Annual Report 2006-2007

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The shifting demands of the department’s operating environment require flexible staffing arrangements underpinned by sound management structures. We remained alert to the changing nature of the workplace through workforce planning, targeted recruitment programs and expanded training opportunities.

Our adaptable staff were deployed quickly to meet changing policy priorities and to respond to consular crises. In Lebanon in July–August 2006, we undertook the largest single evacuation of Australian citizens. We mobilised 449 staff in Canberra and overseas to deliver a whole of government response to this complex and dangerous crisis.

We responded promptly to other emergencies, including the air disaster in Yogyakarta in March 2007 that claimed 21 lives, including Australian officials.

The department undertook a significant recruitment program of generalist and specialist staff to support the delivery of outputs. The opportunity for overseas service and the diversity of the department’s work helps us to attract and retain high-quality staff.

We concluded the department’s Reconciliation Action Plan and finalised the Action Plan for Employing People with Disability. Both plans enhance the department’s commitment to a workplace free of harassment and discrimination.

In Canberra, the department restructured its divisions. The new structure sharpens the focus on key policy, advocacy and service functions and is more closely aligned with the Government’s foreign and trade policy priorities. The creation of the Australian Passport Office enhanced the department’s capacity to better service its clients and to manage the growing complexity of passport operations.

We responded to emerging policy issues through the establishment of dedicated staff units, including the creation of a temporary Fiji task force (in response to the coup), and the Japan Free Trade Agreement Task Force to advance bilateral FTA negotiations.

We deployed additional staff to work on environment issues, in particular climate change.

An extensive review of the 1985 Prime Minister’s Directive on Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas was undertaken by the department and other agencies. As a result, the Prime Minister issued a revised directive in February 2007 to reflect the reality of administering a modern overseas mission in a whole of government framework.

The department established a task force on cutting red tape. The task force has consulted widely and will provide recommendations that streamline administrative processes and diminish unnecessary burdens.

We revised departmental travel policy and harmonised domestic and international travel processes. The changes provide a more equitable and efficient system of managing departmental travel.

The department improved its financial management framework by reviewing its Finance Management Manual, enhancing forecasting and variance analysis, and improving the department’s capital management governance systems. The ANAO’s review of major government agencies control structures that underpin 2006–07 financial statements rated the department as having effective internal controls in place to ensure good financial management and a sound financial reporting framework.

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