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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Annual Report 2000-2001
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Secure government communications and security of overseas missions

Output 1.3 Quality and quantity information

Quality indicators

Quantity indicators

Secure communications network

Clients showed a generally high level of satisfaction with the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure. Internal and external client views were obtained through a variety of mechanisms, including:

Availability of communications

The department maintained a client base of 13 Commonwealth agencies with electronic connection to the 24-hour secure communications system. The commissioning of a new message switch substantially increased the reliability, efficiency and productivity of the network. This was further enhanced by the introduction of automatic cable distribution for some cable categories, reducing transmission times and allowing approximately 16 per cent of all cable traffic to be distributed automatically. More than 100 agencies or offices of agencies received paper copies of cables. We continued to keep under review arrangements for cable distribution to other agencies in the light of security considerations.

The department continued to streamline services to clients by upgrading network infrastructure and introducing new technology that provides better links to overseas posts. The Merlin satellite communications project was extended to Bali, Noumea and Ho Chi Minh City, providing them with significantly improved secure communications, and a major network upgrade was completed to strengthen links between key sites at Canberra, Washington and London.

We introduced new tools to provide better system analysis and bandwidth management capability that will improve services to clients. Savings in bandwidth costs were achieved by increasing from nine to 16 the number of European posts that connect to the network through new hubbing arrangements.

A Request for Tender was issued for our international telecommunications services to market-test the existing service provision and to ensure that the department is positioned to meet future needs.

There were steep reductions in the number of pages faxed and telememos forwarded as a consequence of our ongoing adoption of newer technologies, especially e-mail. The reduction in the number of cable pages printed partly reflects changing departmental practices related to the acceptance of documents in electronic form.

The Global Support Centre (GSC) Help Desk delivered first-level telephone user support on issues related to the department’s secure and non-secure communication and information systems. The Centre provided 24-hour services to 4,763 departmental and other Commonwealth agency clients in Australia and overseas and in ministers’ parliamentary and electorate offices. More than 57,600 enquiries were received, 85 per cent of which were resolved without the need for escalation to higher-level support teams.

Senior clients from the department and other agencies expressed appreciation for the role the communications centre played in enabling out-of-hours contact.

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Contingency plans and physical security

The department is in regular contact with posts about contingency planning and physical security issues. Contingency plans are updated annually. Five plans activated during the year to manage provision of consular and other services to Australian nationals covered all identified risks and dealt with a wide range of possible scenarios. Formal and informal feedback from posts, other agencies, the media and the public indicated a high level of effectiveness and satisfaction with outcomes.

We conducted physical security and access control system reviews at seven posts (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Bangkok, Honiara, Dili and Jakarta). We provided security fitout services in eight locations, ensuring compliance with departmental security standards and also that security countermeasures were consistent with threat assessments.

Quantity information [Note 1]

Number of posts and Commonwealth entities with access to the secure communications network and secure telecommunications infrastructure. [Note 2]


Number of clients serviced [Note 3]

approx. 113

Types of services provided and volume of traffic handled: [Note 4]

cables analysed


cable pages printed [Note 5]


fax pages


telememos forwarded


Number of overseas missions for which security services are provided, including security review services.


Number of security clearances and reviews processed. [Note 6]


1 Several of the indicators used for 1999–2000 were revised for 2000–01 (see page 20). Changes of collection methodology or in the definitions of items being counted are indicated in footnotes.

2 We provided 87 posts with secure communications services. Thirteen other Commonwealth agencies have an electronic connection to the department's secure communications system.

3 This includes the 13 Commonwealth agencies that have an electronic connection to the department's secure communications system and over 100 clients that receive paper copies of cables.

4 Newer technologies, especially e-mail, have largely replaced faxes and telememos.

5 Most cables are now accepted in electronic form rather than printed.

6 We processed 148 new clearances and 331 reviews (including revalidations/recognitions). This total reflects the fact that the backlog of clearances and reviews as a result of a review of the system itself was cleared in 1999–2000.

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