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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade :: 2001-2002 Annual Report
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Output 1.1:

Protection and advocacy of Australia's international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

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1.1.8 Security, nuclear, disarmament and non-proliferation


The department made a major contribution to the Government's response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. This shaped much of our work in support of Australia's international security interests Click to view related information - opens in new window. We set up a task force to deal with immediate consular and foreign policy issues flowing from the attacks. The task force subsequently supported Australia's participation in the war on terrorism, including facilitating the deployment of Australian defence forces overseas and strengthening anti-terrorism measures at national and international levels.

Australia's long-standing and active support for international regimes to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and their possible acquisition by terrorist groups, was given greater prominence and urgency after 11 September 2001. Practical and direct counter-proliferation measures and export controls were accorded greater importance. The Australia Group, which is chaired by the department, stepped up its work to deny both states and terrorists access to chemical and biological weapons. Domestically, the inter-departmental Non-Proliferation Coordination Group, chaired by the department, helped tighten domestic arrangements to curb WMD proliferation.

The terrorist attacks also reinforced the need for strengthened security cooperation within the Asia-Pacific region. We promoted stronger cooperation within the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), including greater efforts by member countries to prevent terrorism. We also used our bilateral security dialogues to strengthen regional responses to terrorism and to support global regimes that constrain WMD and missile proliferation. We maintained a close and regular dialogue with the United States, influencing its strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and encouraging it to continue close consultation with allies and other key countries in the interests of promoting confidence and enhanced strategic stability at the global level.

In arms control and disarmament, the department faced an increasingly challenging environment. Negotiations on a protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) collapsed in July 2001 and the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament continued to block the start of negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. Nonetheless, we were able to achieve important outcomes in multilateral forums dealing with conventional arms, notably in addressing the illicit trade in small arms and strengthening the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). We also made progress in promoting support for an international code of conduct against ballistic missile proliferation, focusing outreach efforts on our immediate region.

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The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and the ensuing war on terrorism demanded a comprehensive response from the department. Immediately following the attacks the Government invoked-for the first time-Australia's mutual security agreement with the United States (the ANZUS treaty) and in October 2001 announced that the ADF would contribute to the anti-terrorist military coalition. We were closely involved in the development of the Government's policy response to the terrorist threat through the early establishment of an Anti-Terrorism Task Force.

On the night of 11 September, the department's Crisis Centre went into 24-hour operation to respond to both consular and foreign policy aspects of the attacks. After a week, with the immediate crisis over, the Crisis Centre was wound down and, from that point, consular issues were managed by the department's Consular Branch, while political and strategic issues were handled by the Anti-Terrorism Task Force (see output 2.1 at page 138 for further detail on our consular response to the terrorist attacks).

The Anti-Terrorism Task Force was chaired by the First Assistant Secretary of the department's International Security Division and was supported by a small secretariat. It comprised members from 11 government agencies and met daily for the first three months following the attacks. Its principal functions were to provide timely, high-quality advice to ministers on the international aspects of Australia's response to the terrorist attacks; to serve as a point of coordination on anti-terrorism issues within the department; to act as the liaison point with other departments and agencies and with foreign governments on anti-terrorism issues; and to respond to public and media interest in the terrorist attacks.

The department's prompt response enabled Australia to respond quickly to the UN Security Council resolutions on terrorism requiring member states to implement a broad range of legal and cooperative anti-terrorism measures (see sub-output 1.1.7 at page 82 for further detail on Australia's involvement in multilateral cooperation against terrorism, particularly through the UN). With our network of overseas posts, we continue to play an important role in the development and implementation of the Government's policy response to the terrorism threat.

Much of the fight against terrorism will involve low-profile and long-term efforts to strengthen intelligence, law enforcement and operational counter-terrorism capabilities around the world. We are working closely with our regional neighbours, given our shared interests in tackling the terrorist threat to the region. We are assisting their law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies and armed forces. We concluded formal arrangements with Indonesia and Malaysia to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and build institutional counter-terrorism capabilities. A similar arrangement has been negotiated with Thailand.

The department is also active in galvanising regional organisations, such as APEC and the ARF, to strengthen counter-terrorism cooperation in operationally useful areas such as border controls, information exchange, aviation and maritime security, critical infrastructure security and anti-terrorist financing (see sub-output 1.1.6 at page 74 for further detail on APEC and counter-terrorism). In addition, we are playing a leading role in United Nations efforts to develop a comprehensive convention against terrorism and in encouraging countries to sign the 12 UN conventions dealing with terrorism.

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Defence affairs

The department worked closely with the Department of Defence to facilitate the deployment of Australian defence forces to participate in the war on terrorism. This work included securing access overseas for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, negotiating status-of-forces agreements and gaining diplomatic overflight clearances for Australian military aircraft. The commitment of ADF units required a sustained effort to ensure appropriate arrangements were in place to enable deployment. Our posts in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Moscow, in particular, played a key role in supporting these deployments. An agreement was, for example, concluded with Kyrgyzstan in late 2001 to enable the deployment of Australian air-to-air refuelling aircraft to Manas air base.

The department's network of overseas posts was active in keeping foreign governments informed of Australia's actions in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks and in encouraging them to respond resolutely to the threat of international terrorism. We worked particularly closely with the United States, where our embassy in Washington played a major role, and other coalition countries to coordinate our military and other contributions to the war on terrorism.

Information security assumed vital importance after the terrorist attacks. With the United States, we concluded an agreement governing the exchange of classified material and facilitated a further round of talks on critical infrastructure protection. We worked closely with the Department of Defence and other agencies to strengthen and streamline procedures for considering the export of defence and related goods, particularly to countries in our region.

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Regional and bilateral security dialogues

Through bilateral security dialogues with key global and regional partners-including the Republic of Korea, India, the United States, Japan, the European Union and NATO-the department built support for important Australian objectives. These objectives include sustaining US strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific; strengthening regional and global responses to terrorism; ensuring continued international support for East Timor after its independence; enhancing the stability of the Korean Peninsula; and constraining WMD and missile proliferation. Australia secured agreement to resume strategic discussions with China and to hold security dialogues with several other regional countries in the latter half of 2002.

The department supported Mr Downer's participation in the annual ARF ministerial meeting held in July 2001 in Hanoi. After the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, we advocated successfully that the ARF develop an effective regional response to terrorism. In co-chairing with Thailand an ARF workshop on prevention of terrorism in April 2002, we contributed, in conjunction with other relevant Australian agencies, to greater regional awareness of the counter-terrorism aspects of border control, the security management of major events and aviation security. The department also successfully supported efforts to strengthen dialogue in the ARF among defence officials. We contributed to moves to operationalise the ARF's Register of Experts and Eminent Persons by identifying and nominating Australia's proposed participants. Developing mechanisms such as these to enhance the ARF's preventive diplomacy capacity remains a challenge for Australia and like-minded ARF members. We also encouraged the ARF to address the issue of proliferation of WMD.

Complementing the central role of bilateral security links in maintaining regional security and stability, we used the ARF to foster shared perceptions among regional powers on security issues important to Australia. In the case of the Korean Peninsula, this allowed regional countries to convey to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea their concerns about its WMD activities and missile proliferation.

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Export controls and counter-proliferation

Export controls and counter-proliferation measures played an increasingly important role in efforts by concerned countries to stem the spread of WMD.

Under our leadership, the Australia Group Click to view related information - opens in new window, a consultative grouping of 33 countries and the European Commission, focused on practical measures to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. Cooperation among Australia Group countries intensified following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks with plenary meetings in October 2001 and June 2002, as well as an intersessional meeting in February 2002 and an enforcement and implementation experts meeting in April 2002. The June 2002 plenary session adopted new public guidelines, added eight new toxins to the biological control list and agreed to cover intangible technology transfers as part of this stepped-up effort.

We continued to lead and coordinate Australian involvement in the two nuclear-related export control regimes, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee. We furthered the Government's commitment to a more responsible international conventional arms trade through our contribution to the work of the Wassenaar Arrangement, the principal international regime regulating transfers of conventional weapons and dual-use goods.

The inter-departmental Non-Proliferation Coordination Group, which is chaired by the department and which oversights domestic measures against proliferation, was activated in response to heightened international concerns about WMD. We worked closely with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) and other agencies to enhance visa screening arrangements. These measures, now implemented, should help minimise the risk of foreign nationals visiting Australia for study or other purposes that could contribute to the proliferation of WMD. The department undertook targeted briefings of relevant industry groups and universities to raise awareness of the WMD proliferation threat and the importance of effective export controls and other counter-measures such as visa screening.

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Nuclear issues Click to view related information - opens in new window

The department supported Mr Downer's leadership of efforts to advance the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the face of setbacks, including the US decision not to ratify the treaty. We worked to consolidate international support for the CTBT at the Second CTBT Article XIV Conference in November 2001 in New York, which strongly endorsed the security benefits of the treaty. We used our diplomatic network to press over 30 countries, in the lead-up to this conference, to adhere to the CTBT. We also co-sponsored an international seminar on CTBT verification in the margins of the New York conference. The department, working closely with the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office , continued to press for the early global roll-out of the CTBT's International Monitoring System. Three new International Monitoring System stations were certified, bringing the total to six in Australia. Mr Downer opened the Cape Leeuwin hydroacoustic station in April 2002 in the presence of the Executive Secretary of the CTBT Organization Preparatory Commission.

Heightened concerns about the possibility of nuclear terrorism in the wake of 11 September 2001 underlined the central role of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Click to view related information - opens in new window in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The review cycle for the 2005 NPT Review Conference began with a business-like first Preparatory Committee in April 2002, at which we made constructive contributions. In preparation for this meeting, we made representations to 32 key NPT member states seeking their support for our priorities at the conference. We encouraged NPT states to conclude or bring into force additional protocols to their respective safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and urged those states that had not yet done so to enter into comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA as soon as possible.

Image - see caption below

The 45th session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna in September 2001. Pictured are newly elected Chair of the IAEA Board of Governors, Australian Ambassador Max Hughes (centre front), and other staff from the Australian Embassy in Vienna, David Mason, Claudio Tuniz and Chris Cannan (back row from left).

The department continued to provide strong support for the IAEA's lead role in nuclear safeguards, security, safety and technical cooperation. The assumption of the chair of the IAEA Board of Governors by our ambassador in Vienna for 12 months from September 2001 enabled us to assist the IAEA in developing responses to heightened international concerns about possible nuclear or radiological terrorism. The department took the lead in developing Australia's responses to proposals against nuclear terrorism put forward by the IAEA in November 2001, including through an early contribution to the IAEA's new nuclear security fund. Australia also made an increased contribution to the IAEA's technical cooperation program for peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

We continued to facilitate access to overseas markets for Australian uranium producers. Four additional nuclear cooperation agreements were negotiated during the year with Argentina, Czech Republic, Hungary and the United States (the latter to cover uranium sales to Taiwan). These stipulated strict safeguards, verification and physical protection measures for Australian uranium and ensured that Australia's participation in the global nuclear fuel cycle was exclusively for peaceful purposes. The department, including our embassy in Buenos Aires, actively supported the project agreed under contract between the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the Argentine firm INVAP to design and build the replacement research reactor at Lucas Heights.

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Biological and chemical weapons Click to view related information - opens in new window

Despite the intensive efforts of Australia and other like-minded countries, negotiations to strengthen the BWC broke down in July 2001. This followed decisions by the United States that a sufficiently robust BWC compliance regime was beyond the reach of the protocol negotiations, given the divergent positions of key countries. The Fifth BWC Review Conference was subsequently suspended in December 2001. Despite Australia's continuing commitment to strengthening the BWC through multilaterally agreed compliance measures, medium-term prospects for this seem meagre, with the outlook uncertain for the resumed Review Conference scheduled for November 2002. Australia is also considering alternative suggestions for reinforcing provisions of the BWC, including a number of ideas put forward by the United States and the United Kingdom.

The immediacy of the biological weapon threat was underlined by the anthrax letter attacks in the United States in late September and early October 2001. The department liaised with other agencies, industry and the academic community to improve Australia's bio-terrorist counter-measures. This included convening a meeting of the National Consultative Group on Biological Weapons, a grouping of scientists and biotech companies, as a source of expert opinion about the threat of biological weapons.

The risk of proliferation of chemical weapons and the possession of them by certain states of concern, such as Iraq, continued to be a serious concern of the Government. At the institutional level, the department pressed the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to address urgently its financial and administrative problems. Following the replacement of the OPCW Director-General in April 2002, we worked closely with the incoming management team to help reinvigorate the organisation.

As part of our regional security agenda, we worked within the Asia-Pacific region to reinforce chemical and biological weapons non-proliferation objectives. We sought to persuade non-signatory states to become parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). We helped fund and organise an OPCW regional workshop in June 2002 in Fiji, which was the first such workshop aimed at increasing CWC participation by Pacific island countries.

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Missiles Click to view related information - opens in new window

The department remained at the forefront of Australia's efforts to curb the proliferation of missiles, which can serve as delivery vehicles for WMD. We continued our active role in strengthening international cooperation on missile non-proliferation, both as a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and through various advocacy and outreach activities focused on the Asian region. Specifically, the department promoted support for a draft international code of conduct against ballistic missile proliferation developed initially within the MTCR. The code, which is still being finalised, will contribute to building an international norm against missile proliferation.

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Conventional weapons

The department led international efforts to highlight the human consequences of armed conflict, with Australia's Ambassador for Disarmament chairing a successful Second Review Conference of the CCW Convention in December 2001 in Geneva. The conference agreed to a widening of the convention's scope to embrace internal conflicts. It also accelerated work to find ways of reducing the deleterious impact of explosive remnants of war and anti-vehicle mines.

The department contributed to international efforts to tackle the problem of the illicit trade in small arms. We played a major role in securing the adoption of an international program of action at an inaugural UN conference on small arms and light weapons in July 2001 in New York. The program included a series of political commitments and practical measures designed to curb the illicit small arms trade. We continued to work with other agencies in supporting efforts by Pacific island countries to deal with this issue. We were unable to secure agreement in the ARF on a small arms declaration.

Consistent with the Government's commitment to a world free of anti-personnel landmines, the department continued to pursue the goal of universal adherence to the Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons. We worked closely with the Australian Network of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to promote the benefits of accession among those South-East Asian countries not yet parties to the convention.

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CHOGM security

The department contributed to the security of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting by providing staff to the CHOGM Security Intelligence Centre and advice on international issues relevant to possible threats to the meeting.

Reporting against quality and quantity indicators and administered items begins on page 96.

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