Annual Report 2006-2007

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Your location: Performance > Outcome 1 > Output 1.1 > 1.1.9 International organisations, legal and environment

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

1.1.9 International organisations, legal and environment

On this page: Overview :: United Nations :: Environment :: Law of the sea and Antarctica :: International law and transnational crime :: Treaties and outreach :: Human rights :: People smuggling and trafficking :: Avian and pandemic influenza :: Commonwealth :: Outlook


The department continued supporting the Government’s efforts to advance Australia’s multilateral interests in the United Nations and the Commonwealth, promote human rights internationally, combat people smuggling and ensure Australia’s preparedness for a possible outbreak of human pandemic influenza.

The department worked though our New York and Geneva missions to advance Australia’s core interests across the UN system. Our work included high-level advocacy of reforms to improve the UN’s effectiveness and efforts to ensure UN support and engagement on our priorities. We continued to advance Australia’s interests through support for Commonwealth activities on democratisation, good governance and the rule of law.

In September 2006, in response to a rapidly growing legal agenda both domestically and internationally, the department split the Legal Branch into a Domestic Legal Branch and an International Legal Branch. The two-branch structure has enabled us to service more effectively the domestic and international needs of the department and Government.

We made a significant contribution to the development of the International Trade Integrity Bill, introduced into Parliament on 14 June 2007, to implement the Government’s response to the Inquiry into Certain Australian Companies in relation to the UN Oil-For-Food Programme (the Cole Inquiry). We implemented UN sanctions against Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In response to our enhanced responsibilities in this field under the new legislation, we created a new Sanctions and Transnational Crime section in the International Legal Branch.

The department facilitated the entry into force of the treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea and the International Unitisation Agreement for Greater Sunrise on 23 February 2007. These treaties provide the legal framework for mutually beneficial commercial exploitation of oil and gas fields in the Timor Sea.

We provided policy and administrative support to the Secretary’s membership of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Emissions Trading. The recommendations of the Task Force have been accepted by the Government. In addition, there has been significant work to carry forward the agenda of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

Together with the Department of the Environment and Water Resources and AusAID, the department helped establish Australia’s Global Initiative on Forests and Climate.

In efforts to advance the cause of human rights internationally, we worked towards enabling the new UN Human Rights Council to become a more effective and responsive body than its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights. The department led the Australian delegation to bilateral human rights dialogues with China, Laos and Vietnam.

The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues continued to lead Australian Government engagement with the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, a key pillar of Australia’s strategy to combat people smuggling and trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region. As Australian co-chair of the Bali Process, the Ambassador worked closely with his Indonesian counterpart to build strong regional networks, improve national agency capacity and strengthen operational contacts on the crimes of people smuggling and human trafficking.

The department remained closely involved in the government-wide response to the possibility of an outbreak of human pandemic influenza. We maintained links with key international organisations and a broad range of governments in the global fight to minimise the spread of avian influenza.

United Nations

Photo - See caption below for description
Ambassador to the United Nations, the Hon. Robert Hill (right), congratulating Mr Ban Ki-moon on his confirmation as Secretary-General Designate of the United Nations, 13 October 2006.
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department, working with other agencies, continued to advance and safeguard key Australian interests in the UN system—including on international security, non-proliferation, human rights and reform of the UN’s operations. We were proactive in securing a continued, strong UN presence in East Timor to support security, stability and development and worked to ensure a substantial role for UN missions in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. We liaised closely with UN agencies on the Lebanon conflict and our ongoing interests in the Middle East.

The department continued to pursue Australia’s interests in reform of the UN’s structures and working methods, including high-level advocacy for changes to the UN’s management of peacekeeping and disarmament issues. We continued to promote the need for budget discipline, transparency and accountability across the organisation.

The department worked to support the successful candidacy of Mr Andrew Hughes for the position of Police Adviser to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. As the UN’s most senior police position, this success reflects Australia’s ongoing and important contribution to both UN and regional peacekeeping efforts.

We secured Australia’s re-election to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) for a further five-year term from 2007–12. Re-election will critically assist Australia’s interests in CLCS consideration of our 2.8 million square kilometre continental shelf claim. We secured Australia’s election to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the election of Australian representatives on the boards of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Our presence on these boards ensures we are well placed to advance our interests in issues relating to information and communications technology, maritime navigation and climate.

The department led Australia’s engagement in the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), including by providing secretariat support for the Australian National Commission for UNESCO. We hosted a celebratory event marking the 60th anniversary of the National Commission and promoting Australia’s successful bid for World Heritage Listing of the Sydney Opera House.


The department has contributed to strong outcomes on climate change across a wide range of international forums. In June 2007, the Prime Minister appointed the Secretary, Michael L’Estrange and Mark Johnson, former Vice Chairman of Macquarie Bank, as Special Envoys for APEC Australia 2007 to work with APEC economies to promote clean development and climate as a key focus of the APEC Leaders’ Summit in September 2007. The department took forward the ground-breaking and practical work of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The partnership brings together key developed and developing country emitters and industry to promote technological efforts on climate change that are environmentally sound and cost effective and recognises the priority of partner countries for continued economic growth and access to secure energy resources. Australia has announced financial support for 63 of the partnership projects already developed.

Photo - See caption below for description
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Greg Hunt (left), presenting a Wollemi pine to Bergius Botanic Gardens in Stockholm. Accepted by Swedish Minister for the Environment Mr Andreas Carlgren (right) and Curator of the Berguis Botanic Gardens, Ms Henni Wanntorp (centre). Photo: Mia Ãkermark, Orasis Photo
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The Secretary was a member of the Prime Minister’s Task Group on Emissions Trading, the recommendations of which have been accepted by the Government. We played a key role in the Australia–China Coordination Group on Clean Coal Technology, established by the Prime Minister and Chinese President Hu Jintao to intensify bilateral cooperation on the development and deployment of clean coal technologies. The Group complements the work of the Asia-Pacific Partnership and APEC.

In multilateral negotiations, the department continued to promote a more comprehensive and inclusive international response to climate change. In May 2007, the Minister for Foreign Affairs called for new negotiations for a truly global agreement that includes all major emitters to be launched at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bali in December 2007. The department made a constructive contribution at the Twelfth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Nairobi in November 2006 and the Twenty-Fifth Session of the Subsidiary Bodies to the UNFCCC in Bonn in May 2007. We retained Australia’s prominent leadership role as chair of the Umbrella Group of countries (Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States), an influential bloc in international climate change negotiations.

In conjunction with the Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) and AusAID, we helped establish Australia’s Global Initiative on Forests and Climate, which aims to address deforestation—responsible for some 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions—through a multi-faceted approach that delivers climate, economic and social benefits to developing countries. The department successfully led international efforts to amend the Protocol to the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution to allow for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide under the sub-seabed, a key technology for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The amendment entered into force in February 2007.

We worked actively in the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Maritime Organization to promote the development of balanced and strategic approaches to addressing greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and shipping. We continue to support Australia’s national interests in these forums by encouraging practical, voluntary mitigation action that is effective and non-discriminatory and that does not distort markets. We contributed actively to awareness and encouraged future action by APEC to address greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation.

The department participated in international negotiations on the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In conjunction with the Department of the Environment and Water Resources, we ensured accurate articulation of key Panel findings, including the report’s emphasis on low emissions technologies to address climate change.

The department worked closely with other agencies to advance a range of bilateral climate change partnerships and engaged in broader initiatives to promote the development and deployment of cleaner energy technologies. We maintained close working relationships with Pacific countries, including in the context of the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change 2005–2015, with a particular focus on adaptation to climate change-related impacts.


With DEW we coordinated a major diplomatic effort, including through Australia’s overseas missions, to promote the Government’s pro-conservation stance before and during the 59th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), held in Anchorage, Alaska in May 2007. We provided support to the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources to help ensure whale conservation objectives were resoundingly endorsed at IWC59, reflecting growing international opposition to commercial and ‘scientific’ whaling. The IWC reaffirmed the importance of the moratorium on commercial whaling and the Commission again called on Japan to cease its ‘scientific’ whaling program in the Antarctic. Along with DEW, we also worked to ensure the protected status of whales under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) would not be subject to review while the IWC moratorium remains in place.

Tsunami warning systems

In close cooperation with Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology, Emergency Management Australia and AusAID, the department coordinated implementation of the Australian Tsunami Warning System. We played a lead role in strengthening international institutional frameworks, including the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System. Australian missions around the Pacific have been active in encouraging Pacific island governments to sign memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on tsunami early warning to permit the installation of tsunami warning equipment across the Pacific. These systems provide benefits to Australia and the Pacific region as a whole in terms of improved data for identifying and responding to tsunami. The first such MOU was signed with Niue in October 2006.

Negotiations on genetic resources

The department undertook significant advocacy efforts to influence the direction of negotiations on trade in genetic resources under the Convention on Biological Diversity. We argued for international support for more effective and pragmatic national implementation of the Convention that would support scientific research and commercial use of genetic resources, and we pointed out the dangers of proposals to create heavy regulatory systems for science and industry. Following consultations with Australian industry and research bodies, we prepared several policy submissions for these negotiations. The first—on certificates of compliance—was substantially endorsed at an expert meeting in January 2007. Departmental officials also undertook visits to key countries to explain our proposals, which helped build a firm basis for formal negotiations which resume in 2007–08.

The department also led Australia’s efforts on marine genetic resources in the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea. Using Australia’s experience, we showed how regulation of marine genetic resources within national jurisdictions could support scientific research, lead to commercial benefits, and reinforce the conservation and management of marine ecosystems. Our efforts helped ensure the meeting laid solid foundations for future negotiations on regulation of genetic resources beyond national jurisdictions in 2007–08.

Law of the sea and Antarctica

The Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) and the International Unitisation Agreement for Greater Sunrise entered into force on 23 February 2007 following an exchange of notes in Dili. CMATS sets aside maritime boundary claims in the Timor Sea for a substantial period, with Australia and East Timor equally splitting government revenues derived from the exploitation of the Greater Sunrise reservoirs. Current projects within the Joint Petroleum Development Area, as well as the Greater Sunrise field once it is developed, will provide East Timor with significant revenue and an opportunity for sound economic development. These treaties provide a basis for strengthened bilateral relations with one of our closest neighbours.

We continued to work closely with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Department of Environment and Water Resources to advance Australia’s interests in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. We played a key role in negotiating with other members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna a conservation package that will contribute to the protection and sustainable use of fish stocks.

The department successfully led efforts in the United Nations General Assembly to regulate destructive fishing practices to minimise impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems, including seamounts and cold water corals, in areas beyond national jurisdictions. We helped DAFF negotiate the implementation of the General Assembly resolution as an interim measure in the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO). In late 2006, Australia successfully hosted the second round of negotiations in Hobart for the treaty establishing SPRFMO. The Australian Government also signed the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement in December 2006, a new treaty that will conserve and manage many of the marine resources of the region, including those of the deep sea.

The department has assisted with establishing closer cooperation with key strategic partners in the southern ocean to combat IUU fishing. The Australia–France Cooperative Fisheries Enforcement Treaty was signed in January 2007. The treaty applies in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Australian and French subantarctic territories in the Southern Ocean and formalises cooperative enforcement during patrols in the region against IUU fishing vessels. Australia has also exchanged a Letter of Intent with South Africa on the future of cooperative surveillance and enforcement in fisheries of our respective EEZs in the Southern Ocean.

On 28 March 2007, the Sub-commission of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) made its recommendations to the full Commission on Australia’s submission to extend our continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The full Commission deferred adoption of final recommendations until its next session in August and September 2007. Australia’s significant contribution to the CLCS has been maintained with the re-election of Phil Symonds, Australia’s candidate to the CLCS, on 14 June 2007 for another five-year period.

At the thirtieth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in April–May 2007, the Australian delegation, led by the department, achieved important improvements in the management of growing tourism, including rules on ships that may land passengers on the continent. The meeting also decided to discourage any tourism activities that may substantially contribute to the long-term degradation of the fragile Antarctic environment, such as the building of permanent infrastructure in support of tourism.

International law and transnational crime.

The department made a significant contribution to whole of government efforts to address legal issues relevant to deployments of Australian personnel to a range of countries, including Afghanistan, East Timor and Iraq. Following the breakdown of law and order in Tonga in November 2006, and the subsequent request by the Government of Tonga for Australian assistance, the department led negotiations with Tonga that resulted in the implementation of effective arrangements for the immediate deployment of Australian defence and police personnel. We also provided legal advice in support of RAMSI in Solomon Islands.

We worked closely with the Department of Defence and Attorney-General’s Department to ensure Australia maintained its record of strict adherence to international humanitarian law in all theatres in which Australian forces are deployed. The department led whole of government engagement in multilateral negotiations on a possible new instrument constraining the use of cluster munitions, and supported the prohibition of those munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. We facilitated signature of the Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel by the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 19 September 2006, emphasising Australia’s support for the strengthening of the legal framework of protections for UN and humanitarian personnel in the field.

The department worked closely with the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) during ongoing negotiations on a nuclear safeguards agreement with Russia (see sub-output 1.1.4 for more information). We facilitated Australia’s ratification of the Nuclear Transfer Agreement and the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with China on 3 February 2007.

We led Australia’s support for the International Criminal Court, including through our chairing of the Court’s Committee on Budget and Finance, by securing clarification on the issue of budgetary contributions that facilitated Japan’s decision to accede to the ICC Statute, and by engaging in negotiations that produced a definition of the crime of aggression. The department worked closely with other states to support the establishment of the Extraordinary Chamber of the Cambodian Courts to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The department ensured that Australia’s economic and investment interests were furthered by pursuing negotiation of a range of bilateral economic treaties. We facilitated the signature of an Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation with South Africa on 18 October 2006, and ensured Australia’s bilateral Agreement with Sri Lanka for the Promotion and Protection of Investments entered into force on 14 March 2007. We facilitated the signature by both Australia and Greece of the Agreement between Australia and the Hellenic Republic on Social Security on 23 May 2007 during the visit to Australia by the Greek Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis.

The department assisted the Attorney-General’s Department in negotiations on a number of bilateral extradition, mutual legal assistance and prisoner transfer agreements. Ten of these were either concluded or entered into force during the year, including with Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sanctions and transnational crime

The department coordinated whole of government implementation of binding United Nations Security Council decisions imposing new or modifying existing sanctions regimes. In particular, we contributed to Australia meeting its international obligations to counter the financing of terrorism under UN Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373 and successor resolutions by maintaining Australia’s terrorist asset freezing regime under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 and related regulations. We also coordinated the implementation into Australian law of United Nations Security Council counter-proliferation sanctions regimes against the nuclear and missile programs of the governments of Iran and the DPRK (see sub-output 1.1.10 on page 129 for our role in promoting the Government’s international non-proliferation objectives).

The department made a significant contribution to the development of the International Trade Integrity Bill, introduced into Parliament on 14 June 2007. The Bill implements the Australian Government’s response to the Inquiry into certain Australian companies in relation to the UN Oil-For-Food Programme (the Cole Inquiry). The Bill, will significantly strengthen Australian implementation of UN sanctions by increasing the penalties for breach of sanctions and conferring upon the department (and other sanctions implementing agencies) new powers to monitor compliance with sanctions.

Treaties and outreach

The department continued to support the Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, which reviewed 32 new treaties during the year. To enhance input to the committee, we facilitated consultation with the states and territories on treaties currently under negotiation, prepared extensive biannual schedules (which describe the subject matter of treaties and list treaty actions under negotiation, consideration or review at a particular date) and helped facilitate the committee’s follow-up briefings. We instituted an important reform to streamline the treaty tabling process by enabling minor treaty actions to be scrutinised by Parliament in an expeditious manner.

The department provided extensive advice on treaties matters to other government agencies (including those of the states and territories) and maintained, through the Australasian Legal Information Institute, a free best practice internet facility enabling access to all 2602 Australian treaty texts.

Human rights

Australia welcomed the establishment of the Human Rights Council in 2006 with the hope and expectation it would be a more effective and responsive body than its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights. During the Council’s first full year of operation, the department, especially through our UN mission in Geneva, sought to be an active and constructive observer at the Council.

The Council’s performance has so far been mixed. On the positive side, Australia has valued the Council’s interactive dialogue between states, human rights mandate-holders and other key stakeholders including civil society. We have, however, been disappointed by the continuing unbalanced attention the Council has given to Middle East issues. The Council has already held three Special Sessions on the Middle East alone (in July, August, and November 2006), and only one session on Sudan (in December 2006). A critical test for the new body’s effectiveness will be its ability to respond quickly and effectively to urgent human rights situations as they occur, but so far the Council has failed to produce substantial outcomes on the full range of pressing human rights situations.

Bilateral human rights dialogues

The department led delegations to bilateral human rights dialogues with China, Laos and Vietnam during the course of the year. These dialogues continue to be important forums for constructive and frank discussions with regional governments on a broad range of human rights issues.

Australia raised its full range of human rights concerns at the tenth round of dialogue held with China in July 2006. The round was held in Australia and featured a successful meeting between the Chinese delegation and a group of Australian non-government organisations. The inaugural dialogue with Laos was held in Vientiane during October 2006 and saw constructive discussions on such issues as the role of the legal sector in protecting human rights, women’s and children’s rights, and ethnic and religious diversity. The fifth dialogue with Vietnam was held in Hanoi in April 2007 and dealt with a range of issues, including gender equality, the situation of religious and ethnic minorities and the role of national human rights institutions in protecting human rights. Discussions were constructive and robust particularly in relation to key issues such as restrictions on the freedom of religion, expression and association.

Indigenous issues

The department played an active role, with other relevant government agencies, in advancing the consideration of Indigenous issues in the multilateral system, including on the Australian delegation to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York during May. The department, including through our UN mission in New York, was actively involved in consultations, mandated by the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee in November 2006, on the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Representations and consultations on human rights

Australian overseas posts made representations on individual human rights cases and issues of concern during 2006–07. The department conducted a round of formal human rights consultations with Australian and international NGOs during the year. This enabled valuable exchanges of information, insights and advice on human rights issues of public interest.

People smuggling and trafficking

The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues continued to lead Australian Government engagement with the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, which Australia co-chairs with Indonesia. In this context, the department cooperated closely with other Australian government policy and operational agencies, such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Australian Customs Service. We also worked closely with international counterparts from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration and regional counterparts from Thailand and New Zealand.

Australia and Indonesia made a joint presentation on the Bali Process on the sidelines of the United Nations High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in New York in September 2006. The New York side event created a global profile for the Bali Process and the regional workshop continued to build regional awareness and capacity. The department co-chaired a regional workshop for victims of human trafficking in Bali in November 2006. Further information on the Bali Process is available at

The department continued to take an active role in the Government’s inter-agency People Smuggling Task Force. Using our network of overseas posts, we worked successfully with other governments to disrupt people smuggling activities. In Jakarta, the embassy’s close engagement with Indonesian authorities led to the arrest of two people suspected of organising the unauthorised arrival of a boat carrying 83 Sri Lankans off Christmas Island in February 2007.

Avian and pandemic influenza

The department continued to contribute strongly to the Government’s preparations for a possible influenza pandemic in Australia, our region and beyond. We helped build regional preparedness and response capabilities at the June 2006 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Health Ministers’ meeting in Sydney and through other practical activities organised through APEC (see sub-output 1.1.8 for more information). Globally, we continued to work closely with the Department of Health and Ageing and AusAID to support the work of the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza and to respond to other emerging issues affecting the international community’s response. We were active in the Government’s ongoing preparedness planning and completed our own pandemic influenza contingency plan for our headquarters in Canberra.


The department intensified preparations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers Meeting to be held in November 2007 in Kampala, Uganda. We continued close cooperation with the Commonwealth Secretariat and other members to ensure an appropriate role for the organisation in promoting and strengthening Commonwealth values of democracy, good governance and the rule of law. This includes further, targeted support for a Commonwealth good offices’ role and civil society initiatives in the Asia-Pacific and African region.


We will continue to focus our efforts on areas of the UN that directly engage Australia’s interests, including work to strengthen cooperation on international peace and security issues, non-proliferation and support for UN activities on democracy, reconstruction and institution-building. We will press for quick and effective implementation of the new Secretary-General’s reform initiatives and advocate a broader agenda to address UN system-wide issues, such as the coherence of agency functions and mandate, transparency and accountability.

We will support the Secretary as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for APEC Australia 2007 to ensure climate change is a central focus at the APEC Leaders Summit in September 2007. Another major priority will be to carry forward the Global Initiative on Forests and Climate Change.

The department will continue to provide high-quality legal advice on a range of international law issues, including on law of the sea and extended continental shelf issues.

We will undertake a further round of human rights dialogue with China. We will continue to support efforts to make the Human Rights Council a more effective body, and more generally, to advance the cause of human rights internationally.

The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues will build on the momentum already achieved by the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. A particular focus over the coming year will be to take stock of achievements and identify new areas of cooperation. The department will also continue to work closely with other Australian government agencies on the Australian Government response to a possible human influenza pandemic.

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