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Annual Report 1999-2000Annual Report 1999-2000 home page

ContentsContents > Overviews > Outcome 1: National Interests > Outcome 2: Consular & Passports > Outcome 3: Public Diplomacy > Management > Financial Statements > Appendixes > Glossaries

YOU ARE CURRENTLY AT: Outcome 1 > Outputs 1.1 and 1.2 > South Pacific, Middle East and Africa

OUTCOME 1: Australia's national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global cooperation

Output 1.1:
Protection and advancement of Australia’s international interests through the diplomatic network and Canberra-based activity

Output 1.2:
Provision of policy advice and analysis to portfolio ministers



  • Bougainville peace process consolidated and advanced through Australia’s regular dialogue with all PNG parties, other regional players and the United Nations, leadership of the Peace Monitoring Group and reconstruction efforts.
  • A stronger Closer Economic Relationship developed with New Zealand, including through the conclusion of cooperation programs under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement, and a further review of inscriptions under the CER Services Protocol.
  • Australia’s security, political and economic interests in Papua New Guinea supported through close monitoring of the challenges facing Papua New Guinea and bilateral representations at ministerial and senior officials level.
  • Australia’s interests in the political stability and economic viability of the Pacific Island countries supported through a continuing focus on, and support for, improved economic management in the region.
  • Capacity for Australian influence in the Pacific region maximised by effective management of our engagement in regional bodies such as the South Pacific Forum and the Pacific Community.
  • Australia’s political and economic interests in Pacific fisheries advanced through negotiation of a regional treaty for the conservation and management of highly migratory species.
  • Environment for Australian commercial interests in the Middle East enhanced, including through the new embassy in Abu Dhabi, officials’ dialogue with Iran following the Australia–Iran Joint Ministerial Commission, and the visit to Australia of the Governor of Riyadh.
  • Contribution made to the international enforcement of sanctions against Iraq, including through consultation with, and support for, the Department of Defence on the deployment of Australian forces.
  • Trade liberalisation, economic reform, good governance and human rights supported in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa.


The illegal overthrow of the Fiji Government and the communal hostilities in Solomon Islands in May–June 2000 dominated the department’s work in the South Pacific in the latter part of the year. In the wake of the hostage crisis in Fiji, we devoted considerable resources to managing the Australian Government’s response, urging the release of the hostages and promoting Fiji’s early return to constitutional rule. In Solomon Islands, the department encouraged the warring sides to reach a peaceful resolution. Before the violence in Honiara escalated, we had been helping the Solomon Islands Government manage ethnic tensions. Following the detention of the Prime Minister and the formation of a new government in June, we worked with key players in the conflict to maintain the momentum of the Guadalcanal peace process and to safeguard Australia’s interests, particularly the welfare of our citizens and commercial entities.

The department helped consolidate Australia’s strategically crucial relationship with Papua New Guinea (PNG) through our support for the Morauta government, including support for a $130 million financial assistance strategy to underpin public sector reforms, facilitation of ministerial and prime ministerial visits, and organisation of a successful ministerial forum. The department supported the Bougainville peace process and negotiated phased Peace Monitoring Group reductions. The peace process will remain a sensitive, high-priority issue.

In Bougainville, as with the events in Fiji and Solomon Islands, the department worked closely and cooperatively with New Zealand. We continued to develop the bilateral relationship with New Zealand, one of our most important internationally. Our support for meetings between the two prime ministers and between a range of other ministers strengthened a wide-ranging and active bilateral agenda.

Capitalising on some improvement in political conditions in the Middle East, the department helped to secure Australia’s interests in the region by facilitating trade and investment and supporting high-level government visits. Trade links continue to strengthen with the stronger-performing economies in Africa, particularly South Africa and Mozambique. Africa remains a difficult environment for the department in our pursuit of Australia’s commercial and other interests, which require political stability and economic growth to flourish.

Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville peace process

The department helped strengthen and secure Australia’s diverse interests in PNG and promote the bilateral relationship. We coordinated the Government’s strong and rapid response to the change in PNG’s government in July 1999 and led efforts to develop policy responses and assistance programs to underpin its financial and economic reform programs. We played a key role in developing and supporting a $130 million financial assistance strategy to underpin public sector reforms. This was supplemented by a program of technical assistance to key agencies in the PNG Government. The department also helped develop the policy foundations for the successful visits by the Prime Minister, Mr Downer and the Treasurer in 1999 and Australia’s participation in the annual ministerial forum in Port Moresby in March 2000—all intended to demonstrate our continuing commitment to PNG.

The department worked to secure the support of international financial institutions, notably the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, for PNG’s reform program. We maintained contact with key industry and business groups in PNG and held talks with industry and government agencies involved in the development of PNG’s resources, including the proposed gas pipeline to Queensland.

The department developed and coordinated the Government’s policy response to events in Bougainville and promoted Australia’s interest in achieving a peaceful settlement. We underscored this role through our chairing of the interdepartmental Bougainville Watch Group, regular bilateral contacts and exchanges with the PNG Government and leaders on Bougainville. We managed the deployment of 88 civilian peace monitors (including 32 departmental employees) to the Peace Monitoring Group. The Chief Negotiator in the group, a post occupied by a senior departmental employee on a rotational basis, has encouraged and facilitated negotiations between the parties, often serving as a key observer and confidence-builder at political talks held over the past 12 months. A settlement to the dispute is still some way off, but the department will continue to support negotiations and encourage all sides to maintain the momentum for peace.

We continued to oversee the Commonwealth Government’s responsibilities under the Torres Strait Treaty, and coordinated activity among Commonwealth and State agencies responsible for implementing the treaty. As a result of this, practical issues such as the deployment of emergency services in the treaty area have been refined. We also managed Australia’s participation in the Annual Joint Advisory Council held in Port Moresby in November 1999. Through our representative on Thursday Island and the high commission in Port Moresby, we strengthened cooperation with PNG counterparts on important Torres Strait issues, including border management.

New Zealand

In a busy year in the bilateral relationship, the department helped establish strong links with the new Government in New Zealand. Our efforts focused on policy advice and practical support to meetings between Mr Howard and Prime Minister Helen Clark, as well as initial contacts by Mr Downer, Mr Vaile, and the Ministers for Defence, Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Agriculture, Health, and the Environment, with their counterparts. These early meetings highlighted the breadth and depth of our agenda with New Zealand and confirmed New Zealand’s place as one of Australia’s key trading and international partners.

Given the closeness of the relationship between Australia and New Zealand, the department provided strong support for New Zealand’s chairmanship of APEC. We worked closely with New Zealand in the defence and political contexts, most notably in East Timor, Bougainville, Fiji and Solomon Islands. Our efforts to ensure close and effective cooperation with New Zealand strengthened our own whole-of-government response on these issues.

The department’s efforts contributed to the continued success of the Closer Economic Relationship (CER) arrangement with New Zealand, Australia’s fifth largest merchandise trading partner. We helped conclude cooperation programs under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement and did further work to reduce the number of inscriptions (exemptions) on services sectors under the CER Services Protocol, including input to the review of shipping policy. We participated in the work of a number of inter-agency working groups, managing key aspects of our cooperation with New Zealand, and contributed to the finalisation of a draft Food Standards Code, released for public comment in March 2000. Negotiations were completed for a memorandum of understanding on coordination of business law.

We played an important policy advisory role in the Australia New Zealand Bilateral Economic Relations taskforce, established by prime ministers in February 1999. The taskforce proposed solutions for a number of longstanding irritants in the bilateral relationship in a range of areas, such as investment, social security, customs, business law, child support and ocean management. The department was involved in the conclusion of the Child and Spousal Maintenance Agreement in April 2000.

Figure 13. Australia’s merchandise trade with New Zealand

Figure 13. Australia’s merchandise trade with New Zealand

South Pacific

The department closely managed Australia’s response to escalating ethnic tensions in Solomon Islands. We provided policy and administrative support to visits by the then Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Kathy Sullivan, in mid-1999 and two visits by Mr Downer in 2000 to encourage local peace efforts. Frequent visits to Honiara by senior departmental staff supplemented the efforts of our high commission to manage Australia’s response to the situation. Our security-related and humanitarian assistance has been critical to maintaining the focus on internal solutions on Guadalcanal, including the peace process. We also moved swiftly to safeguard direct Australian interests, particularly the welfare of Australian citizens and commercial entities.

Before the violent overthrow of Fiji’s democratically elected government in May 2000, we had developed productive contacts with Fiji’s Coalition Government, reinforced by the strong links forged by Mr Downer’s visit in December 1999. We played a leading role in developing proposals to support the adjustments that the garment industry in Fiji, a major employer of labour and importer of Australian textiles, will be required to make in an increasingly low tariff environment. This issue was the main focus of the visit of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry to Australia in April 2000.

We subsequently led the development of an Australian response to George Speight’s hostage-taking of senior members of the Fiji Coalition Government, and to the range of developments that followed, including advising on imposing bilateral measures against Fiji. We devoted considerable effort, including through our support for Mr Downer’s visit to Fiji in June as a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, to urging the release of the hostages, and to promoting Fiji’s early return to constitutional and democratic rule.

More broadly, we worked hard bilaterally with forum island countries to gain acceptance at the senior political level of the need for good governance and economic reform as a basis for security and stability in the South Pacific. This work achieved further regional support for reform measures and added value to initiatives under Australia’s development assistance programs in the region.

The department also worked through regional meetings to contribute to regional stability and prosperity. We coordinated a whole-of-government approach to the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Apia in July 1999, which gave continued priority to good governance and economic management, and to sustainable development initiatives. The Australian delegation’s careful management of potentially sensitive East Timor, climate change and nuclear shipments issues contributed to a positive outcome at the South Pacific Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Palau in October 1999. The department has achieved some success, including at the forum, in overcoming island country reservations about Australia’s inclusion as party principal in a Pacific regional trade agreement to be negotiated over the next two years. We played a central role in organising the construction of new headquarters for the South Pacific Regional Environment Program in Samoa.

We pursued Australian coastal and fishing interests in the Multilateral High Level Conference, negotiating a Pacific fisheries treaty for the conservation and management of highly migratory species. As current Chair of the Forum Fisheries Committee, we coordinated South Pacific Forum members’ participation in the conference negotiations. We supported the successful campaign of an Australian for Deputy Director of the Forum Fisheries Agency. Our efforts have contributed significantly to solid progress towards finalising an acceptable treaty text and to maximising Australian influence in regional fisheries management and in regional institutions generally.

Middle East

The department’s focus over the year was to promote strong commercial relations with key trade and investment partners in the Middle East in the face of keen competition. We supported a successful visit by Mr Vaile in February–March 2000 to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With Austrade, we organised an accompanying delegation of around 60 business people. Mr Vaile also formally opened the new embassy in Abu Dhabi. A feature of Australia’s exports to the Middle East are motor vehicles. Although the trade only began in 1996, over 50 000 vehicles were exported to the Gulf states during the year.

Officials in Abu Dhabi

Mr Vaile and the Minister of Economy and Commerce, Sheikh Fahim Sultan Al Qasimi (second from right), are joined by the Australia’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Mr John Hines (third from left), the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to Australia, HE Khalifa Al Falasi (left), and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials at the opening of the new Australian embassy in Abu Dhabi in March 2000.


The department advanced Australia’s commercial interests through successful dialogue with Iran and the UAE in the Australia–Iran and Australia–UAE Joint Ministerial Commissions. The latter meeting announced the formation of a strategic trade and investment partnership, and strengthened cooperation in agriculture and mining, contributing to preserving our economic interests in the face of increasing competition. The focus of economic dealings with Iran expanded to encompass significant opportunities for cooperation and investment in energy, tourism and mining.

High-level dialogue with Egypt helped Australian companies pursue their export objectives and seek new opportunities created by Egyptian agricultural development. The successful visit to Australia in April 2000 of the Governor of Riyadh, supported by the department, formed part of a strategy to encourage Saudi business people to look more to Australia as a commercial and investment partner. This partnership was reinforced through the department’s negotiation of an agreement supporting Saudi Arabia’s World Trade Organization accession, which will significantly improve access to the Saudi Arabian market for Australian products.

We provided policy advice and significant logistical assistance to the visit of Mr Howard to Israel and the Gaza Strip in April, and the ensuing visit of Mr Vaile to Israel and the Palestinian Territories in June.

We contributed to the implementation of United Nations Security Council decisions about Iraq, including through consultation and support for the Department of Defence on the deployment of Australian forces. We coordinated the implementation of trade sanctions against Iraq and helped streamline the administration of the food-for-oil program to the benefit of Australian companies.


The department’s efforts in Africa centred on developing trade and investment links, particularly with South Africa. Having proposed and coordinated a joint Australia–South Africa officials meeting in Canberra in May 2000 that reviewed the bilateral commercial relationship, we prepared for the Third Joint Ministerial Commission, which will be held in South Africa in October 2000. Outcomes over the year from the second Joint Ministerial Commission included a Double Taxation Agreement, which came into force in December 1999, and an Agreement for the Reciprocal Protection of Classified Information of Defence Interest, signed on 11 May 2000.

While trade with South Africa is at reasonably healthy levels, we are carefully monitoring the impact on Australian exports of the South Africa–European Union Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 2000. The agreement is likely to increase competition and make it more difficult for Australia to hold its current market share.

The department assisted Australian companies investing in the resource sectors of countries in Southern, Eastern and Western Africa, a difficult environment in which to pursue Australia’s interests.

We advocated trade liberalisation, economic reform, good governance, rule of law and human rights in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. This included capacity-building initiatives, managed under the aid program. The department also supported Mr Downer’s role in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, provided substantial policy advice on the deterioration of law and order in Zimbabwe and organised briefing and deployment of Australian observers for the parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe in June 2000.

The department provided policy advice (including briefing on the 19 African Commonwealth countries) and logistical assistance for the Prime Minister’s attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Durban and the participation of the Hon Tim Fischer MP in the Commonwealth Business Forum in Johannesburg in November 1999.

Table 5. Australia’s regional trade with the South Pacific, Middle East and Africa





1998–99 ($M)

1999–00 ($M)

TREND GROWTH 1994–95 TO 1999–00

1998–99 ($M)

(1999–00 $M)

TREND GROWTH 1994–95 TO 1999–00

New Zealand


and Territories

5 844

6 737


3 952

4 376


Papua New Guinea

1 014




1 380


Other Pacific Islands

1 188

1 351





Middle East

4 182

4 708


1 548

2 474


South Africa


1 039





Other Africa








13 824

15 427


7 477

9 753


Source: Compiled by DFAT from ABS data.

Reporting against quality and quantity indicators and administered items commences on page 100.

YOU ARE CURRENTLY AT: Outcome 1 > Outputs 1.1 and 1.2 > South Pacific, Middle East and Africa

Annual Report 1999-2000Annual Report 1999-2000 home page

ContentsContents > Overviews > Outcome 1: National Interests > Outcome 2: Consular & Passports > Outcome 3: Public Diplomacy > Management > Financial Statements > Appendixes > Glossaries


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