1.1.11 Services to other agencies in Australia and overseas (including Parliament, state representatives, business and other organisations)
The department provided high-quality assistance and timely advice to parliamentary delegations, Australian government agencies overseas, Australian business, and state and territory governments.
We also provided financial, human resource and property management services to 30 government departments and agencies with overseas representation and, in one instance, to the New Zealand Government. We provided information and communications technology services to 38 agencies in Australia and overseas.
To implement government policy in the trade sphere, we collaborated with state and territory governments, and the business community. This work included promoting trade and progressing the trade development agenda.
The department provided high levels of assistance to federal parliamentarians and ministers by facilitating parliamentary travel, presenting information to parliamentary committees and fulfilling our public accountability responsibilities.
We promoted relations between the Australian Parliament and those of other countries by assisting with 137 overseas visit programs for individual federal parliamentarians and parliamentary delegations. These visits fostered enhanced links between parliamentary institutions, and gave parliamentarians the opportunity to study developments in a range of fields relevant to the Australian community.
As well as providing advice on in-country travel, we identified and scheduled appointments with key officials in specific fields of interest and provided written and oral background briefings on foreign and trade policy matters relevant to the visits.
Our work for the Parliament included facilitating parliamentary delegation visits to Austria, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Singapore, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vanuatu.
The department assisted with 23 visits to Australia by parliamentary delegations from other countries. We also provided country briefs and talking points to the Presiding Officers for their use in meetings with visiting parliamentarians and foreign officials.
We briefed and appeared before a range of parliamentary committees as outlined in Appendix 6.
We answered 127 questions submitted in writing or taken on notice during Senate Estimates hearings. These contained 392 individual sub-questions.
Questions on notice
The department assisted portfolio ministers prepare accurate and timely responses to 125 written parliamentary Questions on Notice (also known as Questions in Writing). Of these, 61 were from the House of Representatives and 64 were from the Senate.
Ministerial submissions and briefing
During the reporting period, the department produced 2889 ministerial submissions, 453 meeting briefs, 83 cabinet briefs and 15 cabinet submissions.
By enhancing the ministerial correspondence workflow system, we strengthened our capacity to provide high-quality service for portfolio ministers. We received and processed 10 311 ministerial letters in 2009–10, compared with 9362 in 2008–09. By providing high-quality, timely and accurate responses to ministerial correspondence, we helped portfolio ministers communicate key messages to the Australian community regarding government policy on foreign and trade-related matters. We provided all responses within the specified timeframe, unless otherwise agreed by ministers’ offices. The Departmental Executive closely monitored performance in this area, by reviewing a monthly report that detailed the timeliness of responses and the quality of drafting, and identified issues of public interest.
Under the Service Level Agreement (SLA), the department provided management services, on a user-pays basis, to 30 government departments and agencies with overseas representation—and in one instance to the New Zealand Government. We provided these services in accordance with the 2009 Prime Minister’s Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas.
The SLA set out the obligations of the department and other agencies for each category of management service and determines service delivery standards. The services included financial, human resources and property management services for Australia-based employees and locally engaged staff in posts managed by the department. Feedback from SLA clients throughout the year was positive.
We updated the guidelines for the deployment of Australia-based Commonwealth employees and agreed with other agencies to extend the current SLA for one year from 1 July 2010.
Under separate memorandums of understanding, we also provided information and communications technology services to 38 agencies in Australia and overseas and payroll services to 17 agencies overseas (see Appendix 9).
The department provided briefings, policy advice and other support for a range of Australian government agencies on international aspects of their agendas, activities and programs. We arranged visit programs, participated in negotiations on bilateral agreements and facilitated and provided representation at international meetings on behalf of many other government agencies in pursuing a whole-of-government agenda.
The department, including our overseas posts and state and territory offices (STOs), played a significant role supporting visits overseas by state and territory ministers, parliamentarians and officials, as well as other Australian government officials and Federal ministers. STOs remained instrumental in maintaining close communication with state and territory governments to develop and implement foreign and trade policy.
The department actively engaged business on aspects of trade policy, including market access and competitiveness issues, to support and develop Australian business capability and to ensure Australia’s trade policy reflects commercial realities. Our engagement with business included public consultation on trade negotiations, organisation of trade missions and liaison with industry representatives, non-government organisations, community groups and senior business executives. We worked collaboratively with Austrade and EFIC to deliver services, programs and initiatives to help Australian businesses to access overseas markets and to attract foreign direct investment. For example, on the implementation of the Australia–Chile FTA, Austrade and DFAT worked closely together to assist business to develop commercial opportunities.
Market information and research
The department continued to provide trade statistics publications, including through our website, which outlined Australia’s trade performance and increased understanding within the wider Australian community of the economic benefits of trade.
To enable us to fulfil our responsibility to manage Australia’s international relations, the department maintains a network of seven state and territory offices. The Western Australia (WA) State Office ensures appropriate consultation and liaison with—and assistance to—the WA Government, local government, the business community, institutions and people in the state.
As Director of the WA State Office, David MacLennan supports Mr Smith in the execution of his duties in Perth. This includes managing a large number of high-level visits to Perth by Mr Smith’s foreign counterparts for bilateral ministerial meetings. He also provides protocol services to the local consular corps, and consular services to the Australian public.
“Perth is the base for Australia’s commercial engagement with Africa and the Indian Ocean region, and will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2011. WA minerals and LNG exports also underpin Australia’s trade and investment relationships with North Asia. My role as State Director is to connect WA into the department’s pursuit of the Government’s foreign and trade policy priorities.”
Our network of state and territory offices
Our network of STOs continued to connect us with business, community groups and non-government organisations. During the past 12 months, the network has conducted important outreach activities to:
- facilitate state and territory government and business involvement in the Shanghai World Expo
- raise awareness of the benefits of the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand FTA
- coordinate the Government’s response on the welfare and safety of Indian students in Australia.
STOs liaised with local officials and organisers to coordinate logistical and other arrangements for major events, such as the Asia Pacific community (APc) conference and the World Masters Games sporting event. The STOs also provided consular and protocol services.
The department will continue to give high priority to the provision of services to Parliament. This will include managing parliamentary Questions on Notice promptly and efficiently—and ensuring federal parliamentarians, parliamentary delegations and committees are kept informed of the Government’s foreign and trade policy priorities and supported in their efforts to advance Australia’s interests overseas.
We will continue to support state and territory governments, other agencies and the business community, both in Australia and overseas. This will include consultation on trade policy issues.
We will continue to provide management services to other government agencies in our overseas network following our agreement with them to extend the Service Level Agreement for 12 months from 1 July 2010.