Annual Report 2007-2008
 

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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 department provided visa, accreditation and a range of other services to facilitate the work of diplomatic and consular representatives and their offices in Australia. Despite the high volume of transactions entailed by a diplomatic and consular community totalling nearly 4700 officials and dependants, most transactions were completed within short timeframes and the department received positive feedback on the quality and transparency of its support for the diplomatic and consular corps.

The department continued to accord a high priority to protecting the security and dignity of diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia and worked closely with the Protective Security Coordination Centre and other relevant agencies to respond to issues of concern to individual missions and posts.

Services to the diplomatic and consular corps

At the close of the reporting year, the department provided services to 93 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 31 non-resident diplomatic missions and 338 consular posts representing 146 countries in total, and 12 international organisations. Sixteen resident and eight non-resident heads of mission were accredited to Australia in 2007–08. Routine business alone ensured there was an active dialogue between the department and many missions, posts and international organisations. The department also assisted the corps by facilitating their discussions with other Australian government agencies on such issues as security, immigration, customs and quarantine matters, airport procedures, land and premises for foreign missions, taxation and motor vehicle registration.

New dependants’ working arrangements were signed with the governments of Croatia, Pakistan and Ecuador. These took to 33 the number of such bilateral arrangements, which have important reciprocal benefits for the dependants of staff working in Australian missions abroad.

Reciprocal arrangements were finalised with South Africa and Sweden to provide indirect tax concessions for certain costs associated with construction and renovation of diplomatic premises including heads of mission residences. Australia now has 25 bilateral construction and renovation arrangements.

Photo - See caption below for description
High Commissioner of India, Her Excellency Mrs Sujatha Singh (seated second from left), after presenting her Letter of Credence to the Governor-General, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery AC, CVO, MC (seated second from right), on 25 October 2007. Also pictured are Deputy Secretary, Mr David Ritchie AO (seated far right), and the then Chief of Protocol, Ms Lyndall McLean AM (seated far left). Photo: Michael Jensen
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

The department facilitated the re-establishment of embassies of Denmark and Colombia in Canberra and the opening of four new consular posts headed by career consuls in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

The department devoted significant resources to ensuring that Australia met its obligations with regard to the security and dignity of missions and posts and their staff. In addition to maintaining appropriate standing arrangements for all missions, the department responded to specific, short-term security issues affecting various missions during the year. The protection requirements of VIP visitors for APEC 2007 were managed successfully. Feedback from the corps on the department’s involvement with management of security issues was overwhelmingly positive. The role of the protocol duty officer in providing assistance to missions on issues arising outside working hours was appreciated.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

The ministers’ 2007 mid-year function for the diplomatic corps featured the second biennial Sir Arthur Tange lecture in Australian foreign policy, delivered by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer. The lecture focused on Australia’s commitment to Pacific island countries. In early December 2007, the Secretary hosted the traditional Christmas reception in honour of the corps, and provided an early opportunity for the corps to meet the new Portfolio Ministers, Mr Smith and Mr Crean, who both addressed the function.

A presentation for women from the Canberra diplomatic corps on community issues, including personal and home security and children’s safety, was well received. Other briefings were held for the corps on Australia’s UN Security Council candidacy; preparations for World Youth Day; and new arrangements for household staff employed privately by diplomats. Briefings on a range of protocol issues were held for the consular corps and relevant agencies in Sydney and Melbourne. The department produced a new pamphlet with information and contact details on community services to help newcomers to Canberra.

Honorary consuls in Australia

Australia has a long tradition of accepting the appointment of honorary consuls to represent certain interests of foreign governments in Australia. In June 2008, 254 persons were accredited as honorary consuls in Australian centres, mainly capital cities, outside the ACT.

Honorary consuls’ functions can include assisting nationals of the sending state, notarising or registering documents, facilitating the issue of passports and visas, and promoting the development of bilateral economic and cultural relations. Honorary consuls can therefore be a valuable resource for the sending state, especially in cases where there is no resident diplomatic representation in Australia. In keeping with the smaller range of functions they undertake, honorary consuls have only limited functional privileges and immunities compared with career consular staff appointed from the sending state.

When honorary consuls are nominated, the department aims to ensure there is a genuine need for consular services to be provided by them. The selection of honorary consuls is a matter for the sending state but each nomination requires Australian Government approval. The accreditation of honorary consuls is based on the understanding that they are of good character, will not seek to abuse or misrepresent their status, and can be relied on to provide consular services competently, fairly and transparently

Outlook

The department will continue to provide high-quality and timely services to the diplomatic and consular corps, with security being a paramount consideration. Consistency of approach and transparency will remain hallmarks of the department’s dealings with the corps, as we continue to expand outreach to members of the corps and their dependants, and to encourage dialogue. In cooperation with the diplomatic missions representing the home countries from which overseas private household staff are recruited, the department will look to provide identity cards and information packages to assist these employees.

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