Annual Report 2003-2004

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1. Overviews2. Performance3. Corporate4. Financials5. Appendixes6. Glossaries and Compliance Index

Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.1 International organisations, legal and environment

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

1.1.7 International organisations, legal and environment

On this page: Overview :: Law of the sea and Antarctic issues :: Treaties :: Human rights :: Terrorist financing :: United Nations :: Commonwealth issues :: Environment


The department was at the forefront of the Government's efforts to advance Australia's extensive multilateral and international legal interests.

The department supported the implementation of the Timor Sea Treaty, enabling revenue to flow to East Timor and Australia from the Joint Development Petroleum Area. We led important negotiations with East Timor on maritime boundaries and successfully concluded negotiations establishing permanent maritime boundaries between Australia and New Zealand. We made significant progress towards preparation of Australia's submission to the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, defining the outer limits of Australia's seabed jurisdiction, as required by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

We played a key role in combating illegal fishing, including by contributing to the apprehension of two foreign vessels fishing illegally in Australian waters—so protecting our sovereign interests, assisting fish stocks management and helping to deter other illegal ventures.

The department provided strong support to the Government's efforts to combat people smuggling and trafficking. The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues coordinated a whole-of-government approach to the Bali process on people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. This resulted in improved cooperation among operational agencies in the region. A senior officials meeting in June 2004, run jointly with Indonesia, agreed on future directions for the Bali process.

We secured the Presidency of the UN Commission on Human Rights for 2004, using the position to raise the productivity of the Commission and promote practical improvements in international human rights. We held useful bilateral human rights dialogues with China and Vietnam.

We made a strong contribution to drafting implementation treaties to provide a firm legal basis for improved assistance to Pacific neighbours.

The department supported the Prime Minister's attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in December 2003. Our strong advocacy efforts in the lead up to and at the meeting contributed to the decision by leaders to maintain Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth. However, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth at that meeting.

The department continued to play an active role in advancing the Government's international environmental objectives, in close cooperation with other relevant agencies. We helped build support for more effective global action on climate change consistent with Australian interests, such as through bilateral partnerships and broader international cooperation.

Photo - See caption below for description
Australian High Commissioner to South Africa, Ian Wilcock, spoke to the media at Cape Town harbour following the arrest of the illegal fishing vessel ‘Viarsa 1’ in August 2003. The South African vessel ‘John Ross’ took part in the hot pursuit south of Cape Town.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Law of the sea and Antarctic issues

With the Attorney-General's Department, we led a first round of negotiations on a permanent maritime boundary with East Timor in April 2004, against a backdrop of high-level public interest. Pending establishment of such a boundary, the department has supported the implementation of the Timor Sea Treaty. With revenue already flowing, this instrument will greatly assist East Timor's economic development and promote Australia's interests in stability in the region by ensuring that East Timor has a reliable income stream.

The department led the Australian team in the negotiations to delimit permanent maritime boundaries with New Zealand which were successfully concluded during the year. The agreed boundary will settle equitably Australia's longest remaining maritime delimitation and will provide certainty of jurisdiction in maritime areas between Australia and New Zealand.

The department continued to play an active role in promoting international cooperation against illegal, unreported and unauthorised fishing. The goal is to ensure the sustainable management of fisheries resources and protection of Australia's sovereign interests in its exclusive economic zone. We coordinated the international diplomatic and legal efforts associated with the hot pursuit and apprehension at sea of two foreign-flagged vessels (the Viarsa 1 and the Maya V) fishing illegally in Australian waters off Heard Island and McDonald Island. The high-profile apprehensions (the chase of the Viarsa 1 was the longest hot pursuit in maritime history) should serve as a deterrent to other illegal fishers.

We helped prepare bilateral agreements on fisheries cooperation and enforcement relevant to Australian waters in the Southern Ocean. In particular, we played a key role in the conclusion of the Australia–France Agreement on Cooperative Surveillance in the Southern Ocean, which was signed by Mr Downer in November 2003.

As well as providing primary legal input, the department coordinated the legal and diplomatic aspects of preparing Australia's submission on its extended continental shelf to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, consistent with the requirements of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The submission, which will be the biggest and most detailed to date by any country, is to occur by mid-November 2004. This will be an important step in a decade-long project to define precisely the outer limits of Australia's seabed jurisdiction, which amounts to several million square kilometres.

In cooperation with the Department of Environment and Heritage, we played a key role in developing and implementing the legal framework for a permanent secretariat for the Antarctic Treaty, which will be based in Argentina.


Treaties underpinning Pacific regional cooperation

The department played a central role in drafting and implementing treaties to provide a firm legal basis for enhanced assistance to Pacific neighbours—notably the treaties underpinning:

We contributed to the drafting of the agreement concerning additional police and other assistance to Nauru, signed on 10 May 2004. (See sub-output 1.1.4 for more information).

Signature and entry into force

The department coordinated Australia's treaty-making processes. The Government signed 12 treaties during the reporting period, including the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement. Eighteen treaties came into force for Australia. (See Appendix 6 for further information). The department gave evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on nine occasions during the year (see Appendix 6 for details).

People smuggling and trafficking in persons

Led by the Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues, the department actively supported the Government's efforts to combat people smuggling and trafficking. We did this most notably through the Bali process on people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. Australia co-chairs the process with Indonesia. Building on the two regional ministerial conferences in 2002 and 2003, we worked with other agencies and foreign governments to take forward a program of workshops and activities. They resulted in improved regional cooperation among justice, law enforcement and immigration agencies in combating people smuggling and trafficking.

In June 2004 the Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues co-chaired with her Indonesian counterpart a Bali process senior officials' meeting in Brisbane. It was attended by 139 delegates from foreign affairs, immigration, justice and police agencies in 47 countries, and nine regional and international organisations. The meeting confirmed the practical benefits the process is delivering to the region, and agreed on a streamlined future program of work, including greater focus on: trafficking in persons; child sex tourism; law enforcement and border controls; intelligence sharing on smugglers and traffickers; and mutual assistance and extradition relationships. The meeting exemplified the productive, practical cooperation between Indonesia and Australia on these important regional issues.

The department contributed to the Government's efforts to develop a coordinated strategy to combat trafficking in persons. Those efforts culminated in the Government's announcement in October 2003 of a $20 million package of new measures and the release in June 2004 of a Government Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons. The action plan includes improved regional cooperation using networks established by the Bali process, and targeted development assistance.

The department remained an active member of the inter-agency People Smuggling Task Force. Through our network of overseas posts and in close cooperation with other relevant departments, we worked with other governments to disrupt and respond to people smuggling operations, to enable asylum seekers to have their claims assessed, to help return those found not to be in need of protection, and to bring suspected people smugglers to justice. The department helped extradite to Australia two alleged people smugglers and is assisting efforts to extradite a third. We also helped prosecute and convict another people smuggler overseas.

Human rights

The department worked hard to secure Australia's election as President of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for 2004—the first time Australia has held this important post. Australia's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva assumed the role and, in chairing the sixtieth annual CHR session, set new standards in efficiency for the Commission, enabling a more disciplined and productive session. The meeting adopted 120 resolutions and decisions, and involved participation by over 5000 people, including the Commission's 53 member countries, many other UN member states as observers, 230 non-government organisations (NGOs) and 38 national institutions.

Despite difficult dynamics at the meeting, a solid consensus was achieved on fundamental civil and political rights and on the range of mechanisms to promote and protect human rights. While the Commission came under some criticism for failing to adopt resolutions on China, Zimbabwe and Chechnya, it succeeded in taking action on 18 other countries. They included the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Burma, Nepal and Afghanistan. Six new country monitoring procedures were created—in DPRK, Sudan, Chad, Uzbekistan, Burundi and Belarus. Three new thematic procedures were created, including a special rapporteur on trafficking in persons.

The department, notably through Australia's mission to the UN in Geneva, used Australia's heightened profile to advance our interests in international human rights, particularly in relation to good governance, treaty-body reform and national human rights institutions, and through raising the profile of the interests of Pacific island countries. Australia's support for the Asia–Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions provided a basis for expanding the forum's membership and promoting observance of human rights in our region.

Photo - See caption below for description
Australia’s delegation for human rights talks with China visited Tibet in July 2003. Pictured on arrival at Lhasa airport are, from left: Deputy Secretary, Dr Geoff Raby, Mr Bill Kennedy (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission), Justice John von Doussa (President, HREOC), Mr John Shi (Tibet Foreign Affairs Office), Ms Catherine Walker (AusAID), Ms Elly Lawson (DFAT), Mr Mark Napier (DFAT), Ms Wu Ting (Chinese MFA), and Mr Matt Minogue (Attorney-General’s Department).
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Bilateral human rights dialogues

The department led Australia's delegation to the seventh round of our bilateral human rights dialogue with China in July 2003, and the third round of our dialogue with Vietnam in June 2004. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission was represented on the Australian delegation for both dialogues.

The dialogues continue to provide an important forum for frank and constructive discussion of human rights issues and for identifying areas where Australia can help dialogue partners implement international human rights standards.

The China dialogue was characterised by increasing openness, including through an unprecedented joint press conference by the respective heads of delegation following the meeting. The meeting also included a visit to Tibet to discuss human rights issues with local authorities—the first officially recognised human rights delegation visit to Tibet.

The Vietnam dialogue, held in Hanoi, was also useful and included a side visit by some members of the delegation to the central highlands.

Representations and consultations on human rights

Australian overseas posts made representations on individual human rights cases and issues of concern throughout the year. The department increased its engagement with NGOs in the lead-up to the annual CHR session and included a representative of the NGO community on the Australian delegation. We continued our regular human rights consultations with NGOs and civil society, which provide valuable additional information and advice on human rights issues of public interest.

Terrorist financing

The department continued to administer Australia's international obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1373 to freeze the assets of terrorists, as implemented in Australian law through Part 4 of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 and under the Charter of the United Nations (Terrorism and Dealings with Assets) Regulations 2002. We maintained close contacts with Australia's financial institutions to ensure the system takes their legitimate interests into account.

United Nations

The department, notably through our mission to the UN in New York, maintained its focused engagement on core Australian interests across the UN system. This included extensive efforts to ensure an appropriate role for the UN in the political transition in Iraq, and securing a sound Security Council decision to extend the UN presence in East Timor.

We worked with the UN Secretariat and other member states to promote reform of the UN system to make it more efficient and responsive to contemporary challenges. Our efforts focused on support for the UN Secretary-General's high-level panel on threats, challenges and change (due to report in December 2004), including a contribution of $100 000 to the panel's work. Our Ambassador to the United Nations co-convened a series of seminars with the Netherlands to provide input to the panel. We also contributed a paper on Pacific regional experiences in peacekeeping to guide the panel in its deliberations. We continued to promote budget discipline and improvements in the working methods and institutional arrangements across the UN system, achieving some progress in personnel management and the wider application of results-based budgeting.

The department, including through our UN mission in Geneva, provided support for Australia's participation in the World Summit on the Information Society, where we made progress in improving internet governance, cyber security and management of unsolicited email (spam).

Continuing our track record of obtaining seats for Australia in international organisations, the department secured the election of Salvation Army Major Brian Watters to the International Narcotics Control Board.

Commonwealth issues

The department supported the Prime Minister in his role as Commonwealth Chair-in-Office until Nigeria took over the chairmanship in December 2003. We played a key role with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in preparing for and supporting the Prime Minister's attendance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Abuja, Nigeria in December 2003. Working closely with other governments at CHOGM, we helped ensure the Commonwealth upheld the integrity of its democratic values by maintaining Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth. Zimbabwe subsequently decided to cease its membership of the Commonwealth.

Through Mr Downer's vice-chairmanship of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), we encouraged progress towards Commonwealth democratic values in Fiji, Pakistan and Solomon Islands. Following the conclusion of Australia's CMAG term in December 2003, we continued to monitor and support good governance and democracy in these countries.

The department, including through its high commission in London, was active in promoting reform of the Commonwealth's governance and administration, to ensure more efficient and cost-effective delivery of Commonwealth activities, for example through better prioritisation of activities in its annual budget.


Climate change

The department continued to lead efforts to build support for more effective global action on climate change. We played a constructive role in the Ninth Conference of the UN Climate Change Convention in Milan in December 2003. A particularly important objective was to promote positive engagement with developing countries on combating climate change. The department retained the lead role as chair of the Umbrella Group of countries on climate change (Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States). The Umbrella Group remained an influential player in the global climate change debate.

The department also worked closely with other relevant agencies to advance action at the bilateral and regional levels. Further progress was made in bilateral arrangements with the United States, the European Union, Japan and New Zealand and a program of practical cooperation on climate change was established with China. The department also began work to encourage dialogue on climate change within the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and participated in a range of multi-country groupings, including on renewable energy and carbon sequestration.

Other environment negotiations

The department participated actively in negotiations in a range of other environmental forums to secure outcomes that advanced Australia's environmental and trade interests in a mutually reinforcing framework. We led Australia's delegation to the first meeting of the Parties of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Efforts focused on reducing the risk that the protocol could impose burdensome rules on Australian exporters. We are seeking the views of relevant interest groups in developing Australia's approach to the next meeting in 2005.

Environment capacity building

Aiming to build capacity in the region on best-practice technologies, legislation and arrangements for sustainable use of genetic resources, we co-hosted with Indonesia an APEC Workshop on Trade and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in Jakarta. The workshop promoted constructive discussion on trade and environment issues. The outcomes are expected to contribute to work of APEC member economies on genetic resources and inform deliberations under way in other forums.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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