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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Annual Report 2000-2001
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Output 3.1
Public information services and public diplomacy
 

Output 3.1 Quality and quantity information

Quality indicators

Quantity indicators

Satisfaction with public diplomacy

The department’s efforts during 2000–01 to promote a positive image of Australia internationally are reported on pages 170 to 178. Our ministers commented favourably on our public diplomacy activities and the provision of information to Australians and to the Australian and international media. They were particularly pleased with our involvement in the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Expo 2000 in Hanover.

Mr Downer’s media release of 6 October 2000 (FA115: ‘Australia’s Golden Glow from the Olympics’) paid tribute to our contribution to the ‘unqualified’ success of the Olympic Games, noting that the Games resulted in ‘huge and very positive media coverage’ and provided ‘a tremendous boost to Australia’s international standing’.

The department’s contribution to the Sydney Olympic Games, particularly in coordinating support for visiting dignitaries and international media representatives, was also acknowledged by the chief executive officer of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, Mr Sandy Hollway.

Participants in the International Media Visits Program and Cultural Awards Scheme have praised highly the organisation of their visits and the value of the visits in providing them with accurate, contemporary perceptions of Australia.

At a meeting of the Australia International Cultural Council, the Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation, Mr Peter McGauran, expressed appreciation for the efforts of our posts in support of Centenary of Federation activities.

The department’s presentations and publications on agricultural market reform (sugar, wheat, beef), financial services and Chinese WTO accession, the ‘Terms of Trade,’ regional trade agreements, intellectual property rights and related issues attracted written expressions of enthusiasm from (variously) Mr Vaile, other Commonwealth departments, several State governments, senior executives of Australian and Japanese companies and industry bodies, the Australian National University, major law firms and professional associations and non-government organisations.

Ministerial correspondence

Ministers attach importance to the accurate, timely and informative draft responses to ministerial correspondence. During 2000–01, the department upgraded its Parliamentary Correspondence Management System (PCMS) to improve its operational efficiency and capacity to track and monitor the progress of correspondence. A major feature of the system is its capacity to transfer correspondence around the department electronically, significantly reducing delivery times and handling costs.

In 2000–01, the department processed more than 7,500 pieces of ministerial correspondence on PCMS. Despite very tight deadlines, we reduced the proportion of overdue responses from 10 per cent in 1999–2000 to around 6 per cent in 2000–01; most of those were overdue for less than one week. Compliance improved consistently over the year and in June 2001, over 830 pieces of correspondence were received, with only seven recorded as overdue.

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Timeliness and relevance of cultural and media activities

The department undertook a number of highly successful cultural and media activities throughout the year, as reported on pages 170 to 178. They included targeted media visits to Australia, briefing for foreign correspondents based in Australia, and visits in connection with the Special Visits Program and the Cultural Award Scheme.

The department’s Internet web site continued to provide an up-to-date public information service. All of the department’s publications are available for viewing or sale on the site, as is a range of other essential information about the department and our role in representing Australia internationally. Over half of our overseas posts now have their own web sites, with information tailored for the local community, consular and immigration clients, and relevant media.

Our New South Wales State Office played a pivotal role in supporting the department’s involvement in the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games during September–October 2000. In particular, the office successfully helped the consular corps and the NSW Police and other agencies manage a large number of visits by overseas dignitaries and business leaders. Mr Downer, the Premier of New South Wales Mr Carr, the Treasurer of NSW Mr Egan, NSW Police Commissioner Mr Ryan, the SOCOG executive, several other Federal and State ministers, the Chinese Beijing 2008 Games executive, and the Consular and Diplomatic Corps expressed deep appreciation to the Office for its assistance in the success of the Games.

Positive feedback on the facilities of the Sydney Media Centre was received from 93 per cent media representatives accredited to it. In addition, more than 50 per cent indicated in an evaluation survey that the information and opportunities provided at the centre changed or extended their original story ideas and/or perceptions.

Minister Vaile praised the publication From Sheep’s Back to Cyberspace—Trade and Regional Australia in Changing Times, which analyses the relevance and significance of trade to individual regions across Australia. It was issued as part of the strategy to promote a better understanding of the benefits of trade liberalisation in the Australian community. The book was launched in Horsham in Victoria on 20 March 2001. It was well received by our ministers, other parliamentarians and the business community. Nine thousand copies were printed.

The department supplied brochures for display at the Northern Australia Forum held in Katherine from 17 to 20 October 2000. The brochures were well received by delegates and were important in facilitating discussion on industry opportunities, trade and exports. The brochures drew particular thanks from the Secretary of the Department of Transport and Regional Services.

Senior trade officials from the Government of South Australia gave positive feedback on the market information and trade fact sheets produced by the department, commenting that they always drew upon them when preparing briefings for business.

Numerous letters of appreciation praised the department for accuracy and prompt and reliable service in providing trade data statistics.

Our ‘Australia in Brief’ and ‘Innovative Australia’ public affairs kits continued to be in strong demand and posts have reported positive feedback from target audiences.

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Freedom of Information requests

During 2000–01, we continued to meet our obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. This Act extends the right to the Australian community to obtain access to information held by the Commonwealth Government. This access is limited only by exemptions protecting essential public interests and the business and private affairs of people about whom departments and statutory authorities collect and hold information. The department processed 73 applications under the Act. We also met our obligations under the reporting requirements of sections 8 and 9 of the Act.

The department was asked to make seven internal reviews of decisions under the provisions of section 54 of the Act. In two cases, the applicants were unhappy with the results of the internal review and have lodged appeals with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in accordance with section 55 of the Act. These appeals are currently being considered by the Tribunal.

For further reporting on the department’s Freedom of Information arrangements and activities see Appendix 6.

Quantity information [Note 1]

Number of Australian performing groups, artists, exhibitors, and other cultural visitors supported. [Note 2]

1,386

Number of public briefings given by DFAT staff in Australia and overseas.

3,162

Number of other public diplomacy/cultural activities organised.

1,285

Number of media-related inquiries handled by the media liaison section. [Note 3]

5,500

Number of visits organised under the International Media and Special Visitor Programs and the Cultural Award Scheme. [Note 4]

88

Number of publications produced and number of copies distributed. [Note 5]

375

Number of statistical services provided to external clients. [Note 6]

8,800

Number of treaties maintained on and added to the international treaties database. [Note 7]

2,600

Number of Freedom of Information requests processed.

73

Number of records assessed for international relations sensitivities before release under the Archives Act and number of completed requests for archival information. 1,133

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

2 This figure reflects increased activity attributable to the Centenary of Federation and the Olympics and also reflects an underestimate in the previous year.

3 An additional 300 substantive Olympics-related media enquiries were handled in September 2000 by the DFAT team at the Sydney Media Centre, as well as hundreds of more informal conversations with journalists.

4 We hosted 26 International Media and 24 Cultural Award Scheme visitors and 38 visitors under the Special Visitors Program.

5 We produce over 375 publications, which are available to the public in hard-copy, on CD-ROM, or on the department's website. Approximately 1,760,000 copies of publications were printed in hard-copy during 2000–01. Details of publications produced or updated during the year in review are at www.dfat.gov.au/dept/annual_reports/ar.html

6 This refers to telephone, e-mail, and fax enquiries made by external clients.

7 The international treaties database holds over 2,600 treaties. During 2000–01, 40 treaties were added to the database. For information on treaties, see the Australian Treaties Library at www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat

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