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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



1.1.12 Services to diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia

Overview

Photo - See caption below for description
Ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr Hoang Vinh Thanh (front, second from left), after presenting his Letter of Credence to the Governor-General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC (front, third from left) on 11 February 2010. Also pictured are Deputy Secretary, Mr Bruce Gosper (front, far right), and the Chief of Protocol, Ms Anne Plunkett (front, far left).
Photo: Andrew Taylor

The department provided visa, accreditation and other services to facilitate the work of the diplomatic and consular representatives and their offices in Australia. There was a strong demand for services arising from a growing diplomatic and consular community of over 4900 officials and dependants. With few exceptions, these services were delivered in a timely manner. We received positive feedback on our timeliness and responsiveness in providing support consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Vienna Conventions.

The department continued to accord a high priority to protecting the security and dignity of diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia. We worked closely with the Security Coordination Branch, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and other relevant agencies to respond to issues of concern to individual missions and posts.

Services to the diplomatic and consular corps

The department provided services to 94 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 34 non-resident diplomatic missions and 338 consular posts, representing a total of 148 countries, as well as 11 international organisations with offices in Australia. Twenty-two resident and three non-resident heads of mission were accredited to Australia in 2009–10. We shared responsibilities with other Australian government agencies to assist the consular corps on issues such as security, immigration, private domestic employment, customs and quarantine matters, airport facilitation, land and premises for foreign missions, taxation and motor vehicle ownership and disposal.

Having signed a new arrangement with the government of Colombia, we now have 39 bilateral employment arrangements in place with foreign governments to regulate the employment of diplomatic officers’ dependants. These provide important reciprocal benefits for the dependants of Australian diplomatic staff wishing to work in the host country.

Following parliamentary review, reciprocal indirect tax concession arrangements with 11 countries were established, providing tax concessions for certain goods and services. Departmental officers acted as witnesses for a successful prosecution by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service of a vehicle fraud case involving illegal access to diplomatic privileges.

We facilitated the reopening of the embassy of Ecuador in Canberra and supported a number of missions seeking new premises for chanceries where lease variations by the local authority were necessary. We also facilitated the establishment of seven new honorary consular posts in Australia.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

The department devoted significant resources to helping agencies ensure the security and dignity of missions and posts, and their staff. This included responding to specific security issues affecting various missions during the reporting period.

We supported the AFP and local authorities in seeking waivers of immunity from individuals involved in criminal offences. In the interests of safety on public roads, we supported local authorities by bringing to the attention of heads of mission those individual diplomats with poor traffic infringement records.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

The Ministers’ 2009 function for the diplomatic corps featured the biennial Sir Arthur Tange lecture in Australian foreign policy, delivered by Mr Smith. His lecture focused on the major foreign policy and security challenge of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. The Acting Secretary, Ms Gillian Bird, hosted the traditional Christmas reception in honour of the diplomatic corps and Mr Smith attended.

We amended and updated our online protocol guidelines on a continuous basis to provide more clarity and detail on guidelines for the accreditation of the diplomatic and consular corps and the functioning of their offices in Australia. We published the guidelines on the department’s website at www.dfat.gov.au/protocol/Protocol_Guidelines in the interests of transparency for the corps.

Outlook

The department will continue to provide high-quality and timely services to the diplomatic and consular corps, placing a strong emphasis on security. We will endeavour to maintain a consistent approach and transparency in our dealings with the corps, reviewing and improving our guidelines as appropriate. The department will continue to actively pursue more bilateral employment agreements for dependants.

PROGRAM 1.1.12 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

 
2009–10
2008–09
2007–08
Number of diplomatic representatives for whom the department provides services
1016
998
935
Number of consular representatives for whom the department provides services
936
856
892
Number and category of services provided:
    visas issued for the corps
2111
2307
2172
    arrivals and departures processed
1279
1329
1541
    identity cards issued
1278
1300
1204
    presentation of credentials
25
38
24
    exequaturs issued
18
36
22
    facilitation of purchase, registration and disposal of cars
    by privileged personnel
960
1065
1469
    requests processed for foreign awards to Australian citizens
65
98
69
    requests processed for dependants seeking permission to work
104
58
94
    approvals for new foreign missions in Australia
    (includes diplomatic missions, consular posts and offices of international organisations)
8
14
20
    approvals for defence advisers/attachés
14
13
19

Next page: 1.1.13 Public information services and public diplomacy
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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade