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Public information services and public diplomacy
Output 3.1 Effectiveness Indicators
3.1.1: Provision of public information and media services on Australia’s foreign and trade policy
- Contribution to awareness and public understanding of Australian foreign and trade policy through departmental engagement with the media.
- Department’s Internet websites and publications updated and enhanced to promote understanding of foreign and trade policy issues.
- Greater domestic awareness of portfolio issues promoted (particularly in
regional and rural centres), including of the importance to Australia of
open markets and the benefits of trade, through:
- support to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary for public presentations;
- briefings and public presentations by departmental officers including from the department’s State and Territory offices; and
- development of brochures, reports, Internet-based material and ministerial speech input.
- Portfolio issues highlighted for Australian students through the development of curriculum-based material.
- Benefits of trade, and related Australian and Cairns Group positions, promoted internationally through studies and the provision of tailored information packages; misinformation countered.
- Contribution to increased public understanding of arms control and regional security matters, and nuclear fuel-cycle issues and safeguards, including through interaction with the media, the Internet, the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific, regular production of Peace and Disarmament News, and contributions to internationally recognised publications.
- Electronic database of international treaties maintained and updated to ensure continued accessibility, through the Internet, by the widest possible audience.
- East Asia Analytical Unit reports successfully launched on East Asia-related topics of interest to Australian business, including on financial market reform in the region, on the recovering economies of Thailand and Indonesia, and the commencement of reporting on emerging market opportunities outside East Asia, including Latin America and the Middle East.
- Contribution to a positive image of Australia in Asia through highlighting in the Asialine magazine of trade opportunities and government support available to business.
- Commercially useful information and statistical services provided to business and the public through publication of trade and economic reports, Internet-based information and client-based statistical and market access information services.
Sub outputs 3.1.2, 3.1.3 and 3.1.4 are located on a separate page to increase download performance.
Through its public programs in Australia and internationally, the department seeks to increase awareness and understanding of Australia’s foreign and trade policies and project an accurate and positive image of Australia internationally.
The Sydney Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games and the Centenary of Federation , together with Australia’s participation at the World Expo 2000 in Hanover, focused unprecedented levels of international attention on Australia. The department worked hard to build on this exposure, including through our overseas posts. We presented an accurate and contemporary image of Australia and responded to negative or misleading reporting. We provided information to Australian and international audiences through a range of media on issues such as East Timor, indigenous policy, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, globalisation, Australia’s economic credentials and new economy issues. All of these issues attracted interest in both the domestic and international media.
The department was involved in explaining the benefits of international engagement and globalisation to key domestic audiences, including rural communities and secondary school students. We prepared, updated and consolidated public affairs material, both hard copy and Internet-based, to ensure maximum reach and accessibility.
Targeted international visits programs and tailored media briefings for key international opinion-makers generated accurate and informed media coverage in support of our foreign and trade policy objectives.
The department also undertook an active publications program. The publication of a volume of documents on Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor and another volume entitled East Timor in Transition represent important contributions to discussion of Australia’s international engagement and national identity.
Provision of public information and media services on Australia’s foreign and trade policy
The department is proud of the high level and positive tone of its engagement with Australian and international media. We dealt with over 6,500 media inquiries, covering a range of foreign and trade policy issues including Australian sanctions against Fiji, developments in Solomon Islands, Bougainville, East Timor, the APEC Trade Ministers’ Meeting, Free Trade Agreement negotiations and consular issues.
Ministers were given strong support in their media dealings on portfolio issues. We provided media liaison and support for major events such as the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting, the Pacific Islands Forum, the Australia–PNG Ministerial Forum, the Solomon Islands’ Peace Process talks, the Australia–EC Ministerial Consultations, the World Economic Forum, the G8 Okinawa Summit, World Expo and the Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting.
We closely monitored trends in coverage of portfolio issues and developed strategies to increase domestic awareness of them. We expanded the range of journalists with whom we have regular contact, particularly among those working in technical or trade publications and rural media outlets. We dedicated a public affairs officer to trade issues, which resulted in a significant boost in coverage in the rural and trade-related press. The department held 15 general background media briefings on key foreign and trade policy topics, and 576 one-on-one background briefings by senior departmental officials for selected journalists. These strengthened links with key media representatives and secured greater understanding of complex portfolio issues.
The department improved its distribution of press releases. More than 600 contacts on our media-contacts database, 213 of which are trade-related, now receive press releases electronically immediately they are cleared for publication. We distributed 307 ministerial media statements, an increase of 25 per cent over the previous financial year; 140 of these dealt with trade issues, double the number for 1999–2000. We also issued 14 departmental press releases.
Mindful of the increasingly central role of the Internet for the dissemination of information and advice, the department has built on the major website innovations developed in 1999–2000. We introduced comprehensive guidelines for the management of the central website (www.dfat.gov.au) and the 46 individual websites managed by overseas posts. The guidelines helped improve design, accessibility and content, and reinforced the department’s emphasis on timely, accurate and up-to-date content.
A comprehensive listing of overseas posts and their responsibilities was added to the website, and up-to-date contact details of foreign diplomatic representatives in Australia are now added automatically to the website from databases managed by the department. We improved Internet services to the media by providing transcripts of press conferences and sound recordings of media briefings. Online material designed for use by schools was added to a specific area of the website for students.
Several issue-specific sites were created, including a feature site on Mr Downer’s visit to Korea in November 2001 and a site for the Australia–Japan Conference in April 2000. A new site also consolidated public information on the Cairns Group of Fair Traders in Agriculture.
While the department uses the Internet as a key distribution platform for its international public affairs material, we also produce a number of hard-copy publications for direct distribution to target audiences. This dual approach ensured that international media representatives covering the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were well informed on Australian policies and emerging issues, contributing to generally accurate and highly positive international coverage of Australia.
In addition to the dedicated Internet site for media during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, extensive printed and audio-visual material was prepared and distributed at the Sydney Media Centre. The department provided 10,000 copies of our reference booklet Australia in Brief to the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) for inclusion in information kits for all visiting dignatories and accredited journalists. Local language versions of the booklet were produced in Arabic, Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, German, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese and, in electronic form only, Dutch and Portuguese. Many of the foreign language versions were posted on the department’s websites in the lead-up to and during the Games. A new edition of Australia in Brief has been written and will be published early in 2001–02; it will include an extended section on Australia’s new economy and innovation credentials.
In the lead-up to the Olympics, the department produced 13 new fact sheets and worked with other agencies to coordinate the production of another 62 fact sheets, all under the common masthead Australia 2000, for distribution through the Sydney Media Centre, the website and overseas posts. These covered a diverse range of subjects including trade, the economy, indigenous issues, culture and the arts, immigration and population diversity, education, science and the Centenary of Federation. Drawing on the success of the Australia 2000 series, we began work on an updated and consolidated group of fact sheets under the masthead Australia Now , to be completed early in 2001–02. The establishment of a Commonwealth agencies public affairs network on international issues following the Olympics has enhanced cooperation and the quality of material available to promote Australia internationally.
The department also produced, in consultation with other relevant government agencies, an ‘Innovative Australia’ public affairs information kit to showcase Australia’s new economy credentials, e-commerce capabilities and scientific, IT and telecommunications expertise. The kit includes ten fact sheets, a CD-ROM and snapshot of recent Australian inventions and innovations.
Speeches provided by the departmental speechwriters, in consultation with ministers’ offices and relevant areas of the department, were well received by ministers. We prepared 195 ministerial speeches—5 more than during the previous year.
The department worked with a specialist educational group to produce curriculum materials for secondary students on consular help for Australian travellers overseas, clearing of landmines and trade liberalisation issues. We also developed and distributed to Australia’s 3,100 secondary schools a study kit (see below) on globalisation and open markets based on the publication Open Economies Delivering to People: APEC’s Decade of Progress (see sub-output 1.1.6 and 1.2.6). The kit helps secondary school students consider information relevant to the globalisation debate. Feedback from schools was positive, confirming that we are filling a need in educating young Australians on foreign policy, trade, economic and globalisation issues.
Investigating Globalisation through the APEC Experience: Study Guide
The study guide can be used in a range of classroom situations:
The guide invites students to make an objective assessment of the information about the impact of globalisation—especially policies that deliver open trade and investment—and challenges them to judge whether the benefits of globalisation outweigh the negatives.
‘[The study kit] encapsulates many of the concepts which our senior students, in the commercial subjects, are expected to be familiar with. In so many instances the information they require on globalisation and its impact is either non-existent or too time-consuming to research. The [kit’s] quality, … ease of interpretation and up-to-date presentation and analysis of patterns and trends [make it] a superb resource for our economics and business studies students.’
Mr Peter Smith, Head Teacher, Social Science,
A copy of the report can be downloaded from www.dfat.gov.au/apec
Trade benefits and WTO objectives
The department promoted international awareness of the importance of Australian membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the benefits of trade more generally through media statements; speeches and media interviews during overseas visits by the Trade Minister, Mr Vaile; Foreign Minister, Mr Downer and senior departmental officials. The Minister for Trade, for example, attended the 2001 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in May and made public statements on the benefits of a new round of multilateral trade negotiations. He publicly promoted the benefits of trade liberalisation and the WTO during other visits such as to the Banff Cairns Group meeting in October 2000, at APEC meetings and in bilateral visits, such as to the Middle East and Africa in 2000. The department was also active in countering negative international publicity on the WTO, for example, through preparing written material to answer alternative opinion in the Indian press.
The department engaged both business and the community to project a positive image of trade and investment liberalisation, in particular to explain the benefits of trade and investment to Australia and build community support for trade policy objectives. We examined the significance of the export sector in rural and regional Australia, and produced information brochures highlighting key regional exporting industries and their economic role in local communities which were well-received by the public. The department also published Australia’s Trade: Influences into the New Millennium , a major study on Australia’s future trading environment highlighting the role played by global economic integration and new technologies, as a further means of communicating to the public some of the advantages of trade and Australia’s trade policy. In addition, we expanded country coverage in the online TradeWatch market information service, and have received appreciative feedback from exporters for its timeliness and well-targeted information.
The department built greater public support for Cairns Group’s positions on agriculture trade internationally through an outreach program to developing countries. We participated in a series of seminars in Cairo in June 2001 on Egypt’s policy options for agricultural liberalisation. Together with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), we held a series of meetings in the capitals of 11 key developing countries (Pakistan, India, Philippines, Egypt, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru) to promote greater understanding of developing country interests in the agricultural reform agenda. We worked with sectoral groups, for example the Global Sugar Alliance, in promoting the specific interests of Australian industry internationally, particularly as they converge with the interests of industries of our negotiating partners.
More information on our work to promote trade liberalisation can be found under outcome 1, sub-output 1.1.5.
Arms control, security and nuclear issues
The department produced a series of six information brochures for public distribution to promote understanding of international security, arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation issues. These brochures provide an overview of government policy on conventional weapons, the Australia Group, nuclear shipments, missile proliferation, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. We undertook a major upgrade of our website on international security, nuclear and arms control issues to improve public access to this information.
The National Consultative Committee on Peace and Disarmament remains an important mechanism for the department to discuss related Australian policy developments with a broad range of community representatives. The Committee met twice in the course of the year and its mandate was renewed for another three years at the beginning of 2001. The department also convened a meeting of the National Consultative Group on biological weapons, which brings together industry, academic and non-government organisation (NGO) representatives to discuss policy development in support of a strengthened biological weapons convention.
Departmental officers were in regular contact with relevant NGOs and Australian industry, and addressed forums on security issues such as missile defence and regional security. Through close cooperation with the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific and its Australian Member Committee, we conveyed Australia’s regional security objectives to a broad and influential audience.
Budget pressures forced the discontinuation of Peace and Disarmament News in October 1999. Our website now reaches a wider audience on the issues it covered.
The Australian Treaties Library provides free public access on the Internet to more than 2,600 treaties. The library was expanded by the addition of 40 treaties signed or entered into force for Australia and now includes amendments of a technical nature to multilateral treaties to which Australia is party.
The scope of the Australian Treaty List, published in the Australian Treaties Library, has been extended to provide access to unsigned texts and references to prospective treaties to which Australia is considering becoming a party. It also includes well-known treaties to which Australia has never been a party.
The East Asia Analytical Unit launched two new reports, Accessing Middle East Growth, Business Opportunities in the Arabian Peninsular and Iran, on emerging trade and investment opportunities in rapidly growing Middle East markets, and Indonesia—Facing the Challenge, on post-financial crisis reforms and challenges and business opportunities in Indonesia. These reports received very favourable press coverage and strong commendations from relevant business groups (the Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce and the Australia–Indonesia Business Council) and regional analysts and governments.
The Unit now is completing reports on commercial opportunities in Latin America and India and on corporate governance in Asia since the East Asian financial crisis. These reports will be released before the end of 2001. In addition, work has begun on a report assessing the implications of China’s accession to the WTO and future Australian trade and investment activities.
As part of its preparation of the Indonesia: Facing the Challenge and India and Corporate Governance reports, members of the Unit visited the region extensively during the year, establishing valuable contacts and promoting their work as well the interests and concerns of Australian business.
The department produced a number of publications to communicate to the public the Government’s trade policy objectives and to explain Australia’s interests in engaging in trade. The publication From Sheep’s Back to Cyberspace: Trade and Regional Australia in Changing Times focused on the benefits of trade to regional Australia. A companion set of 32 brochures, Exporting to the World, highlighting trade opportunities available to regional areas of Australia and explaining the role of trade in different parts of Australia, was also produced and has been in heavy demand. A study on medium term trends, Australia’s Trade: Influences in the New Millennium, was prepared to draw attention to likely future influences on trade.
The department also prepared some influential APEC publications: Open Economies—APEC’s Decade of Progress and APEC Progress on Tariffs: Implications for a New Agenda. These highlighted progress made in reducing trade barriers in APEC and the contribution that more open trade has made to economic development in the region.
Through the quarterly publication of Asialine, the department continued to encourage Australia’s closer engagement with Asia and to inform Australian businesses of trade and investment opportunities in the region. Mr Vaile launched an Asialine website in September 2000—an event co-hosted by the magazine’s corporate sponsors—to improve the reach and effectiveness of Asialine as a public diplomacy and information tool. In February 2001, we renewed our contract with Deacons law firm for the sponsorship of Asialine until February 2002.
Our Human Rights newsletter, which keeps readers informed of the Government’s human rights policies and action taken by the department, was published twice. The publication was sent to interested non-government organisations (NGOs) and also made available on the department’s website. Two rounds of consultations on human rights were held with NGOs.
Commercial and statistical services
The department produces a wide range of statistical publications for business, academics and members of the public, dealing with Australia’s international trade relationships. These publications cover the composition and direction of trade in goods and services, including the department’s own classification designed to distinguish export commodities according to their level of processing. The main features and contents tables of all publications are placed on the department’s website. Some publications can be obtained free from the website.
TradeWatch, which provides a valuable online market information service to Australian exporters (http://www.dfat.gov.au/tw/), has been expanded to cover 22 countries and the European Union. In its first full year of operation, the site proved popular, with an average of nearly 400 registered subscribers per country and over 38,000 hits. The department commenced a new quarterly publication, Tradebytes , to publicise more widely the benefits of trade and our work in this area. This publication complements Tradewins , which promotes the department’s efforts to open markets to Australian exports of goods and services through bilateral efforts and the whole-of-government Market Development Task Force. Both publications also appear on the website.
In addition to publications, a set of country/economy fact sheets was maintained on the department’s website. The fact sheets provide demographic and economic information for more than 180 of Australia’s trading partners, as well as summaries of their trade relationships with Australia. Early in each month, details of Australia’s most recent trade outcomes are also placed on the website. Graphs and written material explain trends and other movements in Australia’s trade with the ten major economies of East Asia.
The department set up information booths at Trade Expos in the Northern Territory in July 2000 and June 2001. We also participated in a combined Austrade/Foreign Affairs and Trade booth at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. The booths promoted the passport, consular, statistical and other services the department provides for the public, and sought to explain the benefits of a liberalised trading environment.