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OUTPUT 1.5: Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia
Output 1.5 Effectiveness Indicators
1.5.1: Services to the diplomatic and consular corps
- Australia’s Vienna Convention obligations to protect the premises and dignity of diplomatic and consular missions in Australia more fully met through dialogue and coordination with other Commonwealth agencies, and by ensuring relevant protective agencies understand these obligations.
- Engagement with the corps deepened and broadened through the provision of enhanced services, close coordination with other Commonwealth departments and agencies, and the development of a range of partnership activities with the corps.
- Services to the corps enhanced through the upgrading of the Protocol Database, the facilitation of improved airport access by diplomatic and consular personnel, and the coordination of briefings to the corps on issues of common interest.
1.5.2: Provision of protection advice through liaison with the Protective Security Coordination Centre
- Contribution to the development of appropriate policies on dignitary protection in consultation with other agencies and through representation on Federal and State committees, with particular focus on the Sydney Olympics.
Australia, like almost all the international community, is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which codify international practice regarding the rights and responsibilities of diplomatic and consular officials. Under the conventions, Australia is responsible for protecting the premises of missions, the persons of their members and their right to free and secure communication with their home government. The department, through the Office of the Chief of Protocol, is responsible for extending and regulating privileges and immunities, including protecting against abuse of those privileges and immunities and, where abuse does occur, taking effective action consistent with international conventions.
The Office of the Chief of Protocol continued to facilitate the work of diplomatic and consular representatives through the provision of high-quality and timely services and by responding to specific issues of concern for the diplomatic and consular corps. We also reinforced our expectation that foreign representatives should obey the laws of Australia. The department managed a number of sensitive immunity issues to a successful conclusion.
The interests, expectations and concerns of the diplomatic corps in the lead-up to and during the Sydney Olympic Games were managed successfully. This was a significant element of the overall impact of the event on Australia’s image internationally.
At the close of the reporting year the department was providing services to 77 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 10 international organisations in Australia, 24 non-resident diplomatic missions, and 314 consular posts throughout Australia representing 130 countries.
H.E. Mr Mohammed Yousef Al-Zarafi, Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman, presents his credentials to the Governor-General, Sir William Deane, on 21 June 2001. Photo by Michael Jensen.
Protection of diplomatic and consular missions
The Chief of Protocol completed consultations with senior levels of all State and Territory police services to improve their understanding of Australia’s obligations under the Vienna Conventions for security and dignity protection. As a result, several police jurisdictions have incorporated into their police training and operational manuals a paper prepared by the department on these issues.
In response to concerns expressed by diplomatic representatives about crime levels in Canberra, and a sense that diplomatic premises were being targeted by criminals, the department hosted a briefing for the diplomatic corps by the Australian Federal Police and other security agencies. The briefing was well attended and well received by diplomatic representatives.
Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps
The department updated and revised the Protocol Guidelines, which provide clear advice to diplomatic and consular representatives on relevant Australian laws, regulations, policies and practices. In a further initiative to enhance the transparency of our procedures and practices, we published A Guide to Australian Protocol for Honorary Consuls. Through it, we aim to strengthen our partnership with honorary consuls, who are playing an increasingly significant role in the provision of consular services in Australia on behalf of foreign governments.
We organised visits by the diplomatic corps to Hobart in February, accompanied by Mr Downer, and to Taree in May, hosted by Mr Vaile. Both visits were highly successful in showcasing distinctive parts of Australia unfamiliar to many diplomatic representatives and in affording the corps the opportunity to explore regional industries and to interact directly with the broader community. The visits significantly enhanced the sense of partnership between the department and diplomatic representatives.
We completed negotiations regarding the implementation of an Indirect Tax Concession Scheme with all countries represented in Australia. A number of tax concession packages have been revised in response to further information provided and/or reciprocal action taken by other countries.
Enhanced services to the diplomatic and consular corps
The upgraded Protocol Database is fully operational and is providing timely and accurate processing for diplomatic and consular representatives and their families. Identity cards have been processed within the maximum time of three working days.
We maintained our high standard of record keeping through an annual staff return exercise to provide up to date census data for all missions and posts and through weekly updating of the diplomatic and consular lists in a user-friendly format on the department’s website. A bilateral employment agreement, governing employment conditions for family members of diplomatic staff overseas, was concluded with Spain. Negotiations are under way with another five countries.
Through our overseas posts, we conducted a worldwide survey of airport access provided to Australian officials by other governments. We also surveyed diplomatic missions on their perceptions of the airport access provided to their officials in Australia. The results of the surveys will be used in consultations with relevant Federal and State authorities to negotiate improved access for diplomatic and consular representatives.
The department initiated and arranged briefings for the diplomatic corps on issues of concern and interest such as the security of missions in Canberra and the Sydney Olympic Games.
Provision of protection advice through liaison with the Protective Security Coordination Centre
The department consulted closely with the diplomatic and consular corps on protection issues related to the Sydney Olympic Games. We played an active role, including through our participation in meetings with Federal and State representatives convened by the Protective Security Coordination Centre (PSCC), in ensuring that the relevant agencies were fully briefed on the security and protection issues arising from the large number of international dignitaries visiting Australia during this period.
Through our participation in national exercises for Federal and State security agencies to prepare for the Sydney Olympic Games and the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane, we have emphasised the foreign policy and diplomatic implications of security incidents.