Annual Report 2003-2004

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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 :: Non-proliferation, compliance and verification :: Counter-proliferation and export controls


The department's work in support of the Government's efforts to counter international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was one of its highest priorities over the year. Close cooperative work with a range of other government agencies was a major component of this, in particular with the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force.

The department made a major contribution to the global campaign against terrorism, particularly in South-East Asia. We expanded Australia's network of bilateral counter-terrorism memorandums of understanding, and helped—in conjunction with other government agencies—to strengthen the region's counter-terrorism capacity, through bilateral assistance, high-level meetings and a range of initiatives in multilateral bodies. The Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, based in the department, played a leading role in ensuring coordination of Australia's international counter-terrorism policies.

The growing threat posed by proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery demanded practical measures to reinforce the multilateral non-proliferation regimes that underpin regional and global security. The few countries defying the near-universal norms against nuclear proliferation directly threaten nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.

The department worked to uphold the nuclear non-proliferation regime's integrity by supporting a strong focus on compliance and verification issues in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review process and in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). We used our membership of the IAEA Board of Governors to press Iran to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program. We encouraged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to understand the benefits of compliance with non-proliferation standards and the serious negative consequences of violating these obligations. The department supported the development of international dialogue on new measures to limit the spread of sensitive nuclear technology.

Recent insights into the Iranian, DPRK and Libyan nuclear programs and the exposure of the proliferation network run by the Pakistani nuclear scientist, AQ Khan, have underlined the reality that multilateral arms control regimes cannot of themselves stop determined proliferators, and have limited impact on non-state actors. To meet the challenge of secondary proliferation and increasingly sophisticated procurement activity, the department worked closely with regional partners to improve export controls to strengthen non-proliferation barriers.

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)—a coalition of countries aiming to develop practical measures to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and related materials—is a core element of Australia's counter-proliferation strategy. This major security initiative is rapidly developing practical interdiction capability among an increasing number of participants. In line with Australia's leading role in the PSI, the department took the lead in organising and chairing the second meeting of the PSI in Brisbane in July 2003.

The department also played a prominent role as permanent chair and Secretariat of the Australia Group—an export control regime dedicated to preventing the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons.

Strategic policy and coordination

The demanding nature of the contemporary security environment has underlined the need for stronger security relationships in the region and further afield. We used our security dialogues with our allies and partners to strengthen our bilateral security relationships and present Australia's position on key security issues. In the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), we promoted stronger cooperation in responding to terrorism, WMD proliferation and other issues that threaten regional stability.

In difficult times, the importance for Australia of our traditional security partners has been magnified. The department continued to place emphasis on developing and strengthening the alliance relationship with the United States, given its crucial importance to security and stability in our region.

The department worked closely with the Department of Defence on several major alliance-related initiatives.

We also supported efforts by Defence and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources to secure opportunities for Australian companies in the international defence industry supply chain, including for the Joint Strike Fighter project.

These initiatives are important measures of the vitality and centrality of the alliance relationship. Our cooperation with the United States strengthens Australia's security and prosperity. In the interests of transparency and the development of good understanding of government policies, the department used dialogues, meetings and other opportunities to explain Australia's policies on important alliance issues to other countries in our region.

The department continued its close collaboration with the Australian intelligence community and other agencies in monitoring terrorism and other threats to Australian citizens and interests. This aims to ensure that the Government is in a position to respond quickly and effectively to these threats. We contributed staff to the National Threat Assessment Centre located in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and launched in May 2004. Together with other agencies, we continued to give high priority to supporting Australia's principal intelligence relationships.

Security dialogue and cooperation

In 2003–04, we maintained our network of bilateral security dialogues with countries in the Asia–Pacific region and in Europe and with institutions such as the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). We hosted talks with the United States, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Germany and France and participated in talks with India, the EU, NATO, the United Kingdom and China. We agreed with Malaysia to establish a bilateral security dialogue.

The dialogues underlined the significant levels of transparency and trust we sustain with key strategic players. The trilateral security dialogue with Japan and the United States, now in its third year, proved an effective mechanism for high-level strategic discussion. It reflects our shared interests in international security and an appreciation of the contributions each makes to the security of the Asia–Pacific region.

The ARF remains the primary forum for Australia for regional security discussions. We participated in ARF meetings and contributed to progress in developing ARF's capacity to respond to major regional security developments. We successfully urged the ARF to maintain a firm approach to the DPRK nuclear problem.

We strongly supported the ARF's growing focus on WMD proliferation as a serious threat to regional security, and encouraged efforts to develop a practical approach to this. We contributed to the continuing development of the ARF Intersessional Meeting on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime as a mechanism to foster regional technical and functional cooperation on specific aspects of counter-terrorism. We made some progress in increasing the ARF's focus on maritime security as an emerging and high-priority area of regional security concern.

We played an active part in consideration of proposals for ARF reform, including establishment of an ARF Unit in the ASEAN Secretariat and finalisation of guidelines to bring the ARF Register of Experts and Eminent Persons into operation. This can now be used as a source of expertise on regional security issues and advice on how the ARF can support the work of the ARF Chair. We also supported a Chinese proposal to establish an annual ARF Security Policy Conference to strengthen dialogue between senior defence officials.


The department was instrumental in strengthening ties with countries in our region to fight terrorism. We helped build unprecedented levels of international counter-terrorism cooperation. Our efforts concentrated on:

We negotiated new counter-terrorism MOUs with East Timor and Papua New Guinea. Australia has now concluded nine such arrangements with regional countries, building a network of arrangements of crucial importance to regional counter-terrorism efforts (see box below).

Our counter-terrorism MOUs

Australia has signed nine bilateral counter-terrorism memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with: Indonesia (February 2002), Malaysia (August 2002), Thailand (October 2002), Philippines (March 2003), Fiji (March 2003), Cambodia (June 2003), East Timor (August 2003), India (August 2003) and Papua New Guinea (December 2003).

The MOUs reflect the fact that the war against terrorism can only be won through close and effective cooperation between governments. They underline the commitment of the signatories to combat international terrorism.

The MOUs are umbrella arrangements between governments. They set out a framework for bilateral cooperation between law enforcement, intelligence and defence officials as well as other relevant agencies, such as customs and immigration. They can be complemented by other MOUs at an agency level, such as the many MOUs which have been established between police forces and financial investigation units.

The department led counter-terrorism dialogues with Cambodia, Japan, India, Malaysia, Thailand, and the United States, and Australian participation in a Pacific Round-table on Counter-Terrorism. We were closely involved in overseeing the development and implementation of the counter-terrorism capacity-building package for the Philippines announced by the Prime Minister in July 2003.

In addition to our work at the ARF (see above), we encouraged a strong counter-terrorism response at the regional and global levels.

Most notably, the department was the driving force in arranging the Regional Ministerial Meeting on Counter-Terrorism hosted by Mr Downer in Bali in February 2004 (see box below). The meeting endorsed the decision by Australia and Indonesia to establish the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC). Based in Indonesia, the JCLEC will be developed as a resource for the entire region in the fight against transnational crime, with a focus on counter-terrorism. The department worked closely with the Australian Federal Police to develop and implement this important initiative.

The Bali Meeting: building regional cooperation

In February 2004, Mr Downer and his Indonesian counterpart, Dr Hassan Wirajuda, co-chaired the Bali Regional Ministerial Meeting on Counter-Terrorism. The meeting was attended by 25 countries, with strong ministerial representation. The Australian delegation to the meeting was led by the Attorney-General, Mr Ruddock.

This landmark meeting delivered clear and practical outcomes. It highlighted Australia's strong commitment to working together with Asia–Pacific partners to tackle the very real and grave threat terrorism poses to the region and beyond. It was also another example of the benefits flowing from the excellent cooperation that exists between Indonesia and Australia.

The meeting expressed firm resolve to enhance regional cooperation on counter-terrorism and identified steps to further strengthen and consolidate regional efforts, especially in the critical areas of law enforcement, information sharing and legal frameworks. Two working groups were established to follow-up on ministers' recommendations: one, on legal issues, chaired by Australia; the other, on law enforcement, chaired by Indonesia.

Mr Downer commented in opening the meeting that there was important symbolism in holding the conference in Bali. The terrorist acts of October 2002 in Bali reinforced to Indonesia and Australia the crucial importance of working together to defeat terrorism.

The Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, a senior departmental official dedicated to counter-terrorism, supported efforts to strengthen and extend Australia's engagement with regional partners and allies on counter-terrorism issues. The Ambassador chaired the International Counter-Terrorism Coordination Group, which worked on a whole-of-government basis to ensure effective international counter-terrorism cooperation between Australian agencies across a full range of our activities. The Ambassador engaged extensively in the Asia–Pacific region to promote bilateral, regional and international cooperation on counter-terrorism issues. He participated in the G8-led Counter-Terrorism Action Group and the APEC Counter-Terrorism Task Force. He directed arrangements for the Bali Ministerial Meeting on Counter-Terrorism in February 2004, the establishment of JCLEC in Indonesia and preparation of a Government White Paper on Terrorism (published in July 2004).

In conjunction with other agencies, the department coordinated two international counter-terrorism exercises and contributed to other major counter-terrorism exercises with a domestic focus. We also worked with other agencies in providing a whole-of-government assessment of maritime security policy settings to contribute to Australia's national security against the threat of terrorism.

The department works closely with Australia's intelligence and security agencies in monitoring terrorist and other threats. Over the past year, Australia and its neighbours have acquired valuable insights into how Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and related terrorist networks operate. Good progress has been made on countering the terrorist threat, with over 300 JI suspects detained throughout the region, some terrorists networks disrupted and several planned attacks thwarted. However, terrorism continues to pose a formidable regional and international security challenge and the department's work is ongoing.

Non-proliferation, compliance and verification

The department was active across the full range of multilateral non-proliferation regimes.

We supported Australia's national interests in preserving the central role of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in constraining the spread of nuclear weapons and advancing nuclear disarmament. We worked intensively for practical improvements to the non-proliferation regime. The exposure of Libya's clandestine nuclear program and of the proliferation network run by the Pakistani nuclear scientist, AQ Khan, provided opportunities to highlight the critical importance of effective domestic controls on sensitive materials, technology and know-how. We remained at the forefront of efforts to encourage the conclusion of further accessions to the Additional Protocol on strengthened IAEA Safeguards. We strongly supported work in the IAEA to confront the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism, and played a lead role in achieving an IAEA resolution endorsing strengthened controls on radioactive sources.

Photo - See caption below for description
Australian Ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Deborah Stokes, cast Australia’s vote during the 47th Regular Session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency, held in Vienna in September 2003.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department worked to counter challenges to the compliance and verification mechanisms in the NPT, the IAEA and in other multilateral and regional forums and bilaterally. Despite sustained pressure, little progress was made in reversing the DPRK's announced NPT withdrawal and its non-compliance with its safeguard obligations.

Concerted international pressure on Iran saw it take some steps to improve transparency about its nuclear program, but serious questions still remain about Iran's compliance with its safeguard obligations. We joined other members of the IAEA Board of Governors to send a clear message to Iran that it must cooperate fully to resolve outstanding questions about its nuclear program.

Australia supported UN Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) to prevent proliferation of WMD, which among other steps requires states to enact effective domestic controls. We also took an active role in international consideration of the proposals for strengthening WMD non-proliferation put forward by US President Bush and IAEA Director General ElBaradei. In particular, we supported further work on new measures to limit the spread of sensitive nuclear technology and to strengthen further IAEA safeguards and verification.

The department negotiated successfully with Japan and Russia to ensure Australia's $10 million contribution to the G8 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction would be directed to the safe dismantlement of nuclear submarines decommissioned from the Russian Pacific Fleet.

Australia maintained its support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) through ongoing development of the CTBT's verification mechanisms and representations to countries yet to sign or ratify the CTBT, in support of the treaty's entry into force.

The department worked to secure a modest but positive outcome for the 2004 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) work program by affirming the need for states parties to pass legislation criminalising the misuse of biological agents and to provide security for facilities working with dangerous pathogens. Australia was coordinator of a group of like-minded countries (the 'Western Group') and was one of a small group of key advisors to the 2003 BWC Chair.

The department supported efforts to achieve full adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in the region. We contributed to a workshop in Fiji in June 2004 to help South Pacific countries draft and implement CWC-related legislation. The department also provided broader practical assistance on CWC implementation to those countries at an industry seminar in Fiji, also in June 2004, including by sharing Australian procedures and systems for implementing the CWC domestically.

The threat to international security posed by the proliferation of shoulder-launched missiles (MANPADS—Man-Portable Air Defence Systems) was highlighted by the November 2002 attack on an Israeli civilian airliner in Kenya. We worked with like-minded partners bilaterally and through regional organisations, including APEC, to develop practical initiatives to prevent the proliferation of MANPADS.

The department was an active player in international and regional small arms control initiatives, in particular focusing on practical cooperation with Pacific island states to develop a common regional approach to weapons control. This culminated in the endorsement of model weapons control legislation at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Auckland (August 2003). Working closely with other agencies, we managed Australia's contribution to negotiations for an agreement covering marking and tracing of small arms.

We worked to ensure that multilateral conventional weapons treaties were practical and effective in limiting harm to civilians. The department played a pivotal role in securing agreement to the new, legally binding protocol to the Inhumane Weapons Convention that will reduce civilian casualties caused by explosive remnants of war. We remained active on the Landmine Convention, including through our co-chairing of the Standing Committee on Victim Assistance and our support for a meeting on Humanitarian mine/unexploded ordnance Clearance Technology and Cooperation in Kunming, China in April 2004—the first of its kind in that country. Our efforts involved close cooperation with the Australian NGO community and regional partners to promote adherence to the Landmine Convention among South-East Asian and Pacific countries yet to sign on.

Counter-proliferation and export controls

The department has been a leading force in the PSI—a coalition of countries aiming to develop new practical measures to prevent the spread of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials—since its inception in May 2003. Australia hosted and chaired the second plenary meeting in Brisbane in July 2003, which advanced an operational framework which commits participating countries to conduct interdictions at sea, in the air or on land within existing international and domestic legal frameworks. The department is working to encourage other countries, especially in the Asia–Pacific region, to support the initiative.

We continued to play a strong role in the four major export control regimes—the Australia Group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Missile Technology Control Regime. Our contributions focused on advocating widespread adherence to the regimes and reinforcing agreed standards for trade in sensitive items.

Chaired by a departmental representative and including 38 participant countries and the European Commission, the Australia Group remained at the forefront of international efforts to combat the proliferation of chemical and biological dual-use goods which could be used in weapons of mass destruction programs. As part of the Group's ongoing efforts to keep its common control lists relevant to current security challenges, the Plenary meeting in June 2004 agreed to add five plant pathogens to the control lists—the first such addition since 1993—and to expand medical exemptions for one of the controlled toxins. In response to increasingly sophisticated procurement activities, the Group adopted our proposal to improve brokering controls to curtail the black market activities of intermediaries and front companies.

The department stepped up outreach to key WMD supplier and trans-shipment countries in the region to promote adherence to global non-proliferation norms, and to identify shortfalls in export control performance. This will enable us to improve our targeting of areas for practical assistance on legislative, implementation and enforcement measures in the future.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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