similarly succeeded in preserving flexibility for resource-based countries like Australia in negotiations on hazardous wastes, plant genetic resources and forests.

The Department advanced cooperation within the Valdivia Group of Temperate Southern Hemisphere Countries on Environment (Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and Uruguay). Through the Valdivia Group and other coalitions, the Department began negotiations on developing a regional agreement for the conservation of Southern Hemisphere albatross species. It also strongly pursued the Government’s objectives on whale conservation with countries in the Pacific region on the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. The Department will continue to promote the Government’s long-term objective of establishment of a global whale sanctuary.

1.7.3 Nuclear Policy

In the review period, the Department initiated prompt action to advance Australia’s nuclear cooperation and safeguards objectives. Through the Australian Safeguards Office, it supported efforts to enable Australia to be the first country to ratify its strengthened safeguards Additional Protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency and offer an Expanded Declaration to that protocol; this contributed to the evolution of effective measures for verifying the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. The Department also actively promoted a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, notably at the second meeting of the Preparatory Meeting for the Sixth Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Australia continued to play a significant role in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, including as Chair of the NSG’s Transparency Working Group. Supporting Australia’s position as Chair, departmental officers played a key role in organising an international NSG export control seminar in October. Participants reacted favourably to the seminar and recognised it as a model for future activities.

The Department developed Australia’s policy response to the new Indian Government’s nuclear policy, including taking the lead in coordinating Australia’s strong responses to nuclear testing in India and Pakistan. The Department also maintained strong Australian support for International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards activity in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Australia’s partners in the region acknowledged Australia’s role in an expanding regional nuclear safety dialogue. The Department contributed to efforts which led to Australia signing a Nuclear Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement with Indonesia. This agreement establishes a framework encompassing bilateral consultation and cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. Through the Department, Australia played a catalytic role in promoting the adoption of a new international regime covering civil liability for nuclear damage and an active role in the successful adoption of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

The Government took into account the Department’s views when it decided to acquire a new research reactor. The new reactor will play an important role in maintaining and developing Australian expertise in areas of nuclear science germane to foreign policy development on nuclear arms control, security and safety matters. The Department, including the Australian Safeguards Office, made a submission to the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into a Replacement Reactor at Lucas Heights, contributed to the Senate Inquiry into the Mining and Milling of Uranium and reported on the application of international nuclear and radiation standards to the Jabiluka mine.

1.7.4 Strategic Policy and Intelligence

The Department advanced its regional and global strategic and security objectives through new senior officials-level dialogues with China, Vietnam and the Philippines; existing dialogues with the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Indonesia and Germany; and agreement to establish a new dialogue with Thailand. These dialogues enhanced mutual understanding with key regional partners of security perceptions and defence policies, and provided a channel through which to influence their strategic thinking. These contacts also contributed indirectly to strengthening security dialogue within the ASEAN Regional Forum. Coordinating closely with the Department of Defence, the Department worked actively to strengthen the ARF, particularly through Australia co-chairing the ARF Inter-Sessional Group on Confidence Building Measures. For the first time, this group reviewed progress on implementation of existing ARF CBMs, developed a list of 14 new CBMs for future consideration and agreed to consider specific preventive diplomacy mechanisms next year. The last outcome is a significant step forward for the ARF. The Department facilitated the Government’s key role in encouraging the ARF to respond firmly to nuclear testing in South Asia.

The Department produced strategic and security assessments which were incorporated into key strategic and foreign policy statements, including In the National Interest, the Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper, and Australia’s Strategic Policy, the Defence Strategic Review. The Department also participated in the strategic level policy process through regular high-level meetings with key policy departments and the Australian intelligence community. These processes contributed significantly to effective handling of issues as diverse as deployment of the Australian Defence Force to the Persian Gulf, Australia’s close involvement in the Bougainville Peace Process and Australia’s responses to the Sandline Affair in Papua New Guinea. The Department began work to establish a new open-source information collection unit for the Government. It made key contributions to reviews of Australia’s strategic exports policy and to the processing of individual defence export applications, thereby ensuring that policy and decisions on individual cases were consistent with Australia’s international obligations and government objectives. It also used meetings of the Wassenaar Arrangement to promote transparency and greater responsibility in the transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies to avoid destabilising arms accumulations. The Wassenaar Arrangement, established in 1996, is still in a formative stage but has considerable potential to contribute to global arms control and non-proliferation objectives.

The Department provided strategic and foreign policy input to several Australian Defence Force exercises. This work helps to ensure that, in overseas crises, links between the ADF and the Department operate efficiently and effectively. The Department also contributed actively to the Government’s crisis management and counter-terrorism contingency planning. In keeping with its responsibilities for managing Australia’s responses to overseas terrorist incidents involving Australian nationals, the Department participated in counter-terrorism discussions with other countries, including in planning for the Sydney Olympics.

1.7.5 Arms Control and Disarmament

The Department actively pursued Australia’s non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control agendas, although progress in the UN Conference on Disarmament was stalled for much of the year. It coordinated and contributed to Australia’s responses to the South Asian nuclear tests, and to Iraq’s non-cooperation with UN Special Commission inspections in the United Nations including through a contribution to the coalition military force.

The Conference on Disarmament made little progress in 1997 on its forward work program, but agreed in 1998 on a framework agenda. In a major speech at the Conference on Disarmament in February, Mr Downer called on the conference to undertake substantive work on the landmines issue and the negotiation of a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive purposes— a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). The Department facilitated active Australian participation in the Ottawa process to negotiate a treaty banning anti-personnel mines. Australia signed the resulting Ottawa Convention in December. Ratification procedures are well advanced. It also supported Australia’s appointment as the Conference on Disarmament’s Special Coordinator on landmines in 1997 and reappointment in 1998, aiming to establish a consensus to negotiate a ban on the import, export and transfers of anti-personnel mines. The UN First Committee in 1997 adopted overwhelmingly Australia’s resolution on landmines which seeks further action in the Conference on Disarmament to build on the anti-landmines norm established by the Ottawa Convention. The Department facilitated Australia’s ratification of the Inhumane Weapons Convention’s revised Protocol II on landmines prior to its entry into force, and contributed, through Australia’s ratification, to the entry into force of IWC Protocol IV on blinding laser weapons.

Photo: The Australian Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, John Campbell, and Coordinator (Australian Network), International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Sister Patricia Pak Poy, AM, look on as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, signs the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction 1998, in December in Ottawa. (photo: courtesy of the Government of Canada, Denis Drever)

The Department worked actively towards the implementation and entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-ban Treaty. Australia’s ratification processes are well advanced and should be completed early in the next review period. Preparations to establish the International Monitoring System are progressing well. The Department sought to ensure Australian entities would be awarded substantial contracts for IMS work.

The Department managed Australia’s swift, firm response to the outbreak of nuclear testing in May in South Asia. The Department worked to defend the integrity of the international nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime in the face of the challenge posed by India’s and Pakistan’s nuclear tests, notably through consolidating the anti-testing norm established by the CTBT and focusing international attention on the negotiations on a FMCT.

The Department also continued to contribute significantly to preventing the spread of chemical and biological weapons through chairing the Australia Group, a group of countries that imposes controls on the export of materials and equipment that could be used to develop chemical and biological weapons. The group’s first meeting after the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention reaffirmed the value of the group’s continued existence. The Department facilitated Australia’s active role on the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, with Australia one of the first two countries to conclude facility agreements with the OPCW to govern the conduct of inspections at a key facility. The OPCW conducted two inspections of Australian chemical facilities. The Department coordinated work which culminated in March in the Prime Minister announcing an Australian initiative to encourage an early conclusion of negotiations of a verification protocol of the Biological Weapons Convention. This initiative includes hosting a high-level international meeting to add political impetus to the negotiations and convening a National Advisory Group of experts to assist in developing Australia’s position.

The Department continued to play an active role in the Missile Technology Control Regime, particularly in enhancing the regime’s outreach efforts to non-members. The South Asian nuclear tests highlighted the importance of the MTCR to the global non-proliferation architecture. The Department consulted the Australian community on the Government’s arms control and nonproliferation initiatives through dialogue in the National Consultative Committee on Peace and Disarmament and the publication of Peace and Disarmament News.

1.7.6 Nuclear Safeguards

The Department, through the Australian Safeguards Office, ensured Australia met its obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and bilateral safeguards agreements. The ASO accounted for Australian obligated nuclear material under bilateral agreements and nuclear material in Australia, and met all International Atomic Energy Agency reporting and safeguards inspection requirements. It also ensured appropriate physical protection arrangements were in place at nuclear facilities and uranium mines.

The ASO contributed to the development of strengthened international safeguards and developed the legislative package and practical arrangements to implement these in Australia, including the conclusion of Australia’s additional safeguards protocol with the IAEA. It also provided the Government with valuable technical advice on nuclear policy matters.

1.7.7 Chemical Weapons Convention

As Australia’s national authority for implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention Office ensured that Australia met its obligations under that treaty. It made all necessary declarations of Australian facilities and activities; facilitated successful on-site inspections at one government and one industry facility; and developed and assisted the successful passage of legislation refining the administration of the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994.

The Director of Safeguards and Director, CWCO, produces a separate annual report which is available from AusInfo bookshops, or from ASO/ CWCO by telephoning (02) 6261 1920.

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