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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.8 Security, nuclear, disarmament and non-proliferation

OUTPUT 1.1: Protection and advocacy of Australia’s international interests through the provision of policy advice to ministers and overseas diplomatic activity

1.1.8 Security, nuclear, disarmament and non-proliferation

On this page: Overview :: Strategic policy and coordination :: Security dialogue and cooperation :: Counter-terrorism :: Counter-proliferation and export controls :: Non-proliferation and disarmament :: Compliance and verification


The twin global threats of international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were a key focus of the department's work in support of Australia's international security interests.

The department made a major contribution to the global campaign against terrorism, the continued urgency of which was tragically reinforced by the bombings in Bali on 12 October 2002. We concluded bilateral counter-terrorism memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with several regional countries, and helped—in conjunction with other Australian Government agencies—to strengthen the region's counter-terrorism capacity, through bilateral assistance, high-level meetings and a range of initiatives in bodies such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). The appointment of an Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, based in the department, underlined the Government's firm resolve to combat international terrorism.

Iraq's non-compliance with United Nations (UN) resolutions, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) announced withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Iran's confirmation it had secretly developed advanced nuclear facilities underlined the reality that multilateral arms control regimes, while underpinning regional and global security, cannot of themselves deal with states that flout their obligations or challenge established norms. The department worked within the NPT review process and through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to reaffirm forcefully international condemnation of nuclear proliferation. We worked with allies and other like-minded countries to develop WMD counter-proliferation strategies and apply collective pressure on proliferators and those attracted by their example.

In coordination with the Department of Defence, the department organised Australia's contributions to the UN WMD inspections process in Iraq and closely monitored the results. We facilitated the deployment of Australian defence forces overseas to back up diplomatic efforts and, when those failed, to take part in the coalition military campaign against Iraq.

We used our bilateral links and participation in regional and international organisations to help apply concerted pressure on the DPRK to comply with its NPT obligations. More broadly, we took part in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) meeting in Madrid in June 2003 to consider ways of interdicting and disrupting the transfer of materials to and from states suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction. We secured agreement to host a second meeting of the PSI in July 2003.

The department worked with Australia's allies and like-minded countries to strengthen non-proliferation norms, tighten export controls and raise the barriers to proliferation and illicit trade. The established international arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament regimes remained important to our work.

The demanding nature of the contemporary security environment has underlined the need for strengthened security relationships with our allies and partners in the region and further afield. We used our security dialogues with those countries to strengthen our bilateral security relationships and present Australia's position on key security issues. We helped establish trilateral security talks with Japan and the United States and resumed bilateral dialogues with several partners. In the ARF, we promoted stronger cooperation in responding to terrorism, WMD proliferation and other issues that threaten regional stability.

Strategic policy and coordination

We placed emphasis on strengthening Australia's alliance relationship with the United States. The department worked with the Department of Defence and other agencies on developing responses to major alliance-related developments, including the US force structure review in the Asia-Pacific region and US plans to develop a missile defence system to defend against potential threats. The alliance relationship has proven its continuing relevance in recent years, by adapting to confront the contemporary security challenges of terrorism and WMD proliferation.

In coordination with the Department of Defence, the department organised Australia's contributions to the UN WMD inspections process in Iraq and closely monitored the results. We facilitated the deployment of Australian defence forces overseas to back up diplomatic efforts and, when those failed, to take part in the coalition military campaign against Iraq. Our network of overseas posts, particularly those in the Middle East, Washington and London, played a major role in supporting these outcomes. See sub-output 1.1.4 for further information.

We worked with the Department of Defence and other agencies to give careful consideration to applications for the export of defence and related goods to other countries, to ensure those exports were consistent with Australia's foreign, strategic, arms control and non-proliferation policy objectives.

Security dialogue and cooperation

Regular bilateral security dialogues with global and regional partners helped build support for key Australian objectives to promote greater understanding and shared interests.

In 2002–03, we held talks with the Republic of Korea (ROK), Vietnam, Russia, France, Germany, Japan, India and Thailand, and resumed security dialogues with China, Indonesia and the United Kingdom. We used these dialogues to inform dialogue partners of Australia's strategic policy and outlook, influence our partners' security perspectives, build support and understanding for Australia's position on major security issues such as Iraq and the DPRK, promote greater counter-terrorism cooperation and underline the need to respond robustly to challenges to international arms control and non-proliferation regimes.

The department helped establish a trilateral security dialogue with Japan and the United States. This new forum was convened three times over the past year. It proved to be an effective mechanism for regular, high-level strategic discussion reflecting our shared interests in international security and an appreciation of the contributions made by each to the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. Responding to the threats of terrorism and WMD proliferation was a prominent theme in these discussions.

We supported Mr Downer's participation in the annual ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) ministerial meetings held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei in July 2002 and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in June 2003. We helped ensure that the ARF sent an unequivocal message to the DPRK urging it to resume cooperation with the IAEA and comply with its NPT obligations, the first such direct message to a fellow ARF member in the forum's ten-year history. We continued to push for the ARF to become more resolute and active in responding to regional security developments.

Following Mr Downer's proposal at the July 2002 ARF Ministerial Meeting, the department co-chaired with Singapore an ARF workshop on managing the consequences of a major terrorist attack. The workshop, held in Darwin in June 2003, brought together experts from emergency response, civil defence, law enforcement and security agencies, as well as foreign and defence ministries, from 17 ARF countries. Participants identified a number of areas for closer cooperation, including urban search and rescue, hospital and medical surge capacity, forensic investigation, and dealing with the unique challenges posed by chemical, biological and radiological weapons.


Photo - See caption below for description
The Foreign Secretary of the Philippines, Mr Blas Ople, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism in Canberra in March 2003. (Photo: AUSPIC)
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department was instrumental in forging stronger ties with regional countries to fight terrorism. We negotiated new counter-terrorism MOUs with Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Fiji and Cambodia, agreed an MOU text with India and began negotiations with East Timor and Papua New Guinea. These arrangements will facilitate practical cooperation between Australian agencies and their counterparts in areas such as law enforcement, border and transport security, and anti-terrorist financing, and provide for increased exchange of information on terrorism issues. The department also led multi-agency counter-terrorism dialogues with the United States, Japan, India and Fiji.

We were active in encouraging a strong counter-terrorism response at the regional and international levels. In the Asia-Pacific region, we promoted counter-terrorism initiatives in APEC, the ARF and the PIF. Through the PIF, we continued to help Pacific island countries strengthen their counter-terrorism legal and administrative regimes.

The department strongly supported ministerial involvement in an Australia-led regional conference on anti-terrorist financing in Bali in December 2002. We were also the driving force behind an informal regional ministerial counter-terrorism meeting hosted by Mr Downer in Bali in April 2003. In the UN, we played a leading role in listing Jemaah Islamiyah as a terrorist organisation, and lent close support to the valuable work of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee. Australia is now party to 11 of the 12 UN conventions on terrorism.

The Government appointed an Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, who established a new inter-agency body—the International Counter-Terrorism Coordination Group (ICTCG)—to coordinate Australia's international counter-terrorism policies and capacity-building efforts. The department serves as the ICTCG secretariat. These developments, and the creation of a new Anti-Terrorism and Intelligence Policy Branch within the department's International Security Division, have helped to sharpen our counter-terrorism work and the Government's capacity to respond appropriately to the practical security challenges arising from the campaign against terrorism.

After Bali: combating the terrorism threat

The terrorist attacks in Bali on 12 October 2002, in which 88 Australians and many others were killed, drove home the very real threat that terrorism poses to Australia’s security and that of the wider Asia-Pacific region. The department was centrally involved in the Government’s response to the Bali tragedy, and in subsequent close cooperative efforts—regionally and domestically—to combat the terrorist threat.

Within hours of the Bali bombings, we convened an Inter-Departmental Emergency Task Force, comprising a range of key agencies, to coordinate action. Our Crisis Centre went into 24-hour operation to respond to consular, foreign policy and other aspects of the attacks.

Bilateral counter-terrorism arrangements with Indonesia—agreed under a February 2002 memorandum of understanding—were invoked immediately, and underpinned the subsequent highly successful joint investigation into the attacks conducted by the Australian and Indonesian police. The department continued to support the Australian Federal Police and the Australian victims and their families through the investigation—which has seen more than 30 people arrested—and the ongoing trial process.

Counter-terrorism cooperation between Australia and Indonesia after the Bali bombings was—and remains—unprecedented, and has served as a model for cooperation between other regional police and security services. The department worked actively to encourage this. More than 150 terrorist suspects have been arrested, including in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia. Terrorist networks—including elements of the Jemaah Islamiyah group responsible for the Bali bombings and other terrorist attacks—have been disrupted, and several planned attacks thwarted.

Over the past year, Australia and its neighbours have acquired valuable insights into how Jemaah Islamiyah and related terrorist networks operate. The department works closely with Australia’s intelligence and security agencies in monitoring terrorist and other threats. But we are under no illusions—despite good progress in countering the threat, terrorism continues to pose a formidable regional and international security challenge.

Counter-proliferation and export controls

The department took the lead for Australia in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a coalition of countries aiming to develop new practical measures to prevent the spread of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials. Australia was among eleven countries that participated in the first PSI meeting in Madrid in June 2003. At Mr Downer's initiative the department secured agreement to host the second meeting of the PSI in July 2003 in Brisbane, reflecting our strong contribution to non-proliferation and international security.

Under the department's chairmanship, the Australia Group, a consultative network of 33 countries and the European Commission, enhanced measures for preventing the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, building on intensified cooperation in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. The plenary meeting in June 2003 added 14 new biological agents to the control lists, endorsed a cooperative program for engaging Asia-Pacific countries on export controls, adopted a practical guide for compliance and enforcement officers to identify and prevent illicit trade in controlled items and approved new procedures for improving transparency and information sharing among Australia Group members.

Domestically, the department continued to expand its cooperation with other agencies, industry and the academic community with a view to improving Australia's bio-terrorism counter-measures. We convened, in January 2003, a meeting of the National Consultative Group on the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), involving prominent scientists and biotechnology companies, as part of our preparations for a series of meetings of BWC States Parties to begin later in 2003. We also cooperated closely with Australia's peak biotechnology industry body, AusBiotech, in raising industry awareness of export controls and devising a biosecurity policy for the International BioIndustries Federation.

The department continued to play a strong role in the other major export control regimes—the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Wassenaar Arrangement and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Our contributions focused on advocating widespread adherence to the regimes and reinforcing agreed standards for trade in sensitive items.

In tackling the illicit trade in small arms, we encouraged other countries to implement the UN Program of Action, which includes a series of political commitments and practical measures designed to curb the trade at the regional level. We continued our work with other Australian agencies in support of efforts by Pacific island countries to deal with this issue. Our efforts included finalising model legislation on weapons control in the Pacific.

Non-proliferation and disarmament

The department was active in defending the fundamental role of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in constraining the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This was challenged by the DPRK's non-compliance with its NPT obligations, expulsion of IAEA inspectors, announced withdrawal from the NPT and its stated intention to develop a nuclear weapons capability. See sub-output 1.1.1 for further information.

Within the NPT we worked intensively for practical improvements to the non-proliferation regime. At the second Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference in Geneva in April 2003 we encouraged a strong focus on NPT compliance issues. Our targeted representations in the lead-up to that meeting put Australia's priorities to the fore.

Entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) remains a key Government priority. The department supported an initiative for a Joint Ministerial Statement on the CTBT, which was presented at the United Nations in September 2002 by Mr Downer and his Dutch and Japanese counterparts on behalf of a broad group of countries, calling for the early entry into force of the CTBT. The department's continued strong support for the work of the Preparatory Commission for the CTBT Organisation focused on establishing the CTBT's verification machinery, including the rollout of over 300 stations within the treaty's international monitoring system. These stations are specifically oriented towards detecting activities consistent with nuclear testing. Five Australian stations have now been completed, three others have been certified, and planning has advanced for several others.

The department was also prominent in informal work on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, enabling progress on key treaty issues despite the deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament blocking a start to treaty negotiations.

We contributed to a comprehensive first Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in The Hague in April and May 2003. The conference adopted a political declaration reaffirming parties' commitments to the treaty's legal and verification provisions and adopted a broader review document assessing CWC implementation and suggesting improvements. To reduce the risk of proliferation, we worked with allies and like-minded countries to stress the importance of CWC universality and compliance with obligations. We successfully countered some unfounded criticism of Australia Group export control arrangements.

Moving forward from the collapse of negotiations on a protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in July 2001 and the suspension of the fifth BWC Review Conference in December that year, the department played an important role in securing international agreement at the resumed Review Conference in November 2002 on a forward program of three annual meetings of parties on implementation and biosecurity issues, preceded by experts meetings. These will provide a basis for ongoing efforts to encourage implementation of existing BWC commitments, and for fresh thinking on enhanced security of high-risk biological materials.

Our active diplomacy in support of the international code of conduct against the proliferation of ballistic missiles bore fruit with the code's adoption in The Hague in November 2002. The 'Hague Code', as it is now called, grew out of a Missile Technology Control Regime initiative, which Australia promoted to Asia-Pacific countries. Disappointingly, only one ASEAN state has so far adopted the code. We will continue outreach efforts to ensure that, in the absence of a multilateral treaty regulating missiles, the 'Hague Code' is rapidly established as the global norm against ballistic missile proliferation.

Our work on addressing the spread of conventional arms focused on countering illicit trade in small arms, strengthening the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and promoting universalisation of the Ottawa Convention prohibiting the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. The department's efforts involved close cooperation with the Australian Network of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines to promote the benefits of accession among those South-East Asian and Pacific countries yet to sign on to the Convention.

The department was also actively involved in international efforts to resolve the problems posed by unexploded ordnance. We helped secure international agreement to start negotiations on an instrument on post-conflict remedial measures to reduce the humanitarian impact of explosive remnants of war, and are now actively engaged in those negotiations.

Compliance and verification

The DPRK's breach of its NPT obligations represented the most brazen challenge to the compliance and verification mechanisms that underpin the functioning of international arms control treaties. We countered the DPRK's challenge through the NPT, in the IAEA, in other multilateral and regional forums and bilaterally (see sub-output 1.1.1 for further information).

We joined like-minded members of the IAEA Board of Governors to send a forceful message to Iran about fulfilling its NPT obligations and cooperating fully with the IAEA. Iran's nuclear program attained a higher international profile following President Mohammad Khatami's public confirmation in February 2003 that Iran was developing a complete nuclear fuel cycle. Australia shares strong international concerns about Iran's intentions.

Our representations in the lead-up to the second NPT preparatory committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference urged NPT parties yet to do so to conclude safeguards strengthening additional protocols to their IAEA safeguards agreements. In Australia, the highly effective application of these measures not only enhances and demonstrates fulfilment of Australia's treaty obligations, but has also provided the IAEA with a 'test-bed' to trial fresh approaches.

Over the past year, Australia received three routine CWC inspections of dual-use chemical facilities. The department and the facilities themselves were complimented on their cooperative and transparent approaches to inspections. A discovery in Australia of buried chemical munitions dating back to World War II was declared to the UN in accordance with the provisions of the CWC. The munitions were promptly destroyed. We shared Australia's implementation experience at a regional CWC workshop in Thailand in March 2003.


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