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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Section 1: Overviews

Secretary's review

The Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson AO
The Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson AO.
Photo: Michael Jensen

A fragile global economy and contractions in the gross domestic products of seven of Australia’s top 10 trading partners provided a critical context for the Government’s foreign and trade policy agenda over the last year.

The changing strategic landscape in East Asia, shaped by the rise of China, was a further important context for our work.

We pushed strongly through the G20, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and bilaterally for a coordinated global response to the economic crisis, to resist protectionist forces and to extend trade liberalisation. We continued to engage within multilateral forums on key issues, including counter-terrorism, non-proliferation, climate change and people smuggling. We engaged with partners on regional economic integration and regional architecture. We strengthened bilateral relations with regional partners and worked to enhance our engagement in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

We continued to provide high-quality consular services to ever-increasing numbers of Australian travellers.

Enhancing key relationships

The department worked to enhance our strong relationship with the United States (US), including on regional and global security, nuclear non-proliferation and promoting a coordinated response to the global economic crisis. We facilitated visits to Washington by the then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, and hosted a senior US congressional staff delegation in Australia. The Australia-United States Ministerial Trade Talks, held in October 2009 in Washington, focused on multilateral and regional trade priorities, including the WTO Doha Round, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

We continued to work to further enhance our strong relationship with Japan. Mr Smith and the then Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, visited Japan and hosted a visit to Australia by Japanese Foreign Minister Mr Katsuya Okada. We advanced our bilateral strategic interests, including by concluding negotiations on cooperation between Australian and Japanese defence forces in areas such as peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. Notwithstanding continuing differences on whaling, we coordinated closely with Japan on areas of mutual interest, such as climate change and disarmament. Our economic ties with Japan were strengthened through the inaugural Australia-Japan Trade and Economic Ministerial Dialogue. We continued negotiations on a free trade agreement.

Despite a number of bilateral challenges with China, we engaged constructively on key issues of common interest, including the international economy and the G20. A series of high-level visits to and from China, including by Chinese Executive Vice Premier, Mr Li Keqiang, and Vice President, Mr Xi Jinping, served to strengthen bilateral ties. We reinforced our already strong economic ties through the High-Level Economic Cooperation Dialogue and worked with Austrade to link Australian industry with opportunities in inland Chinese provinces. Negotiations with China on a comprehensive free trade agreement resumed after a long hiatus.

We worked to strengthen our economic and political relationship with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and to increase energy and resources exports. We continued negotiations on a free trade agreement. We strengthened strategic cooperation with the ROK through the conclusion of a revised bilateral agreement on enhanced global and security cooperation and worked cooperatively with the Department of Defence in responding to the sinking of the ROK navy vessel, the Cheonan.

Our strong ties with Indonesia were enhanced through the visit of Indonesian President, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in March 2010, during which he and Mr Rudd agreed that Australian and Indonesian leaders would meet annually, as would respective foreign and defence ministers. We continued to discuss an Economic Partnership Agreement and held two rounds of talks on consular issues. An Australia Indonesia Leadership Dialogue was established to foster education, media and business links.

We worked to strengthen relations with Thailand, including by advocating for further trade and investment liberalisation under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

We enhanced our close ties with Singapore on strategic and regional issues through the Singapore Australia Joint Ministerial Committee meeting and advanced bilateral economic cooperation by concluding the second review of the Singapore Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Our strong links with Malaysia were strengthened through the inaugural Australia Malaysia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, as well as through discussions on efforts to counter people smuggling and terrorism in the region.

We worked with the Philippines on counter-terrorism issues and held senior officials’ mining talks.

We finalised the Comprehensive Partnership between Australia and Vietnam and advanced our bilateral economic interests, in particular in the areas of financial services, resources and infrastructure.

Our strong ties with East Timor were enhanced by the visit of East Timorese President, Dr José Ramos-Horta, to Australia in June 2010. In light of improved security, we decreased our deployment to the International Stabilisation Force. We reached agreement with East Timor for the development of the Kitan oil field in the Joint Petroleum Development Area. We continued discussions with East Timor on the development of the shared Greater Sunrise petroleum resource but have yet to resolve this issue.

We continued our efforts to promote political freedom in Burma. In October 2009, a DFAT official met Ms Aung San Suu Kyi – the first contact by an Australian official since 2003.

We strengthened our engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean through a program of ministerial visits to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Dominica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay and through the hosting of visits to Australia by the Foreign Ministers of Colombia and Cuba. Preparations to re-open our embassy in Peru later this year continued. We worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to facilitate the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding establishing relations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and further strengthened ties with CARICOM through Mr Smith’s participation in the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations.

Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, we supported Mr Smith’s engagement with new EU leadership structures and advised the Government on the potential effect on our interests of the new powers acquired by the European Parliament. We led negotiations to strengthen the Australia-EU Partnership Framework. We worked to improve access to European markets through our hosting of the sixth Australia-EC Trade Policy Dialogue. We engaged with multilateral European organisations, including the Asia-Europe Meeting, and became an Asian Partner for Cooperation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

We reinforced enduring ties with the United Kingdom (UK) through two visits by Mr Smith and a visit by Mr Crean. We cooperated closely with the UK on G20 issues, our mutual commitment to Afghanistan as part of the ISAF mission and on climate change.

Ministerial and senior officials’ talks with both France and Germany served to strengthen our relations with these key European partners.

We reinforced strong ties with New Zealand through two Closer Economic Relations (CER) Ministerial Meetings and a Foreign Ministers’ meeting.

Despite damage to our bilateral relationship with India following the attacks on students in Australia, leaders agreed to elevate our bilateral relationship to the level of a strategic partnership. Through our Joint Declaration on Security and Cooperation, issued during Mr Rudd’s visit to India, we committed to enhancing cooperation in areas of defence and security, economic engagement, energy, climate change, water resources and science. We supported an extensive program of ministerial visits to strengthen economic ties with India, our third-largest export market in 2009. Our public diplomacy efforts were directed at countering the negative impact of the student issue, but this is a long term project.

We facilitated the signing of a joint statement on cooperation with Sri Lanka on people smuggling.

The department broadened the Government’s links with Africa. Mr Smith visited South Africa and agreed to annual bilateral foreign ministers meetings. We engaged with multilateral African organisations, including through a visit by Mr Smith to the headquarters of the Southern African Development Community in Botswana and through our announcement that we would open an embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the headquarters of the African Union. We deepened economic ties through a visit by Mr Crean to South Africa, our largest trading partner in Africa. In collaboration with Austrade, we hosted major promotions in Perth and Cape Town of Australian mining expertise. We worked closely with AusAID to increase our development assistance to Africa. We continued to call for political reform in Zimbabwe and supported visits to Australia by reform-minded Zimbabwean ministers. As a member of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, we supported post-conflict reconstruction efforts in Burundi and Sierra Leone.

We worked to strengthen ties with the Middle East through senior officials’ talks with Egypt and with the Gulf Cooperation Council and through the visits to Australia by the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the Minister of Higher Education of Saudi Arabia.

We expanded our bilateral relationship with Iraq by implementing agreements in areas such as agriculture, education and border control and by holding inaugural senior officials’ talks in Baghdad.

The department enhanced its cooperation with the Pacific island countries during Australia’s term as Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting. We worked to strengthen development coordination in the region and Pacific policies on climate change.

Promoting trade and investment

We advanced Australian trade policy priorities through facilitating ministerial participation in key multilateral economic forums, including the G20, the WTO, the APEC forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

To improve market access for Australian exporters, the department continued to work towards concluding the WTO Doha Development Round negotiations. We supported Mr Crean in his efforts, during a gathering of trade ministers in France and at the Cairns Group meeting in Uruguay, to build political will to resume negotiations.

The department coordinated an active schedule of bilateral and regional free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, including with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia. Australia hosted the first negotiation round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a joint FTA with seven of our Asia-Pacific partners). We continued to work closely with other participants on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus. We finalised a study with India on the feasibility of a bilateral FTA and oversaw the entry into force of the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area.

The department worked to advance Australia’s export competitiveness, including by working with Austrade to assist Australian businesses access foreign markets and by working with the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) to facilitate access to trade finance for Australian exporters.

Strengthening multilateral and regional engagement

In support of the Government’s policy of enhanced engagement with the multilateral system, we worked actively within the United Nations on key global challenges, including climate change, sustainable development issues, peace and security issues and human rights. We actively promoted Australia’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013–14 term.

We continued to contribute to global efforts to combat climate change by supporting the Australian delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and working with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency to assist developing countries address climate change issues.

We worked to garner increased international support for whale conservation and provided legal advice to the Government on legal action against Japanese whaling in the International Court of Justice.

We supported participation by Mr Rudd and Mr Smith in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and Tobago, a key outcome of which was the confirmation that Australia would host CHOGM in 2011. The Meeting will be held in Perth.

We worked to enhance our engagement with regional organisations. The Asia Pacific community (APc) conference, which the department hosted in December 2009, contributed to discussions on strengthening regional architecture. We worked to progress East Asian Summit priorities, including on economic integration and disaster response.

Enhancing national security

We continued our close cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan, including by working with other departments and agencies to provide additional diplomatic personnel to civil-military stabilisation efforts and by facilitating Mr Smith’s participation, as well as that of Australia’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, at international meetings on Afghanistan.

With the aim of strengthening regional stability, we worked with other agencies to assist Pakistan with its defence, law enforcement and counter-terrorism capabilities and participated in the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group.

The department promoted nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, a key Government objective, through our active participation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, the Conference on Disarmament (where Australia was one of the six Presidents) and the US-hosted Nuclear Security Summit. The final report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND), commissioned by the Australian and Japanese Governments and presented in December 2009, advanced the nuclear policy debate and contributed to NPT Review Conference outcomes.

We chaired the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which worked to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through the harmonisation of national export licences. We promoted the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and assisted Mr Smith’s participation in a CTBT conference in New York. We worked with AusAID on a new Mine Action Strategy, which will deliver $100 million over the next five years to efforts to remove landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war.

We urged Iran to comply with its international security obligations and urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The department worked multilaterally, regionally and bilaterally to advance our counter-terrorism agenda, including by engaging APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Pacific Islands Forum to build regional counter-terrorism capacity and by working closely with Indonesia to counter violent extremism.

The department worked with regional partners in our effort to combat people smuggling. We coordinated a senior officials’ meeting of the Bali Process Ad Hoc Group (aimed at developing regional responses to irregular migration in the Asia-Pacific) and assisted with the organisation of the Bali Process Workshop on Protection, Resettlement and Repatriation.

We continued to advance the Government’s national security agenda and worked cooperatively with other departments on cyber, maritime and aviation security.

We enhanced dialogue on strategic issues with the US and Japan through Mr Smith’s participation in the fifth Trilateral Strategic Dialogue Ministerial Meeting.

Enhancing consular and passport services

We continued to provide Australian travellers with high-quality consular service. We regularly updated our smartraveller public information campaign to assist Australians prepare for their travels. We continued to provide assistance to Australians overseas, including in geographically remote or politically unstable locations and in cases of natural disasters, accidents and international sporting events. We engaged in contingency consular planning for major events, such as the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Despite record demand for passports, we maintained an efficient passport service, with an average internal turnaround time for the production of travel documents of 4.1 days (well within the advertised commitment of ten working days). We increased resources dedicated to passport fraud and saw a corresponding increase in the number of fraud investigations.

Promoting a positive image of Australia

We worked to influence positively international opinion of Australia through an extensive public diplomacy program, involving visits by journalists, policy-makers, opinion-shapers and cultural leaders and through the production of public affairs material. We showcased Australian culture and industry through our participation in the Shanghai World Expo.

Portfolio agencies

Austrade advanced Australian trade and investment interests through the delivery of services to business, industry and governments. Austrade worked to enhance international competitiveness of industry by providing export and investment assistance. It also administered the Export Market Development Grants Scheme and worked with state and territory governments to attract foreign direct investment in key industries. During the year under review, Austrade worked closely with the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations, and with the education sector, to prepare for the transfer of responsibility for international promotion of Australian education to Austrade from 1 July 2010.

In responding to the global recession, AusAID built partner country resilience and implemented targeted assistance programs. AusAID gave priority to generating employment and restoring growth; supporting delivery of basic services, such as health care and education; and protecting the vulnerable.

The Australian Government provided $3.818 billion in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2009–10. Mr Smith reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to increase ODA to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income by 2015–16 to address poverty in the Asia-Pacific region and globally.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) worked towards poverty alleviation through food security research programs and projects, including major programs in eastern and southern Africa and the Pacific. ACIAR contributed to ongoing reform of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), aimed at enhancing global agricultural productivity, and the management of increased investment in the CGIAR. ACIAR also worked on a number of joint initiatives with AusAID, including in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Cambodia and Pakistan.


We will continue to support the Prime Minister, portfolio and other ministers in advancing the Government’s foreign and trade policy agenda. We will manage our resources flexibly to meet changing priorities, although resource constraints continue to be a challenge.

The department will continue to advocate our interests multilaterally, including on issues such as the global economy and climate change. We will provide high-level support for the G20 through our overseas network. We will continue to support high-level advocacy of our UN Security Council candidacy for the 2013–14 term. We will maintain a focus on combating people smuggling, including through participation in the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.

We will advance the Government’s non-proliferation and disarmament agenda, including through promoting the outcomes of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and encouraging further ratifications of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. We will work with the United States and regional partners on counter-terrorism and other security issues.

The department will support efforts to progress the WTO Doha Round negotiations. We will continue to pursue trade liberalisation through multilateral, regional and bilateral forums and will continue to pursue outstanding FTA negotiations.

We will work to strengthen our relationship with the United States, including through the Australia–United States Ministerial consultations and bilateral visits. We will continue efforts to strengthen our strategic ties with key partners in North Asia and continue to enhance our strong links with South-East Asia. We will work to strengthen political, economic and strategic ties with key European partners and regional countries. The department will continue efforts to enhance our engagement with African, Latin American and Caribbean countries, including through the opening of embassies in Addis Ababa and Lima. We expect the numbers of Australians travelling overseas will continue to increase. The department will strengthen its consular preparedness and response capacity as a result. We also expect a growth in demand for passports and will work to continue to respond promptly to this demand, while increasing our vigilance on passport security.

Dennis Richardson

Departmental Overview

Role and functions

The department is responsible for advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally. The department’s staff in Canberra, in our state and territory offices and around the world work to achieve the department’s three outcomes, outlined in our Portfolio Budget Statements 2009–10 and presented in Figure 3 on page 15:

  • the advancement of Australia’s international strategic, security and economic interests including through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement on Australian Government foreign and trade policy priorities
  • the protection and welfare of Australians abroad and access to secure international travel documentation through timely and responsive travel advice and consular and passport services in Australia and overseas
  • a secure Australian Government presence overseas through the provision of security services and information and communications technology infrastructure, and the management of the Commonwealth’s overseas owned estate.

To support the achievement of these outcomes in a challenging international environment, the department deployed its staff and other resources in a targeted and flexible manner (see Section 3 for more information).

Photo - See caption below for description
The Secretary and Deputy Secretaries of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (as at 30 June 2010).
L–R (seated) The Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson AO, Deputy Secretary, Mr Ric Wells
L–R (standing) Deputy Secretaries Mr Bruce Gosper, Dr Alan Thomas, Ms Gillian Bird
Photo: Michael Jensen

Organisational structure

The Secretary and five deputy secretaries constitute the department’s senior executive. Supported by a departmental executive, they manage the department and provide leadership on foreign and trade policy, consular and corporate issues. The senior executive shapes the values and culture of the department, promotes the highest professional standards of service to the Government and to Australia, and provides a fair and professionally rewarding working environment for staff.

The department’s organisational structure is outlined in Figure 1. In Canberra, as at 30 June 2010, the department was made up of 14 divisions, as well as three branches, the Australian Passport Office, the Overseas Property Office, the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, the Shanghai World Expo 2010 Executive and the Australia Awards Secretariat.

The department manages an overseas network of 89 embassies, high commissions, consulates-general and multilateral missions (see Appendix 14 for more information). Each overseas post is attached to a parent division in Canberra. In addition to headquarters in Canberra, the department maintains offices in all Australian state and territory capital cities. These offices provide consular and passport services to the Australian community and liaison services to state and territory governments and Australian business. We also maintain a Passport Office in Newcastle and a Liaison Office on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Details of our offices in Australia are provided inside the back cover of this report.

The department also engages people overseas to act as honorary consuls. Honorary consuls provide consular assistance on behalf of the department to Australian travellers in locations where the Australian Government does not maintain other representation (see Appendix 14 for more information).



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Structure of the foreign affairs and trade portfolio

The foreign affairs and trade portfolio supports the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance and the Parliamentary Secretary for Trade in the conduct of Australia’s foreign and trade policy.

Six agencies make up the portfolio:

  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Australian Trade Commission (Austrade)
  • AusAID (Australian Agency for International Development)
  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
  • Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)
  • Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).

Figure 4 outlines the portfolio structure and each agency’s outcomes.





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Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Smith, with the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Mr Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna (left), and the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Yang Jiechi (right), at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Informal Consultations in Phuket, Thailand on 22 July 2009.
Photo: Sukree Sukplang / Reuters / Picture Media
Photo - See caption below for description
The then Prime Minister, Mr Rudd, at a press conference with United States Secretary of State, Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton, at the State Department on 30 November 2009.
Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images News
Photo - See caption below for description
The then Minister for Trade, Mr Crean, at a press conference with the Singaporean Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, during a visit to Singapore for the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting in July 2009.
Photo: Courtesy of Andrew West/Australian Trade
Commission, Singapore

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