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OUTPUT 1.4: Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Reporting against effectiveness indicators

1.4.1 SERVICES TO DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR CORPS

1.4.2 PROVISION OF PROTECTION ADVICE THROUGH LIAISON WITH THE PROTECTIVE SECURITY COORDINATION CENTRE

Overview

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which codify international practice regarding the rights and responsibilities of diplomatic and consular officials, guide Australia's practice in the conduct of our diplomatic relations. Under these conventions, Australia is responsible for protecting the security and dignity of missions, their staff 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 department continued to facilitate the work of diplomatic and consular representatives by providing high-quality and timely services and by responding to specific issues of concern to the diplomatic and consular corps, collectively or individually. We continued to emphasise our expectation that foreign representatives should obey the laws of Australia.

At the close of the reporting year, the department was providing services to 84 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, nine international organisations in Australia, 29 non-resident diplomatic missions, and 312 consular posts throughout Australia representing 140 countries. We facilitated the establishment of five new or reopened embassies in Canberra in 2002–03—Ukraine, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, East Timor, Libya and Botswana.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

Photo - See caption below for description
His Excellency Mr Jorge da Conceição Teme (centre left), East Timor’s first Ambassador to Australia, after presenting credentials to His Excellency the Hon. Sir Guy Green, AC KBE CVO, Administrator of the Commonwealth of Australia (centre right) in May 2003. Also pictured are Deputy Secretary, Peter Grey (seated, far right) and Chief of Protocol, Matthew Peek (seated, far left). (Photo: Michael Jensen)
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department's close engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps resident in Australia supports our overseas missions in developing our bilateral, regional and multilateral relations. As an important first point of contact for diplomatic and consular officials, we continued to contribute to positive impressions of Australia, its government and its people among the diplomatic corps.

The department organised Mr Downer's annual interstate visit for Canberra-based heads of mission. The visits highlight the economic dynamism and social and cultural diversity offered by the various states, and identify trade and investment possibilities.

We organised and hosted a reception in honour of the diplomatic corps in December 2002. The reception has become a regular feature of the diplomatic calendar, strengthening links between the corps and the department. In addition, the annual function co-hosted by Mr Vaile and Mr Downer further contributed to exchanges between the corps and senior members of the Government.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

The department continued to accord a very high priority to protecting the security and dignity of foreign diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia, in line with international law and practice.

The international security environment, in particular the Bali bombings, the ongoing fight against terrorism and the Iraq crisis, continued to cause security concerns for a number of diplomatic and consular missions. The department provided strong support for, in particular, the Protective Security Coordination Centre and other Australian Government agencies with primary carriage for protecting foreign diplomatic and consular missions and their staff.

Enhanced services to the diplomatic and consular corps

The department continued to provide an accessible, timely and efficient service to the diplomatic corps. Our protocol guidelines are now available on our website and are continually revised and updated. The guidelines provide clear advice to diplomatic and consular representatives on relevant Australian laws, regulations, policies and practices. In addition, we maintain up-to-date diplomatic and consular lists on our website and have developed a new 'heads of government' list for the website. This list provides current information to the public on key office holders in every country.

Our protocol database enabled timely and accurate processing of documentation for diplomatic and consular representatives and their families, including visas, identity cards and privileged vehicle purchases. The database has contributed to improved efficiency, with identity cards now normally processed within three working days and most visas within two working days. We are expanding and upgrading the database to deliver an even more efficient reporting system and service delivery.

The department made progress in resolving key policy issues in relation to the Indirect Tax Concession Scheme. Important objectives of the scheme are to help diplomatic and consular missions operate more economically and to ensure that outcomes are, at least, broadly cost-neutral to the Australian Government.

We maintained our high standard of record keeping 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.

The department sought reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries to improve access to paid employment by the dependants of home-based staff of diplomatic and consular missions. A bilateral employment agreement with Belgium, governing employment conditions for family members of diplomatic staff overseas, was signed by Mr Downer and the Crown Prince of Belgium in November 2002. We are continuing negotiations with a number of other 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 coordinated a well attended briefing for the diplomatic corps on protective security in November 2002. Similar briefings were arranged for the consular corps in all state capitals.

 

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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