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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 1.4:

Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

1.4.1 Services to diplomatic and consular corps

1.4.2 Provision of protection advice through liaison with the protective security coordination centre

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Overview

Australia, like virtually all members of the international community, is party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which codify international practice on the rights and responsibilities of diplomatic and consular officials. Under the conventions, Australia is responsible for protecting the security and dignity of missions, the persons of their members and their right to free and secure communication with their home government. The department is responsible for regulating privileges and immunities, including protecting against any abuse of those privileges and immunities and, where abuse does occur, taking effective action consistent with international conventions.

The Chief of Protocol and the department's Protocol Branch, assisted by our state and territory offices, 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. We managed successfully to conclude a number of sensitive cases relating to the behaviour of foreign diplomatic and consular officers based in Australia.

At the close of the reporting year, the department was providing services to 81 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 10 international organisations in Australia, 22 non-resident diplomatic missions, and 314 consular posts throughout Australia representing 131 countries.

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Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

The department's close engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps in Australia complements the work of our overseas missions in enhancing our bilateral, regional and multilateral relations. As the initial point of contact for diplomatic and consular officials, our Protocol Branch played an important role in contributing to positive impressions of Australia and its people among the diplomatic corps.

In April 2002, the department organised a visit to Western Australia by the diplomatic corps, accompanied by Mr Downer and the Secretary. Interstate visits have become an annual event for heads of mission and have proved popular as they provide an excellent opportunity to showcase different parts of Australia and to highlight the possibilities for greater economic, cultural and social cooperation with a broad range of countries. This year, 36 heads of mission visited Perth and the Margaret River region. A smaller group also visited the Pilbara region to inspect some major resource projects. The heads of mission were impressed by the strong export orientation of the Western Australian economy and the sophisticated international links developed by regions such as the Pilbara and the Margaret River.

We organised three receptions in honour of the diplomatic corps-two co-hosted by Mr Vaile and Mr Downer and one by the Secretary. These functions, which have become an integral part of the diplomatic calendar, served further to facilitate access for the diplomatic corps to senior members of the Government.

Image - see caption below

His Excellency Dato Jocklin Kong Paw (centre left), High Commissioner for Brunei Darussalam, after presenting his credentials to the Governor-General, HE the Right Reverend Dr Peter Hollingworth AC OBE (centre right), in September 2001. Also pictured are Deputy Secretary David Ritchie (seated, far right) and Chief of Protocol Karina Campbell (seated, far left). Photo by Michael Jensen.

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Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

International law and practice requires that governments protect the security and dignity of the official representatives of foreign countries.

The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States ushered in a new era in the protection of diplomatic and consular missions. The missions of a number of countries represented in Australia assumed an elevated profile as potential targets for terrorist attacks. This consideration dominated the department's role in supporting those Australian agencies-including the Protective Security Coordination Centre in the Attorney-General's Department-that have primary carriage for protecting foreign diplomatic and consular missions and their staff. Our state and territory offices also contributed to the process of providing protection to the many consular posts in Australian cities. We devoted particular attention to the protection of the dignity of diplomatic missions, an important aspect of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

We also had significant input into protocol arrangements for CHOGM 2002, particularly in advising on diplomatic immunities and privileges.

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Enhanced services to the diplomatic and consular corps

The department's database provided timely and accurate processing for diplomatic and consular representatives and their families, within the maximum processing time of three working days for identity cards. The revised Protocol Guidelines, distributed this year, have provided a clear framework for the diplomatic and consular corps on Australian practices and processes.

Our high standard of record keeping was ensured 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 France. Negotiations have begun with a further ten countries. These agreements facilitate foreign representation in Australia, and Australian representation overseas, by providing work opportunities for spouses and other dependants of diplomatic and consular officers.

The department initiated and arranged briefings for the diplomatic corps on issues of interest such as the federal elections and the visa regime for dependants of diplomats.

We continued to develop arrangements under the Indirect Tax Concession Scheme (ITCS) whereby diplomatic and consular missions in Australia may obtain various tax concessions. These arrangements are based on broad reciprocity. Important objectives of the ITCS are to help diplomatic and consular missions operate more economically and to ensure that outcomes are broadly cost-neutral to the Australian Government.

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