Annual Report 2005-2006
 

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.4 > Reporting against effectiveness indicators

OUTPUT 1.4: Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Reporting against effectiveness indicators

1.4.1 SERVICES TO DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR CORPS

1.4.2 PROVISION OF PROTECTION ADVICE THROUGH LIAISON WITH THE PROTECTIVE SECURITY COORDINATION CENTRE

Overview

There are around 4500 members of the diplomatic and consular corps in Australia, including officials and dependants. The department ensured Australia met its obligations to them under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which codify international practice regarding accredited foreign officials. We worked closely with the Protective Security Coordination Centre to protect the security and dignity of missions and their staff.

The department provided high-quality and timely services to facilitate the work of diplomatic and consular representatives and to address specific issues of concern to the corps. We managed ceremonial and representational functions for the corps and supported other government agencies in their liaison with foreign missions.

At 30 June 2006 the department was providing services to 90 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 25 non-resident diplomatic missions and 326 consular posts representing 146 countries and 10 international organisations. We facilitated the establishment in Canberra of the new Embassy of Morocco and the reopening of the Ghana High Commission, both in October 2005.

The department, in consultation with law enforcement agencies, continued to send a strong message that abuses of privileges and immunities were unacceptable and that contravention of Australian law would not be tolerated. We took effective action, consistent with international conventions, against the small number of breaches that occurred and managed several sensitive cases relating to incidents involving diplomatic and consular officials and members of their families. We encouraged missions to ensure their foreign officials met the obligation to pay traffic and parking fines.

Meeting our obligations to the diplomatic and consular corps

Photo - See caption below for description
Ghanaian High Commissioner His Excellency Mr Kofi Sekyiamah (seated centre) after presenting credentials to the Governor-General, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC (seated second from right). Also pictured are Deputy Secretary Doug Chester (seated far right) and the then Chief of Protocol Noel Campbell (seated far left). Photo: Michael Jensen
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department's efficient and professional delivery of protocol services contributed to constructive relations with the diplomatic and consular corps. This complemented the work of Australia's overseas missions and helped the department achieve our bilateral, regional and multilateral objectives.

Feedback from the corps showed that the department continued to provide world's best practice protocol services with our quick delivery times for diplomatic visas, diplomatic identity cards and 'agrément' (the formal protocol term for 'agreement') to the nomination of incoming Ambassadors and High Commissioners. We issued the majority of diplomatic visas and identity cards within two to three working days. Requests for 'agrément' were processed within six weeks and all new heads of mission presented their credentials to the Governor-General within a few weeks of arrival in Canberra. The department assisted non-resident heads of mission making their initial visits to Australia by organising programs of calls and visits.

The department's Protocol Guidelines, which are available online, provided a ready reference for the corps on Australian protocol policies and practice. The department organised and delivered briefings for the corps on issues of interest such as security, airport facilitation, tax entitlements, visas and the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

We negotiated 26 new tax concession packages and amendments to existing packages under the Indirect Tax Concession Scheme. The packages were based on reciprocity and helped reduce the operating costs of foreign missions in Australia and Australian missions overseas.

The department continued to negotiate reciprocal arrangements with a number of countries to improve access to paid employment by the spouses and other dependants of diplomatic and consular officers. A bilateral employment arrangement with Ghana came into effect on 5 June 2006, taking the total number of bilateral arrangements to 30. We reached agreement on texts with Turkey and Germany, though they have not yet come into effect.

Engaging the corps

Mr Downer leads an annual visit to a regional centre for the diplomatic corps based in Canberra. The visit provides the corps direct access to the Minister and an opportunity to experience diverse aspects of Australia's culture and economy. In May 2006 the department organised the corps' successful visit to Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. This visit showcased Victoria's innovation in commerce, education and technology and provided opportunities for interaction with political, academic and business contacts (see box below).

Diplomatic corps visit to Victoria

A record number of representatives from the Canberra Diplomatic Corps participated in the seventh annual interstate familiarisation visit from 2–4 May 2006. Around 50 heads of mission and 30 spouses travelled to Victoria for a program divided between Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. The group reflected broad representation from all regions of the world and included many new heads of mission for whom the opportunity to spend time with the Minister was particularly valuable.

Highlights of the visit to Melbourne were a meeting with Premier Bracks and senior Victorian Government ministers, a reception by Governor de Kretser, and a morning at Monash University observing scientific research projects and the application of new physics and biochemistry technologies. A lunch hosted by the prestigious Committee for Melbourne included a presentation on Melbourne's global connections. Other visits, notably to Federation Square, enabled participants to experience Melbourne's dynamic cultural life.

On the Mornington Peninsula, the emphasis shifted to regional leisure and tourism opportunities and boutique food and beverage industries. The group met Members of Parliament from the local and neighbouring constituencies, the Hon Greg Hunt and the Minister for Veterans Affairs, the Hon Bruce Billson. Local champion racehorse trainer Lee Freedman was the guest speaker at a formal dinner hosted by Mr Downer for the group.

The department facilitated a number of events that enhanced relations between the Government, including portfolio ministers, and the corps. They included a mid-year function co-hosted by Mr Downer and Mr Vaile launching an annual lecture series focusing alternately on Australian foreign or trade policy and a Christmas function hosted by the Secretary. At the mid-year function in Canberra on 8 August 2005, Mr Downer delivered the inaugural Sir Arthur Tange Lecture in Australian Diplomacy to the diplomatic corps.

Protecting diplomatic and consular missions

In cooperation with the Protective Security Coordination Centre, the department continued to accord a very high priority to protecting the security and dignity of foreign diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia, consistent with international law and practice. We continued to make a protocol duty officer available at all times in case of emergencies affecting missions outside normal working hours.

Demands from diplomatic and consular missions for additional security continued to increase, reflecting ongoing concerns with the international security environment. The department worked with agencies with primary responsibility for protecting foreign missions and their staff to ensure these demands were met. We played a central role in ensuring that visiting foreign Heads of State or Heads of Government and other senior official visitors were provided with appropriate security.

Outlook

Photo - See caption below for description
At the invitation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Alexander Downer, around 50 heads of mission and 30 spouses participated in a visit by the diplomatic corps to Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula from 2–4 May 2006. This was the largest group to participate in a diplomatic corps interstate familiarisation visit — testimony to the success of the initiative introduced by Mr Downer in 2000. Photo: Photonet/Michael Silver
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

We will continue to meet fully our obligations under the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations by providing high-quality and timely service to the corps and protecting the security and dignity of foreign missions and their staff in Australia. We will build on current regulations, guidelines and databases to enhance the delivery of services, expand outreach to members of the corps and strengthen procedures for the protection of high-level visitors, especially in the lead up to Australia's hosting of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in 2007. We will extend the network of bilateral.

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