Annual Report 2005-2006

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.4 South Pacific, Middle East and Africa

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

1.1.4 South Pacific, Middle East and Africa

On this page: Overview :: New Zealand :: Solomon Islands :: Papua New Guinea :: Fiji :: Tonga, Nauru and New Caledonia :: Pacific Islands Forum :: Middle East :: Iraq :: Africa :: outlook


The department worked strongly to maintain security and enhance political and economic governance in the South Pacific. We coordinated Australia's response to the civil unrest in Solomon Islands in April 2006 and continued to coordinate the whole of government contribution to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). In Papua New Guinea, the department continued to coordinate the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) under which Australian officials are working in PNG agencies. We worked closely with New Zealand to coordinate joint approaches to promoting good governance and sustainable development in the South Pacific.

Elsewhere in the Pacific we led the negotiation of a fourth memorandum of understanding with Nauru resulting in better economic management, transparency and accountability by the Nauru Government; we helped ensure the international credibility of elections in Fiji and Solomon Islands by coordinating the participation of Australian observer teams; we led the Government's efforts to support Tonga's political reforms; and we led successful trade talks with New Caledonia, one of our important trading partners in the South Pacific.

Ongoing negotiations between Australia and Fiji over proposed amendments to the textiles, clothing and footwear (TCF) component of the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement were a significant challenge. Our close consultations with the Fiji Government, the Australian TCF industry and other agencies contributed to good progress towards a solution acceptable to all sides.

Regionally, the department played a major role in the negotiation of a new Agreement Establishing the Pacific Islands Forum. Through the Forum, we helped pave the way for future regional trade negotiations involving all Forum member countries and played an important role in finalising the Pacific Plan which promotes the benefits of regional cooperation and integration.

In the Middle East the department coordinated Australia's continuing support for democracy and stability in Iraq. We worked with AusAID, the Department of Defence and other agencies to develop and deliver Australia's strategy for rehabilitation assistance and worked to retain Australia's access to Iraq's wheat market. Elsewhere in the region, the department worked actively to support Australia's commercial interests. We finalised the text of an Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement with Lebanon and took forward negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement with the United Arab Emirates, although these negotiations have been incorporated into a new proposal to be examined in a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of which the United Arab Emirates is a member. We encouraged efforts to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, including by supporting the secondment of an Australian Defence Force officer to the Security Sector Working Group in the Palestinian Territories and the participation of an Australian parliamentarian in observing the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

The department worked for Australia's commercial and political interests in Africa, including by supporting the opening of an Austrade–managed consulate-general in Libya to help strengthen our diplomatic and trade position in north Africa. We coordinated Australian policies and actions in response to crises in Sudan and Zimbabwe.

New Zealand

The department continued to work to strengthen our important and close bilateral relationship with New Zealand. In collaboration with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, we completed negotiations on new rules of origin under the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA). This will enhance opportunities for trans-Tasman trade by reducing compliance costs in both countries and by bringing ANZCERTA into line with the global trend of using a Change of Tariff Classification approach to rules of origin. This approach establishes whether goods are entitled to duty free access to domestic markets. With the Treasury, we began working with New Zealand on an investment protocol to ANZCERTA that will streamline bilateral investment and offer treaty-level protection to our respective companies investing in either country. We aim to complete negotiations by early 2007.

FIGURE 12. Australia's trade in goods(a) and services with New Zealand

Figure 12: Australia's Trade in Goods and Services with New Zealand

(a) Goods data is on a recorded trade basis.

Source: DFAT Stars database; ABS Regional services data 2005

Working closely with Australia's new co-chair, James Strong (Chairman, IAG and Woolworths Ltd) and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the department played a lead role in coordinating Australia's participation in the third Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum, held from 5 to 6 May 2006 in Auckland. The Forum brought together ministers (including Mr Downer and New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters and Trade Minister Phil Goff), more than 60 high-level business leaders, senior public servants, academics and media representatives. It successfully promoted opportunities to further broaden and deepen the bilateral relationship through networking and dialogue between business, government and wider community representatives and served as a catalyst for accelerated progress in the economic integration of Australia and New Zealand. Participants recognised the importance and strength of the trans-Tasman economic and business relationship in the context of an increasingly competitive and challenging international economic and security environment.

Solomon Islands

Photo - See caption below for description
Using technology to provide clear messages and exchange information with officials in the field is crucial to delivering policy and program outcomes, particularly in circumstances as challenging as those facing members of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. For many months officials in Canberra and Honiara held their weekly Inter-Departmental Committee meeting via video conference. This picture was taken in Canberra, with images of Honiara and Canberra on the television screens at the rear. From left to right: David A Ritchie, First Assistant Secretary, South Pacific, Africa and Middle East Division (DFAT), Graeme Wilson, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Islands Branch (DFAT), Lieutenant Colonel Darren Huxley, Strategic Operations Division (Defence), Stephen Shaw, Director, Solomon Islands and PNG, International Policy Division (Defence), Toshi Kawaguchi and Nerida King, Solomon Islands Section (DFAT), Anita Butler, Director, Solomon Islands Section (DFAT), Judith Robinson, Assistant Director General, Pacific (AusAID), and Ian Kennedy, Deputy High Commissioner, New Zealand High Commission.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

In the face of a challenging environment in Solomon Islands, the department continued to coordinate Australia's whole of government contribution to the ongoing state-building task of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) and advanced strategic thinking on RAMSI's mandate. Through RAMSI and bilateral engagement we helped maintain the commitment of the Solomon Islands' Government to governance and public sector management reforms. The department coordinated the participation of Australia's observer team to the Solomon Islands elections in April 2006.

The department coordinated a coherent and successful whole of government approach to civil unrest in Solomon Islands following the elections. We facilitated two visits by Mr Downer to assess the damage inflicted during riots and reaffirm the partnership between RAMSI and the Solomon Islands Government established over the past three years. The unrest demonstrated the ongoing challenges the Government will face in delivering long-term economic and governance reform to the people of Solomon Islands.

We maintained and nurtured a high level of commitment to Solomon Islands from other members of the Pacific Islands Forum and development partners. Three additional countries—Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Marshall Islands—contributed personnel to RAMSI in 2006, bringing the total number of contributing countries to 14.

The department led a multi-faceted public diplomacy outreach effort to communicate RAMSI's achievements, including improvements in governance, accountability and institution-building and to explain its forward program to Solomon Islanders. These efforts ensured that strong public support for RAMSI continued.

Papua New Guinea

The department continued to coordinate the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) with Papua New Guinea (PNG), under which Australian officials are deployed to help PNG government agencies. Following the PNG Supreme Court decision of May 2005 ruling that aspects of the legal basis for the deployment were unconstitutional, the department led negotiations with PNG on revised arrangements to ensure the program's continuity in line with the Government's objectives. Around 40 Australian civilian officials have remained as advisers to PNG in economic and financial management, governance, the prevention of corruption, law and justice, border management and transport security. Australia and PNG agreed in June 2006 that ten senior Australian police advisers would be deployed to PNG to assist in key roles related to police reform, organised crime, terrorism and corruption.

The department facilitated visits to PNG by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Justice and Customs. These visits demonstrated high-level political support for the bilateral relationship. We managed Australia's hosting of the 17th Australian–PNG Ministerial Forum in December 2005, involving ten PNG ministers and nine Australian ministers. The Forum endorsed ECP objectives that seek to resolve key reform and development challenges in PNG.


In light of government–military tensions that intensified in the lead-up to national elections in May 2006, the department directed a coordinated set of exchanges with the Fiji Government and military on the role of the military in a democracy, the importance of political stability and the need for genuine reconciliation. We coordinated advice to ministers recommending greater engagement by Australia with Fiji.

The department coordinated the deployment to Fiji of an election observation team under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Forum. The team helped ensure that the elections were transparent and professionally monitored.

Following close consultations with the Australian textiles, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry, relevant government agencies and the Fiji Government, the department developed a compromise package of proposals in response to the Fiji Government's request to amend the TCF component of the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement. The proposals, which aim to improve the Fiji TCF industry's competitiveness while not harming Australia's TCF sector, were agreed by ministers and have been conveyed to the Fiji Government.

Tonga, Nauru and New Caledonia

Responding to a six-week public service strike that threatened to shut down essential services, the department played a central role in coordinating a whole of government approach to Tonga's requests for assistance with political and economic reform. Our response should help place Tonga's public service on a firmer footing and avoid a recurrence of strike action. For example, the department supported the work of the National Committee for Political Reform (NCPR) and the Government provided $250 000 through AusAID to allow the NCPR to conduct offshore consultations with the Tongan diaspora. Based on these consultations the NCPR will make recommendations to the Tongan Privy Council and Legislative Assembly on preferred models of political governance. The department assisted Tonga's successful bid to accede to the World Trade Organization, potentially creating opportunities for Tongan business.

The department coordinated the Government's efforts to help the Tonga Customs Service (TCS) make urgent internal reforms. After a request from the Tongan Government, a senior Australian Customs Service officer was appointed to head the TCS to initiate these reforms. This will help strengthen Tonga's border controls and militate against the possibility of illegal movement of goods and finances through Tonga.

The department negotiated an innovative fourth memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Nauru linking Australia's assistance to economic and governance reforms. The first review to verify progress under the MOU confirmed improved economic management, transparency and accountability by the Nauru Government.

We led trade talks with New Caledonia that yielded a range of advances on bilateral trade and economic issues. Outcomes included New Caledonia's agreement to: explore options to reduce duties; expand its recognition of Australian educational qualifications for entry into the New Caledonian public service; and pursue cooperation and exchanges in relation to taxation, quarantine, mining services and professional services.

Pacific Islands Forum

Photo - See caption below for description
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms Teresa Gambaro attending the fourth Japan–Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Okinawa, Japan from 26 to 27 May 2006. Clockwise from bottom left: Nauru President Mr Ludwig Scotty; Kiribati President Mr Anote Tong; Fiji Foreign and Trade Minister Mr Kaliopate Tavola; Federated States of Micronesia President Mr Joseph Urusemal; Cook Islands Prime Minister Mr Jim Marurai; Ms Teresa Gambaro; Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Mr Greg Urwin PSM; Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Mr Michael Somare; Japanese Prime Minister Mr Junichiro Koizumi; unidentified official; Vanuatu Prime Minister Mr Ham Lini; Tuvalu Prime Minister Mr Maatia Toafa; Solomon Islands Deputy Prime Minister Mr Dudley Tausinga; Samoa Prime Minister Mr Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi; Republic of the Marshall Islands President Mr Kessai Note; Palau President Mr Tommy Remengesau Jr and Niue Prime Minister Mr Young Vivian. Photo: Courtesy of the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department played a key role in finalising the Pacific Plan for Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Integration. Leaders adopted the Plan at the 36th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting in Port Moresby in October 2005. Consistent with Australian policy, the Plan promotes the benefits of regional cooperation, including through the pooling of limited resources, and provides a framework for improvements to governance, economic growth and service delivery at national and regional levels.

The department also played a key role in drafting and negotiating a new Agreement Establishing the Pacific Islands Forum. The Agreement, signed by Prime Minister Howard at the Port Moresby Forum, better reflects the current goals of the Forum and the functions of its Secretariat, based in Suva, Fiji. It includes a new category of 'associate member' to encourage closer relations with non-sovereign Pacific territories and build a stronger Pacific identity.

The department helped advance Australia's interests in the Pacific by contributing to the terms of reference for studies assessing the likely impact on Forum island countries of a future trade and economic cooperation agreement covering all Forum members. The results of the studies are expected to facilitate future negotiations and will be submitted to Forum Trade Ministers when they next meet in 2007. With the Australian Federal Police, the department helped advance Australia's regional security objectives by gaining agreement at the Forum Regional Security Committee's annual meeting in June 2006 for members to make better use of available crime data. Our aim is to develop a more complete picture of the regional transnational crime threat.

Middle East

The department took a multi-faceted approach to strengthening commercial and political ties with Middle Eastern countries. We finalised the text of an Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement with Lebanon. We continued planning for the next meeting of the Joint Ministerial Commission with Saudi Arabia, our biggest trading partner in the Middle East. We began talks on a Trade and Economic Framework with Egypt and worked with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to negotiate a new memorandum of understanding regulating the livestock export trade there. Our missions in the Middle East promoted Australian business interests, particularly in the education sector where there is growing interest in Australia's services. Mr Vaile announced the department would consider a proposal to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after Australia's FTA negotiations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were suspended (see sub-output 1.1.5 for more information).

The department facilitated a busy program of visits to the Middle East which strengthened high-level political links, showcased growing shared interests, commemorated historical ties and promoted business opportunities. Prime Minister Howard visited the UAE in July 2005. The Governor-General represented Australia at the funeral of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and visited the UAE and Saudi Arabia in December 2005. In April–May 2006 the department, with the Department of Veterans' Affairs, organised the Governor-General's visit to Egypt where he witnessed the rededication of the 9th Division Australian Imperial Force memorial at El Alamein. Mr Downer visited the UAE in December 2005 and Mr Vaile visited in March 2006. Minister for Defence Brendan Nelson and his predecessor visited the UAE three times in 2005–06.

The department encouraged a resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. We provided logistical and policy support for the secondment (from August 2005 to February 2006) of an Australian Defence Force officer to the Security Sector Working Group in the Palestinian Territories. This was a practical demonstration of our support for Israeli–Palestinian disengagement, consistent with the Roadmap to Middle East Peace. We organised the participation of an official Australian observer team, led by Ms Sussan Ley MP, to the Palestinian Legislative Council elections held on 25 January 2006. In response to the electoral success of Hamas—which is listed in Australia as an entity associated with terrorism under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945—the department, with AusAID, reviewed Australia's aid program and other engagement with the Palestinian Territories to ensure compliance with Australian legislation and foreign policy objectives.

The department supported international efforts to find a solution to concerns about Iran's nuclear program and engaged Iran on this issue and important trade and other bilateral interests (see sub-output 1.1.8 for more information).

The Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR) continued an active program to broaden understanding between Australia and the Arab world and promote mutual economic benefits (see sub-output 3.1.2 for more information).


Australia's continuing support for democracy and stability in Iraq contributed to two significant developments: the election of a government of national unity and preparations for the Iraqis to take control of their own security. The Government is encouraged by these meaningful signs of progress and continues to prioritise measures in support of security, rehabilitation and the consolidation of democracy. Through a dedicated Iraq Task Force, the department continued to coordinate regular meetings with key agencies and provided policy advice to ministers. The Iraq Task Force managed, with the International Legal Division, the department's cooperation with the Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-for-Food Programme (the Cole Inquiry).

Political transition process

In a landmark development, about 12 million Iraqis, comprising about 70 per cent of registered voters, elected a permanent government of national unity in December 2005. The cabinet was finalised in May 2006 and, under the leadership of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi government has resolved to foster national reconciliation and improve security and basic services. The department has continued to make a consistent contribution to the Government's efforts to support the Iraqi government in promoting political stability and economic rehabilitation (see box below). Departmental officials affirmed to Iraqi decision-makers the Government's strong commitment to seeing fair and open government, the rule of law, civil rights and economic recovery in Iraq.

The department worked with AusAID, the Department of Defence and other agencies to develop and deliver Australia's strategy for rehabilitation assistance. We continued to participate in meetings with donors to the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, jointly formed by the United Nations and World Bank. The focus of our work remained the efficient and targeted delivery of aid.

Promoting Australia's interests

In a challenging security environment our embassy in Baghdad advocated Australia's political, security and commercial interests to Iraqi leaders, community groups and core alliance partners (the United States and United Kingdom). The department worked to retain Australia's access to the Iraqi wheat market, including by facilitating the visit to Iraq by a high-level delegation led by Mr Vaile. The visit helped secure a 350 000 tonne wheat contract between Wheat Australia and the Iraqi Government.

With the Department of Defence, the department supported Australian troops in southern Iraq who provided a secure environment for the Japanese Iraq Reconstruction and Support Group in Al Muthanna province. This support strengthened our strategic cooperation with key alliance partners, in particular Japan and the United States.

Developing links

Australia continues to build strong links with Iraq through high-level meetings. The department supported visits to Iraq by the Prime Minister, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence and an Australian parliamentary delegation. These trips and visits to Australia by Iraqi leaders, including the Minister for Displacement and Migration, provided a firm foundation for the bilateral relationship.

With Austrade, the department guided Australian companies on the security environment in Iraq and facilitated contact between Iraqi government officials and members of the private sector.

Australia's support for Iraq's political transition and rehabilitation

Security of Australians in Iraq

The security environment in Iraq remains extremely dangerous. The department informed the Australian public about the security situation through regular updates to the Iraq travel advice. We continued to provide consular services in Iraq, although security issues posed a particular challenge for embassy staff. On several occasions the Australian embassy, working with the Australian Defence Force, provided transport and security assistance to evacuate consular clients from Iraq.

The embassy performed strongly despite facing several security incidents. The completion of the embassy building within the International Zone helped alleviate difficult conditions, but the welfare of staff remained a priority for the department. Security measures are under constant review.


The department worked to strengthen relations with South Africa, our largest trading partner and most significant bilateral relationship in Africa. Our post in Pretoria facilitated the visit to South Africa of HMAS ANZAC and leveraged public diplomacy benefits by staging concurrently a seminar on cooperation in maritime intervention. In the lead-up to the Melbourne Commonwealth Games the post promoted business opportunities in Australia in the expectation of an increase in South African visitors to watch the events. The department coordinated the April 2006 visit to South Africa by a parliamentary delegation which helped deepen bilateral political dialogue.

The department continued to work with like-minded countries to press for social and political change in Zimbabwe, including the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, respect for human rights, and a reversal of Zimbabwe's disastrous economic course. While maintaining pressure on the Zimbabwean Government through targeted sanctions, the Government increased emergency food assistance and humanitarian aid for the people of Zimbabwe. We updated Australia's bilateral sanctions list to ensure it fully reflected recent developments and our policy objectives.

The department coordinated Australia's responses to the humanitarian crises in Sudan, including Darfur. At the United Nations and in other regional and international forums we strongly supported the proposed transfer of responsibility for peacekeeping in Darfur from the African Union to a better equipped UN force. We supported the referral of criminal cases from Sudan to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The department worked closely with the Department of Defence to support the deployment of personnel from the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police to the UN Mission in Sudan.

We strengthened our diplomatic and trade position in north Africa by helping Austrade open a new consulate-general in Tripoli, Libya in December 2005. This built on our greater engagement with Libya since the lifting of UN sanctions and its renunciation of weapons of mass destruction. The Austrade-managed consulate-general provides consular services to Australian citizens in north Africa and assists Australian companies seeking to do business in the region.

The opening of a new chancery in Accra, Ghana in October 2005 by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, enhanced the department's ability to support and service Australian interests, including commercial and consular interests, in west Africa. In Kenya and Mauritius, our posts promoted Australia's education sector, a consistently popular choice for African students. The department supported Australian business interests in the natural resources sector, including new investments in southern Africa and Madagascar.


With the conclusion of negotiations on an ANZCERTA investment protocol, we expect a further deepening of Australia–New Zealand economic integration.

The department will maintain efforts to secure peace and stability in the Pacific and to support island countries in their endeavour to provide a better future for their citizens. Recent unrest in the Solomon Islands capital Honiara has highlighted the continuing volatility of the situation there and the importance of the long-term nature of our commitment through RAMSI. We will work with the new government to ensure RAMSI is able to maintain its effectiveness in improving the security and long-term prosperity of Solomon Islands. The department will continue to coordinate the efforts of the ECP to help PNG improve governance and pursue its development aspirations. Elsewhere in the Pacific, we will continue to support political and economic reform processes. We will seek to implement measures to ensure closer engagement with Fiji and put in place the technical details of changes to the TCF component of the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement designed to enhance the productivity of Fiji's TCF sector. We will continue to deliver consistent messages to the Fiji Government and the Fiji military on the appropriate role of the military in a democracy and the importance of political stability.

With AusAID, we will encourage and support Pacific island countries' efforts to implement Pacific Plan initiatives at the national level and contribute to the Forum Secretariat's reviews of regional architecture. We will work to ensure the timely completion of trade impact studies for a future region-wide trade and economic cooperation agreement and host with New Zealand a series of trade capacity-building workshops for Pacific island countries.

The department will continue to work actively to strengthen the bilateral architecture of our relationships with Middle Eastern countries, supported by high-level visits and meetings, to promote our trade and strategic interests. We will pursue the opportunities presented by a permanent Iraqi government to strengthen the bilateral relationship and promote the Government's security and commercial interests. We aim to enhance dialogue with South Africa, including through bilateral visits and high-level meetings.

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