Annual Report 2005-2006
 

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Appendix 4

Freedom of information

Freedom of information

This statement is provided in accordance with section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and is correct to 30 June 2006.

It covers:

Functions, organisation and powers

The broad functions of the department are described in the Departmental Overview section of this report. A chart showing the department's senior executive structure as at 30 June 2006 appears on page 17 of this report. Further information on the organisation of the department can be found in Section 3: Corporate management and accountability. Legislation administered by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade is published in the Administrative Arrangements Order, which is available at http://www.pmc.gov.au/parliamentary/docs/aao.pdf

Access to records under the Freedom of Information Act 1982

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 extends the right to obtain access to documents in the Government's possession. Access is limited only by exemptions that protect essential public interests and the private and business affairs of people about whom departments and statutory authorities collect and hold information.

Members of the public seeking access to documents should lodge a formal Freedom of Information request. This must be made in writing, be accompanied by a $30 application fee, and include a telephone number, a fax number (if available) and an address within Australia to which notifications are to be addressed. Requests should be sent to:

Document Access and FOI Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 2619
Tel: (02) 6261 2903

The department's state and territory offices can also be contacted for this purpose (see inside back cover of this annual report for a list of addresses).

Decisions on granting access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 are generally made by the departmental Senior Executive Service member responsible for the work area to which the request relates.

The department levies the applicable fees and charges imposed under the Freedom of Information Regulations (Fees and Charges). Such fees and charges may be remitted, reduced or not imposed for any reason, including if grounds of financial hardship or general public interest can be established. Further advice regarding fees and charges may be obtained from the department's Document Access and FOI Section.

Access to records under the Archives Act 1983

Records more than 30 years old are available for public access under the Archives Act 1983, except for information that falls into an exempted category. Archival records are not subject to the Privacy Act 1988 and most exemptions in departmental records relate to intelligence, security, defence or international relations sensitivities. Records are mostly held by the National Archives of Australia.

Applications for access under the Archives Act 1983 should be addressed to:

Director
Access and Information Services
National Archives of Australia
PO Box 7425
Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610
Tel: (02) 6212 3600

The Archives Act 1983 also allows the department to grant approved individuals special access to records not generally available to the public. Inquiries about eligibility for special access or information on departmental history should be addressed to:

Director
Document Access and FOI Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221
Tel: (02) 6261 2619
Tel: (02) 6261 3854

We also publish a comprehensive range of public information on our website at http://www.dfat.gov.au/.

Performance reporting regarding the department's processing of FOI and archival access examination requests is found on page 210 of this report.

Outside participation

Members of the public are able to make representation in writing to portfolio ministers about the range of policy and other matters dealt with by the department.

The department is open to the views of outside organisations and provides opportunities for members of the community to contribute to developing aspects of Australia's international relations through:

Representation on various bodies
  • Australia International Cultural Council
  • Australia–China Council
  • Australia–France Foundation (whose director is located in the Australian embassy in Paris)
  • Australia–India Council
  • Australia–Indonesia Institute
  • Australia–Japan Foundation (whose director is located in the Australian embassy in Tokyo)
  • Australia–Korea Foundation
  • Australia–Malaysia Institute
  • Australian National Commission for UNESCO
  • Australian New Zealand Leadership Forum
  • Australian Regional Forum
  • Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Australia–Thailand Institute
  • Council for Australian–Arab Relations
  • Council on Australia Latin America Relations
  • Foreign Affairs Council
  • National Consultative Committee on International Security Issues
Consultations regarding market access priorities for multilateral trade negotiations and other negotiations.
  • Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Australian Industry Group
  • Australian Ricegrowers' Cooperative Limited
  • Australian Services Roundtable Limited
  • AWB Limited
  • Business Council of Australia
  • Dairy Australia Limited
  • Horticulture Australia Limited
  • Meat and Livestock Australia Limited
  • National Farmers' Federation (and a number of other organisations representing specific industry sectors)
  • Queensland Sugar Limited
  • Sheepmeat Council of Australia
Consultations regarding development and prosecution of Australia's approach to dispute settlement cases and issues in the WTO through the department's WTO disputes inquiry point
  • firms
  • industry organisations
  • other groups
Broad-based community consultations on Australia's position on multilateral trade negotiations in the WTO
  • calls for public submissions
  • consultations with industry, non-government organisations, community groups and state and territory governments
  • WTO Advisory Group
Consultations regarding Australia's interests in negotiating bilateral free trade agreements or developing new bilateral trade and economic arrangements
  • business community
  • non-government organisations
  • state and territory governments
Formal arrangements for consultations with interested bodies on trade-related matters
  • ASEAN Free Trade Area–Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations (AFTA–CER) Business Council
  • Agricultural Trade Consultative Group
  • Trade Policy Advisory Council
Consultations regarding Australian participation in international expositions
  • business community
  • industry organisations
  • state and territory governments
Consultation on Australia's policy approach to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum
  • APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC)
  • Australian Chapter of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Committee (PECC)
Consultation on security in the Asia Pacific region
  • Australian Member Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific
Consultation in preparation of Economic Analytical Unit reports
  • academic community
  • industry organisations
Business relations programs operated by the department's state and territory offices
  • business community
  • firms
  • other groups
Consultation on Australia's position in the Indian Ocean Rim
  • Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group (IORAG)
  • Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR–ARC )
  • Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF)
Liaison regarding quarantine, mining and air services.
  • Commonwealth agencies with relevant technical competencies in quarantine, mining and air services
Consultations in respect of negotiations affecting specific multilateral environment treaties, such as the Biosafety Protocol and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
  • environmental organisations
  • industry organisations
  • state and territory governments
Consultations on biosecurity Issues
  • National Consultative Group on Biological Weapons Convention
Regular exchanges of views
  • Amnesty International and other human rights organisations
  • United Nations Association of Australia
Consultations concerning the freezing of terrorist assets
  • Australia's financial sector
Consultation with bodies on promoting awareness and use of the department's travel advisories
  • Australian Federation of Travel Agents and other peak travel industry bodies

Categories of documents

Documents are captured, managed and maintained in accordance with the department's recordkeeping policy. Documents not needed for current business are transferred into archival custody or destroyed in accordance with an authorised disposal schedule. Australia's overseas posts have documentary holdings of their own, which may parallel or complement those the department holds in Canberra and in state and territory offices.

The department has extensive documentary holdings including:

Documents relating to relations and communications with overseas governments and United Nations agencies
  • briefs for Australian delegations and ministers visiting overseas
  • cables, minutes, memoranda, file notes and emails
  • discretionary grant program annual review papers
  • documents and database records relating to foreign diplomatic and consular personnel in Australia
  • documents and database records related to visa applications referred for clearance under Public Interest Criteria 4003 of the Migration Regulations
  • documents received from foreign governments, including notes verbale and aides memoire
  • documents related to human rights including a register of human rights of concern
  • programs for ministers visiting overseas
  • reports on meetings and conferences
  • submissions to portfolio ministers and senior officers
  • texts of speeches and press statements on foreign affairs and trade
Documents relating to treaties
  • Australian treaty collection
  • electronic database of treaties, understandings and arrangements-of-less-than-treaty status (together with metadata) that Australia is a party to including access to treaty texts via the Australian Treaties Library, which is maintained by the Australasian Legal Information Institute
  • national interest analyses on treaties submitted to Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
  • other documents and databases related to multilateral and bilateral treaties and arrangements
  • understandings and arrangements-of-less-than-treaty status collection (incomplete)
Documents relating to bilateral, regional and multilateral trade policy
  • briefs for Australian delegations and ministers visiting overseas
  • records related to implementation of existing free trade agreements
  • reports to UN treaty bodies
  • submissions to portfolio ministers and senior officers
  • texts of speeches and press statements on foreign affairs and trade
Documents relating to international trade and commodity negotiations
  • a database of business clients in relation to negotiations on trade agreements
  • briefs for Australian delegations and ministers visiting overseas
  • cables, minutes, memorandums, file notes and emails
  • submissions to portfolio ministers and senior officers
Documents relating to international security issues, including disarmament, arms control and nuclear non-proliferation
  • Australian and foreign intelligence community documents
  • cables, minutes, memoranda, file notes and emails
  • documents and database records relating to international counter-terrorism cooperation
  • documents and database records related to implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987, the Chemical Weapons (Prohibition) Act 1994 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
  • texts of speeches and press statements on foreign affairs and trade
Documents relating to public diplomacy, including information and cultural programs
  • documents relating to cultural promotion activities and visits programs
  • documents relating to international expositions
  • documents relating to public diplomacy and advocacy including provision of an Australian television service to the Asia Pacific region
  • public information materials projecting Australia and its policies overseas on film, video cassette, radio tape, CD, slide, DVD and written forms
Documents relating to passports and secure travel identification
  • documents on fraud investigations
  • documents related to seizure of foreign passports under the Foreign Passports (Law Enforcement and Security) Act 2005
  • records of passport issue details, electronic record of passport applications and relevant attachments
  • working files, including passport case files and case management databases, and correspondence related to issuing passports and other travel documentation under the Australian Passports Act 2005
Documents relating to provision of consular services to Australian citizens abroad
  • emergency task force papers
  • working files, including consular case files and case management databases and correspondence
Documents relating to overseas property management
  • documents relating to overseas property
Documents relating to personnel management
  • compiled information on employment histories and biographical details (the Statement of Service: Appointments and Biographies)
  • documents and databases relating to human resources management including personnel records and documents on personnel planning, conditions of service, career development counselling, and discipline and review of action and termination matters
  • documents and databases relating to staff employed overseas (locally engaged staff), their salaries, conditions, classifications and numbers
  • personal security files on security-cleared personnel
  • records of travel, removals and storage
  • training material in various forms
Documents relating to financial management
  • documents and database records relating to procurement and contract management including resumes and contracts for contractors/consultants
  • documents and databases relating to budget resources management and property and accommodation matters within Australia
  • documents relating to funding, financial operations, debtors and payment of claims in Australia and overseas
  • financial and expenditure records
Documents relating to internal departmental administration
  • documents and databases relating to the design, implementation and operation of the department's electronic business systems
  • documents on personnel security, physical and protective security, funding of protective security measures, post inspection reports, technical and information technology security, and contingency plans in relation to the department's operations abroad and in Australia
  • internal procedures and instructions including sets of administrative circulars and master sets of DFATNEWS, an internal departmental bulletin
Documents relating to Parliamentary services
  • ad hoc reports on overseas official travel by federal and state members of Parliament
  • briefings for ministers on possible parliamentary questions, records of appearances by departmental officers before the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and other parliamentary committees
  • cabinet submissions and decisions
  • Federal Executive Council minutes and accompanying documentation
  • ministerial correspondence
  • Portfolio Budget Statements and Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements
Documents relating to the history of the portfolio
  • series Current Notes 1936–1972, Australian Foreign Affairs Record 1973–1988, Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Record 1989–1992, Backgrounder journal 1992–1993, Insight 1993–1996 and Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Record 1997–2000
  • series Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937–1949 and Documents on Australian Foreign Policy (post–1950 series)
Documents relating to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991
  • documents and database records related to policy and transactional issues under the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 (note: EFIC's activities under parts 4 and 5 of the Act are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act 1982)

Registers of Australian births overseas

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) records details of Australians born overseas. People may seek extracts from the registers through that department. Consular officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade performing functions under the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 at Australian overseas posts also maintain registers of Australians born overseas. Although data entered in our registers is regularly notified to DIMA, the registers themselves are held at the posts concerned. People may request and obtain extracts from the relevant posts.

Documents for sale and free of charge

A range of documents, including the department's annual report, are available either for purchase or for free from the department. Many documents are presented in electronic form on the publicly accessible websites maintained by the department at http://www.dfat.gov.au/ and http://www.dfat.gov.au/tw/.

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