Annual Report 2003-2004

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > Quality and quantity information

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

Output 1.1 Quality and quantity information

Quality indicators

Quantity indicators

Provision of policy advice, analysis, speeches and briefings

The department received informal feedback on its performance through the daily contact of the Senior Executive with portfolio ministers, constant interaction between ministers' offices and departmental staff at all levels, and our support for ministers' international visits and their participation in international meetings. There is also regular interaction with the Prime Minister and non-portfolio ministers on foreign and trade policy issues.

Structured mechanisms for ministers to provide performance feedback include:

Ministers expressed general satisfaction with the level, intensity, diversity, alacrity, and effectiveness of the department's policy work.

The department provided secretariat support to the Foreign Affairs Council. The Council provides a mechanism through which distinguished Australians working in business, media and academia can share their expertise and views on a broad range of foreign policy issues with the Minister for Foreign Affairs. We also provided secretariat support to the Trade Policy Advisory Council—see sub-output 1.1.6 for further information.

Ministerial submissions and briefings

The department produced 2051 written submissions and 3114 briefings during the reporting period. Portfolio ministers expressed broad satisfaction with the department's policy advice and analysis.

Ministerial correspondence

The preparation of replies to ministerial correspondence is an important means of responding to public interest in foreign and trade policy matters. Ministers allow one week for draft replies for ministerial signature and two weeks for departmental replies. The Senior Executive monitors the department's performance of this function closely.

We received and processed 12 990 letters in 2003–04, an increase of 1757 over the previous year. We responded within required timeframes to all letters received.

Photo - See caption below for description
Minister for Trade, Mr Mark Vaile, delivers a speech to the Trans Tasman Business Circle event held in Sydney in August 2003, marking the 20th Anniversary of the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement. Photo: Sam Shepherd.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Questions on notice

The department prepares written responses for ministers' consideration to Questions on Notice (QON) asked of ministers by members and senators, and to questions taken on notice during appearances by the department before parliamentary committees. The department prepared responses to over 400 QON during the reporting period.


Speeches drafted by the departmental speechwriters, in consultation with ministers' offices and relevant areas of the department, were well received by ministers. We prepared 204 ministerial and senior executive speeches.

Protection and advancement of Australia's international interests

Ministers expressed satisfaction with the department's work in promoting Australia's interests. Following are some examples of feedback:

Capacity to respond to international developments

The reporting against effectiveness indicators earlier in this report provides instances of appropriately timed and scaled responses to international events with significant consequences for Australia. Some important examples include:

To maintain capacity to react to the unexpected—as distinct from the cultivation of corporate strengths in predicting, anticipating and shaping developments—the department ensured that its staff were trained in Emergency Call Unit procedures and Crisis Centre management. The department has a large number of staff who have been trained in crisis management and/or have worked in the Crisis Centre.

The department's Working Smarter policy—introduced in 2000—is an integral factor in our ability to respond quickly to unexpected developments while continuing to pursue a demanding policy workload. The Working Smarter principles define good staff as those who: show judgment in setting priorities; organise their own and subordinates' time thoughtfully and strategically; and maintain a good balance between work and private life. We ensured ongoing implementation of the principles with a range of supporting policies and guidelines, centralised staff and resource management, training courses, regular reinforcement and monitoring and through management meetings and post visits (see Section 3—Corporate Management and Accountability for further information).

Quantity information for output 1.1

Indicator 2003–04 2002–03
Scope and composition of the department-managed diplomatic network See Appendix 13 (Summary of the overseas network)
Number of units of policy advice delivered:
Ministerial submissions 2 051 2 075
Cabinet submissions1 28 28
Ministerial correspondence 12 990 11 233
Speeches2 204 200
Briefings not under submission3 3 114 4 955
Cabinet briefings for ministers 92 95
Meeting briefs 352 307
Number of consultations conducted with other Commonwealth agencies, state and territory governments, and business and non-government organisations in the context of the department's development of foreign and trade policy advice4 34 803 30 778
Number of representations made to other governments and international organisations in support of Australia's international interests5 39 658 39 306
Number of international meetings or negotiations attended, including on behalf of other Commonwealth agencies6 13 214 14 542
Number of official programs prepared for portfolio ministers and senior officials7 792 839
Number of official programs prepared for the Prime Minister, other Commonwealth ministers and senior officials8 813 905
Number of reporting cables produced by our overseas posts 82 698 84 220
Number of occasions on which the department has contributed to the development of policies by other Commonwealth agencies9 5 271 5 293
Number of Foreign Affairs Council meetings organised10 1 2
Number of Trade Policy Advisory Council meetings organised 4 3

1 The department was the lead sponsor of 22 cabinet submissions and co-sponsor of 6.

2 Includes speaking notes for both ministers, the parliamentary secretaries and the Senior Executive.

3 This figure includes daily consular briefings for ministers and senior officials.

4 This number includes semi-formal consultations such as telephone conversations and email correspondence.

5 This information was collected by all areas of the department, including overseas posts, and collated centrally. The difficulty in defining what constitutes a representation, given our different operating environments overseas, means that this figure is necessarily an approximate one.

6 This figure includes meetings with non-government organisations and business representatives.

7 This figure includes programs prepared for senior officials (broadband 4 level and equivalent and above).

8 This figure includes programs prepared for senior officials (broadband 4 level and equivalent and above).

9 This figure includes formal contact between departments such as interdepartmental committee meetings in which staff provided significant input to the policies of other agencies.

10 Lists of members of the Foreign Affairs Council and Trade Policy Advisory Council can be found on the department's website at and

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2003–2004
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