Annual Report 2006-2007
 

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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

The diplomatic and consular corps in Australia continues to grow, with the expansion of many existing missions and posts and the establishment of others. There are now more than 4500 foreign officials and their dependants in Australia. The department accords high priority to ensuring that Australia meets its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which codify international practice in relation to diplomatic privileges and immunities. We continued to work closely with the Protective Security Coordination Centre to protect the security and dignity of missions and their staff.

The department provided timely, targeted and professional services to facilitate the work of diplomatic and consular representatives and to address issues of concern to individual missions and posts. We managed ceremonial and representational functions for the corps and supported other government agencies in their liaison with foreign missions and posts.

At the close of the reporting year, the department provided services to 91 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 29 non-resident diplomatic missions and 332 consular posts representing 147 countries in total, and 12 international organisations. We facilitated the establishment in Canberra of the new Nepalese embassy in March 2007, the transfer of the United Nations Information Centre from Sydney to Canberra and the establishment of new offices by the European Investment Bank and the International Development Law Organization.

In consultation with law enforcement agencies, the department continued to send a strong message that abuses of privileges and immunities were unacceptable and that contravention of Australian law, including speeding and drink driving, would not be tolerated. Consistent with international conventions, the department took effective action 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. As a result of the department’s intervention, a large portion of accumulated unpaid fines resulting from traffic and parking infringements by foreign officials were paid.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

The department organised a successful visit by the diplomatic corps to South Australia in May 2007. The visit was led by Mr Downer and showcased the state’s booming mining sector and specialist defence industries and provided opportunities for interaction with local political, academic and business figures.

The ministers’ 2006 mid-year function for the diplomatic corps was marked by the inaugural Sir Alan Westerman lecture on Australian trade policy, delivered by the then Minister for Trade, Mr Vaile. The Secretary hosted the traditional Christmas function in honour of the corps. He also held a reception for the Canberra Diplomatic Club, a group that encourages contact between junior and middle ranking diplomats and officers of the department.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

Photo - See caption below for description
Ambassador of the Republic of Mali, Her Excellency Madame Maimouna Dial Guisse (seated third from left), after presenting her Letter of Credence to the Governor-General, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC (seated third from right), 23 August 2006. Also pictured are the Secretary, Mr Michael L’Estrange AO (seated far right), and the Chief of Protocol, Ms Lyndall McLean AM (seated far left).
Photo: Michael Jensen
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

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. The protocol duty officer provided a 24-hour service to assist missions with issues that arose outside normal working hours.

Demands from diplomatic and consular missions for additional security continued to increase during the year, reflecting ongoing concerns about the international security environment. The department worked with agencies with primary responsibility for protecting foreign missions and their staff to provide high-quality and timely assistance with these issues. We played a central role in ensuring that foreign heads of state or heads of government and other senior official visitors were provided with appropriate security. In preparation for the increased visitor numbers associated with APEC 2007 meetings, the department, in conjunction with other agencies, developed and implemented an improved visitor assessment ratings scheme to assist in determining security and protection resource requirements.

Services to the diplomatic and consular corps

The department’s protocol services continued to receive positive feedback from the corps. The efficiency of visa and accreditation processing and arrangements for new heads of mission were particularly appreciated (see box on page 159).

The department’s protocol guidelines, available online, provided a ready reference for the corps on Australian protocol policies and practice. We organised several briefings for the diplomatic corps on procedural and policy matters. A presentation for spouses on community issues, including children’s education, opportunities for volunteer work in Canberra and health and safety risks associated with the Australian environment, was very well received. Briefings were also held for the consular corps in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart.

The department maintained dialogue with a range of federal and state government agencies on issues affecting the corps. In addition to the Protective Security Coordination Centre within the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Federal Police and other police forces, these included the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the National Capital Authority, the Australian Customs Service, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, the Department of Transport and Regional Services, airport managers and motor vehicle registries.

The size of the diplomatic corps continues to grow, reflecting Australia’s increased presence and profile in world affairs. The department worked with the National Capital Authority to develop options for possible land sites to be made available for diplomatic missions.

Arrival of new heads of mission in Australia

Twenty-six heads of mission were accredited to Australia in 2006–07. Of these, 24 presented credentials to the Governor-General in nine ceremonies held throughout the year. Presentation of credentials occurs in the order in which a new head of mission arrives in Canberra.

A minority of heads of mission who represent countries where the Queen is the head of state present letters of introduction to the Prime Minister rather than letters of credence to the Governor-General, and take up their functions and assume precedence from the date of their first arrival in Canberra. In 2006–07, the high commissioners for New Zealand and Solomon Islands were accredited in this way.

Seven of the 26 new heads of mission reside in cities outside Australia, including Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta and London. Typically, non-resident heads of mission spend several days in Australia when they come to present credentials. The department organises introductory programs to enable them to meet senior officials as well as business, academic and community representatives.

The heads of mission accredited in the course of the year represented all regions of the world, including ambassadors from Greece and Ireland, the United States, China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran, Mali, Rwanda and Eritrea, Brazil and Colombia and high commissioners from Malta, Brunei, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Photo - See caption below for description
Visit by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, and heads of missions from the diplomatic corps to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, South Australia, May 2007.
Photo: Peter Hoare
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department continued to work on arrangements for tax concessions and permission for dependants to work, with bilateral reciprocity being a key principle in all negotiations. New dependants’ working arrangements with Germany and Belgium came into effect and signature of an agreement with Croatia is imminent.

Outlook

In accordance with Australia’s obligations under the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, the department will continue to provide high-quality and timely service to the diplomatic corps and protect the security and dignity of foreign missions and their staff in Australia. We will seek to further enhance current processes and procedures to enable us to improve delivery of our services, expand outreach to members of the corps and their dependants, and to strengthen protections afforded to high-level visitors, especially in the lead-up to and during Australia’s hosting of APEC 2007. We will continue to expand the network of bilateral arrangements for the employment of dependants of diplomats.

 

 

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