Annual Report 2004-2005

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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 regular contact between the department's Senior Executive and portfolio ministers, regular interaction between ministers' offices and departmental staff at all levels, and our support for ministers' international visits and their participation in international meetings. We also interact regularly with the Prime Minister and non-portfolio ministers on foreign and trade policy issues.

Structured mechanisms for ministers to provide performance feedback include:

Through these means, ministers expressed strong satisfaction with the department's policy work, including our advice, analysis, speeches and briefings.

The department provided secretariat support to the Foreign Affairs Council. The Council provides a mechanism for distinguished Australians working in business, media and academia to 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, a key source of business advice to the Minister for Trade on issues like the WTO Doha Round negotiations, APEC, free trade agreements and market access.

We regularly convene and attend inter-departmental meetings in Australia and overseas on a range of issues that have an international dimension, such as international security, transnational crime, the environment, international legal issues and United Nations reform. We conducted over 36 000 consultations with other government agencies, state and territory governments, and business and nongovernment organizations in the context of developing foreign and trade policy advice. In our business planning processes, such as the Post Evaluation Report process (see Section 3: Corporate management and accountability, for more information), other government agencies provided very positive feedback on the department's input to policy development.

Ministerial submissions and briefings

The department produced 2127 written submissions and 3158 briefings during the reporting period. Portfolio ministers expressed strong satisfaction with our policy advice and analysis.

Ministerial correspondence

Ministerial correspondence is an important means of informing the public and responding to interest in foreign and trade policy matters. Ministers generally allow one week for draft replies for ministerial signature and two weeks for departmental replies. The department's Senior Executive pays close attention to our performance in this area. A monthly review notes issues of high public interest and monitors turnaround times for responses.

We received and processed 13 632 letters in 2004–05, an increase of 642 letters over the previous year. All responses were provided in the specified timeframe.

Questions on notice

The department prepares written responses for ministers' consideration to Questions on Notice (QON) asked by parliamentary members and to questions taken on notice during appearances by the department before parliamentary committees. The department prepared responses to 429 QON, incorporating 2955 subsidiary questions, during the reporting period.


Speeches drafted by the department's speechwriters, in consultation with ministers' offices and relevant areas of the department, were well received by ministers. We prepared 176 ministerial and senior executive speeches.

Protection and advancement of Australia's international interests

In their regular meetings with the department's Senior Executive and in written comments on departmental submissions, ministers and the Parliamentary Secretary expressed satisfaction with the department's work in promoting the interests of Australia and Australians internationally. Our performance reporting against Outcome 1 and the Secretary's review indicate the breadth of issues against which outcomes were achieved. They included:

The department provided policy advice and logistical support to ministers across the range of portfolio objectives. For example, we supported Mr Vaile in his chairing of the Cairns Group, which promoted the goals of agriculture exporters in the WTO Doha Round negotiations; and we supported Mr Downer in his advocacy with ASEAN to promote Australia's views on establishing a new regional architecture in South-East Asia.

Capacity to respond to international developments

The department's performance reporting against Outcome 1 provides examples of our capacity to respond effectively to significant and sometimes unforeseen international developments. Some key examples included:

The department strengthened its flexibility and capacity to respond to priority issues through the judicious use of task forces—particularly in advancing our free trade agenda—and the quick establishment of crisis centres and emergency call centres, as needed, to respond to unforeseen events. We continued to expand the number of staff trained in crisis management and/or who have worked in our crisis centres. These staff are quickly re-deployed to line areas of the department once the surge in activity subsides (see Section 3: Corporate management and accountability for more information).

Quantity information for output 1.1

Indicator 2004–05 2003–04
Scope and composition of the DFAT-managed diplomatic network See Appendix 13 (Summary of the overseas network)
Number of units of policy advice delivered:
Ministerial submissions 2 127 2 051
Cabinet submissions1 29 28
Ministerial correspondence 13 632 12 990
Speeches2 176 204
Briefings not under submission3 3 158 3 114
Cabinet briefings for ministers 56 92
Meeting briefs 349 352
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 36 552 34 803
Number of representations made to other governments and international organisations in support of Australia's international interests5 38 101 39 658
Number of international meetings or negotiations attended, including on behalf of other Commonwealth agencies6 10 835 13 214
Number of official programs prepared for portfolio ministers and senior officials7 877 792
Number of official programs prepared for the Prime Minister, other Commonwealth ministers and senior officials8 881 813
Number of reporting cables produced by our overseas posts 86 468 82 698
Number of occasions on which the department has contributed to the development of policies by other Commonwealth agencies9 5 760 5 271
Number of Foreign Affairs Council meetings organised10 2 1
Number of Trade Policy Advisory Council meetings organised 1 4
  1. The department was the lead sponsor of 27 cabinet submissions and co-sponsor of 2.
  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 2004–2005
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