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


Photo - See caption below for description
Prime Minister Gillard with the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, at the G20 Leaders' Summit in Seoul in November 2010.
Photo: Copyright Auspic
Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd (centre), the Governor of Uruzgan, Mr Mohammad Omar Shirzad (second from left), and local leaders open a mosque funded by Australia and constructed with the assistance of the Australian Defence Force in Sorkh Murgab, Afghanistan on 3 March 2011.
Photo: Department of Defence
Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, at the reception on 18 November 2010 commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Department of External Affairs and the 110th anniversary of the Department of Trade and Customs.
Photo: Andrew Taylor



Secretary's review

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

The international year in review

The department worked over the last year in a global and regional environment that is being reshaped by changing economic and strategic relativities. Nowhere is this more important than with the key trans-Pacific relationships of the United States, China, Japan and India.

Continuing fragilities in the global economy and the need for a coordinated international response was also an important context for the department’s work. We supported the Government’s efforts to deal with the fragile world economy through our participation in the G20 as well as APEC and the East Asia Summit.

The department promoted Australia’s strong credentials for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the 2013-14 term and led whole-of-government efforts on the campaign.

We mounted Australia’s largest ever public diplomacy event at the Shanghai Expo in China, providing an unprecedented opportunity to promote Australian culture, innovation and economic potential to more than eight million visitors. We also organised a successful visit of the diplomatic corps to Queensland, which helped demonstrate that Queensland was back in business following the natural disasters in early 2011.

Natural disasters in New Zealand and Japan, and political upheaval in the Middle East, resulted in the Consular Crisis Centre being in continuous 24/7 mode for two months at the beginning of 2011. This stretched the department’s resources with a total of 550 staff working on crises in Canberra (34 percent of all Canberra-based staff) (at peak times, 120 staff worked in the centre per 24 hour period) and 89 additional staff deployed overseas (supplementing resources overseas by 15 per cent) but we responded well through the hard work and dedication of staff and the flexible deployment of resources.

Advancing Australia’s national interest

Our response to Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, including an early visit in April 2011 by the Prime Minister, underlined the depth of our commitment to the relationship. The department engaged Japan as a valued partner in furthering regional and international security, particularly on non-proliferation through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative. We continue to argue the benefits of trade liberalisation following indications of Japan’s renewed commitment to liberalising trade and investment.

The department took a leading role in promoting the relationship with China, in particular by supporting high-level visits and pursuing opportunities arising from growing economic and trade links. We were creative in pursuing a comprehensive, constructive and cooperative relationship with China as it continues to emerge as a major global player, both bilaterally and in forums such as the East Asia Summit and the G20. At the same time we maintained our practice of raising our concerns, particularly on human rights and consular issues.

The department intensified efforts at whole-of-government level to strengthen the growing political and economic relationship with the Republic of Korea. We worked closely with the Republic of Korea and other agencies to ensure a successful G20 Summit. We supported Prime Minister Gillard’s visit in April 2011 for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

During the Prime Minister’s visit to Indonesia in November 2010, which our embassy facilitated, leaders decided to commence negotiations on an Australia-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. We worked with Indonesia as Chair of the East Asia Summit to strengthen the summit agenda for 2011. We supported Mr Rudd’s attendance at the Bali Process Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling in March 2011, which agreed to a regional cooperation framework to address irregular people movements.

Australia’s relations with Vietnam entered a new phase with the signature in October 2010 of a Plan of Action, on which the department led negotiations, to implement the Comprehensive Partnership. We negotiated memorandums of understanding on cooperation in education and sports with Malaysia, which were signed during Prime Minister Najib’s visit to Australia in March 2011. Our shared economic interests with Singapore were further enhanced with amendments to the Singapore-Australia FTA.

In response to Australian industry concerns, the department successfully advocated convening a Thailand-Australia FTA working group to address implementation and market access issues in Thailand. Mr Rudd and Dr Emerson committed to a deepening partnership between Australia and the Philippines through enhanced defence, security, economic and development cooperation at the third Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting in Canberra in June 2011 which the department coordinated.

In recognition of the importance of Australia’s growing commercial relationship with India, the department supported the launch in May 2011 of negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. Talks between Foreign and External Affairs Ministers served to expand the dialogue on strategic issues. Underscoring the Government’s commitment to deepening the relationship, the department has significantly boosted the number of Australian staff posted to India since June 2010, including by appointing senior staff to head upgraded consulates-general in Chennai and Mumbai. We continued to work with other agencies on measures to promote international student safety and welfare, which is an important part of our work in calibrating the image of Australia overseas.

The department placed priority on Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development. We strengthened our diplomatic presence through the deployment of additional officers to support Australia’s military, policing and aid commitments, including the civilian head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Uruzgan. Three new positions were established to monitor and address issues associated with detainee management.

The department contributed to the whole-of-government strategy on Pakistan, a country which is a key to counter-terrorism efforts. We coordinated inter-agency efforts on practical initiatives, including strategic dialogue and law enforcement and counter-terrorism capacity building. In cooperation with other agencies, the department helped develop and deliver Australia’s response to Pakistan’s devastating floods.

The department facilitated visits by Mr Rudd and Dr Emerson to New Zealand and led the whole-of-government consular response to the earthquake in Christchurch. It supported Dr Emerson’s involvement in the business-led Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in April 2011, which furthered discussion of economic integration. With the Treasury, we intensified economic integration through negotiation of an Investment Protocol to the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement.

The department stepped up engagement in the Pacific by providing assistance for the visits of Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Marles, to reinforce Australia’s leading role in promoting development and stability. This extended to sharing perspectives with other countries interested in the region, including through advice we provided for the Parliamentary Secretary’s trip to Japan in October 2010. We supported the then Foreign Minister, Mr Smith, to submit our report as the outgoing Pacific Islands Forum chair, including on efforts to achieve progress on the Millennium Development Goals and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts.

In implementing the outcomes of bilateral ministerial consultations in July 2010 with Papua New Guinea, the department contributed to charting new directions for Australia’s development assistance program and worked with other agencies to help PNG develop three sovereign wealth funds to help ensure LNG project revenues are managed effectively. The department continued to lead efforts to encourage a return to democracy in Fiji.

International economy, trade and investment

We tackled global economic challenges including with other developed countries and newly emerging economies both bilaterally and in new as well as established forums to advance our interests.

The department worked with other agencies and with G20 and non-G20 states to reinforce the role of the G20 as the key forum for global economic cooperation. We hosted a meeting in Canberra in March 2011 of our G20 heads of mission and senior Australian government officials to plan policy implementation and advocacy strategies. At our invitation, senior officials from France participated, in light of France’s role as G20 Chair in 2011, along with Australia’s G20 business representatives and think tanks.

The department responded to the risks to growth in Europe and the United States and overheating in Asia by continuing to advocate in the G20 and OECD international support for trade liberalisation and to uphold a commitment to fight trade protectionism. Australia’s concept of a ‘seamless regional economy’ was adopted by the United States as the theme for the APEC forum during its host year in 2011.

It is clear from recent ministerial meetings and negotiations that the WTO Doha Development Round has stalled and negotiations will not be concluded in 2011. The department has supported Dr Emerson’s efforts with counterpart ministers to find a breakthrough in negotiations and to ensure continuing commitment to the WTO.

The department led negotiations which concluded the plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The agreement ensures that Australia’s innovative and creative industries’ exports will benefit from strong protection against counterfeit and pirated goods in major markets.

The department managed an active schedule of Free Trade Agreement negotiations, including with Australia’s top three individual country export destinations: China, Japan and Republic of Korea. Since March 2010, the department has led seven rounds of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, seeking agreement on new approaches to regulating trade in goods, services and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. Ministers of the nine TPP negotiating states aim to have a broad outline of an agreement completed by the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in November 2011. These agreements promote deeper regional economic integration, and create trade and investment opportunities.

The department, with Austrade, continues to engage state and territory governments and the business community on trade negotiations and market access issues.

Regional and international issues

Australia’s values as a democratic nation help shape our work. Following the tumultuous events in the Middle East and North Africa, the department responded quickly in leading whole-of-government responses identifying where Australia can contribute. We intensified engagement with Egypt and Tunisia by supporting economic development and democratisation. We supported Mr Rudd in his participation in the Libya Contact Group. The department also helped in the conduct of the referendum on independence in South Sudan, including through facilitating participation of 9,200 people in Australia who were eligible to vote.

Within our region, the department advised the Government on political developments in the lead-up to Burma’s first elections in 20 years and prepared for Mr Rudd’s visit in June-July 2011. We continued to support the Government in raising concerns about serious human rights abuses and the flawed polls. In Tonga, the department led a nine-member Australian team to monitor the first ever democratic election in November 2010. On Fiji, we continued to draw attention to the deteriorating economic, social and human rights situation.

In the UN Human Rights Council, the department participated actively in 40 out of 47 Universal Periodic Reviews, which assess member states’ human rights performance. The department’s regulatory and enforcement activity for sanctions increased due to additional UNSC and Australian autonomous sanctions measures imposed on Iran, Libya and Syria. We undertook outreach domestically on sanctions compliance, especially with Australian exporting and financial services sectors.

We advanced Australia’s non-proliferation and disarmament agenda by establishing, with Japan, the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI)—a cross-regional ministerial-level grouping to promote and support implementation of the outcomes of the May 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. We engaged partners, including the US, Japan, UK, France, NATO and the EU in traditional security and non-traditional areas such as cyber and counter-terrorism.

To address global environment challenges, the department initiated and co-facilitated a resolution in the UN General Assembly on the Protection of Coral Reefs for Sustainable Livelihoods and Development. We led negotiations on the Nagoya Protocol, which was adopted at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting. This outcome will facilitate access to and share benefits of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Longstanding partners

We marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with the United States and the 25th anniversary of the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). We also hosted the third Ministerial Consultations with the United Kingdom, (AUKMIN) in Sydney in January 2011. Both forums bring together foreign and defence ministers and their counterparts. We helped negotiate agreements on space and cyber security signed at AUSMIN in Melbourne in November 2010 and an enhanced Australia-United States dialogue on East Asia agreed by Ministers and Secretaries. The department worked with other agencies and UK counterparts to develop a work plan that furthered cooperation in traditional and non-traditional areas such as cyber, which was agreed at AUKMIN.

The department strengthened bilateral cooperation with Canada through our participation in the inaugural Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum in Sydney in November 2010.

Australia secured a commitment from NATO to formalise a role for partners in shaping decisions in NATO-led operations. This will not only assist us in Afghanistan but also in any future operations. The department led an inter-agency process on a treaty level Framework Agreement with the European Union (EU), which would strengthen broad based cooperation with new institutions established under the Lisbon Treaty.

Developing partnerships

The department sought opportunities to expand Australia’s reach and influence with other regional bodies where we have common interests.

Australia’s inclusion in the Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) process, for which the department lobbied extensively, provides Australia with the opportunity to engage in new ways with partners from 45 Asian and European countries in response to global and regional challenges. We facilitated Mr Rudd’s participation in the ASEM Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Hungary in June 2011 and at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Summit (OSCE) in December 2010, which provided an additional avenue to coordinate responses on global challenges. We supported Mr Rudd’s participation in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers in June 2011 in Kazakhstan where agreement was reached to formalise a framework of cooperation.

The department strengthened engagement with Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean through intensified bilateral contacts and links with regional organisations in view of their growing significance to our interests.

With the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea Bissau and Somalia, Australia now has diplomatic relations with 53 of 54 African nations. We opened an embassy in Addis Ababa in January 2011 to support our interests, including greater engagement with the African Union. The department facilitated visits by Mr Rudd to the African Union Summits in Ethiopia in January 2011 and Equatorial Guinea in June 2011. We helped Australian mining interests by supporting the Africa Down Under conference in Perth in September 2010.

We concluded negotiations on an enhanced partnership with Brazil, which Mr Rudd signed, and opened an embassy in Peru in September 2010. We built on momentum in our relationship with Mexico, including in the lead up to Mexico’s chairing of the G20 in 2012. The Joint Declaration on Further Cooperation between Australia, New Zealand and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), which we helped negotiate, was issued during Mr Rudd’s visit to Brazil in December 2010. We held inaugural senior officials’ talks in December 2010 with the Caribbean community (CARICOM) to take forward commitments agreed in an MOU.

Assisting Australians

The department faces challenges in delivering consular services as the number of Australians travelling grows. Our preparedness for major consular crises was tested from January-March, with whole-of-government responses required to the earthquake in Christchurch, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa. We conducted stocktakes of lessons learned. We expanded our reach to Australians by supplementing the smartraveller campaign and travel advice with selective use of social media.

Almost half the Australian population now has a valid passport. The department continued to deliver high quality passport services to clients across the globe. Average turnaround time was 3.7 days, well within the ten-day commitment in the Client Service Charter. The responsiveness of the department’s passport services was tested in response to the consular crises and the demand generated by natural disasters in Queensland. The department continued to work with other agencies domestically and internationally to promote identity and border security and combat fraud.

Corporate governance and management

The department now manages a network of 95 posts in 77 countries. Despite the tight fiscal environment, the department has pursued a strategy of slowly changing the balance of resources between Canberra and overseas, with priority being given to the latter. Because unit costs are higher overseas, the shift can only be slow in the absence of the injection of additional monies.

Over the past twelve months the department has also invested significantly in staff development and language training at all levels. I have advised staff that, in responding to fiscal pressures, priority will be given to the global network and to staff development and training. In other words, pressures will be absorbed in Canberra, including down-sizing if necessary.

The department’s ICT systems are ageing and in need of serious reinvestment. For the first time, we have established a position of Chief Information Officer, and have initiated an Information Communications Technology reform program.

Efforts to improve corporate governance, which ensures accountability for the resources employed, continued. The department strengthened business continuity planning and took steps to further embed risk management practices across the department.

The Government accepted the recommendations of a joint departmental and Department of Finance and Deregulation review of the Overseas Property Office, which revised governance, financial and forward strategic planning measures for the overseas estate.

Portfolio responsibilities

In recognition of the growing size, complexity and importance of the Australian aid program, AusAID became an Executive Agency under the Public Service Act in July 2011. AusAID will table its own Annual Report. The Government’s response to the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness was a major focus for AusAID, especially in light of the Government’s commitment to increase levels of development assistance to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income by 2015.

In 2010–11, Austrade undertook a comprehensive internal review of its strategy, structure and operating model. The outcomes of the review were announced in May 2011 with implementation to take place throughout 2011–12. In July 2010, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations transferred responsibility for the international marketing and promotion of Australian education and training to Austrade.
In June 2011 the Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Ms Elliot, launched a new education brand, Future Unlimited designed to refocus attention on the benefits of Australian educational qualifications and the doors these open for international students.


In November 2010, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of External Affairs and the 110th anniversary of the establishment of the Department of Trade and Customs.

The international environment will continue to present challenges, including those for which we are prepared through our policy activism and those that will continue to surprise us. We will continue to provide leadership for many whole-of-government activities aimed at protecting and advancing Australia’s interests internationally.

In the year ahead, the department will continue to prosecute our case for a non-permanent seat on the UNSC. We will use the hosting of CHOGM 2011 to work to advance common interests in the Commonwealth. We will develop our bilateral relationship with the United States in ways which enable us to meet contemporary challenges.

The department will continue to work vigorously to oppose pressures undermining trade liberalisation and to advocate our interests in the G20, WTO, APEC, and in bilateral and regional trade negotiations.

Regionally, the department will advocate the benefits of a comprehensive agenda for the East Asia Summit. We will prepare for the inaugural Foreign and Trade Ministers meeting with Indonesia to promote deepening engagement and hold the inaugural Global China Dialogue to strengthen regional and international understanding of and engagement with China. We will commence work on two new FTAs with India and Indonesia and will launch a major cultural promotion in India.

Protecting Australians overseas is an enduring priority. The next phase of the smartraveller publicity campaign will be launched. To meet anticipated demand and improve fraud detection and investigation, we will make progress on the passport redevelopment program.

A major corporate challenge will be the careful management of our budget to meet ongoing portfolio and whole-of-government savings requirements, while ensuring our overseas network remains adequately resourced to prosecute the Government’s foreign and trade policy agenda.

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 2010–11 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 2011).
L-R (seated) The Secretary, Mr Dennis Richardson AO,
Deputy Secretary, Mr Paul Grigson
L-R (standing) Deputy Secretaries Ms Gillian Bird, Dr Heather Smith,
Mr Bruce Gosper
Photo: Michael Jensen

Organisational structure

The Secretary and four deputy secretaries constitute the department’s executive. Supported by the department’s senior executive service, they manage the department and provide leadership on foreign and trade policy, consular and corporate issues. The 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 2011, the department was made up of 14 divisions, the Australian Passport Office, the Overseas Property Office and Services, the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office and three stand-alone branches.

The department manages an overseas network of 93 embassies, high commissions, consulates-general and multilateral missions (for more information see Appendix 14). 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).


Policy Planning Branch: Plotting paths to better Australian futures

To fulfil many of its responsibilities, the department needs to anticipate international developments over the longer term and develop strategies to exploit opportunities and mitigate risks likely to arise from them. It also needs to avoid siloing, encourage critical internal debate on current issues and be prepared to renovate its policy advice when such debate yields fresh thinking. Policy Planning Branch (PLB) was re-established in February 2010 to strengthen the department’s capacity to do this.

PLB produces commissioned papers, as well as shorter ‘policy briefs’ and other ad hoc projects, that assess trends and their implications for Australia, and propose policy options for securing Australian interests. These papers recommend ways to plug looming policy gaps or suggest alternatives to current policy for achieving existing objectives. In preparing them, PLB collaborates with divisions, posts and other stakeholders while retaining its independence from them and other parts of government to ensure critical distance. Papers are submitted to Ministers as ‘ideas papers’ for their consideration, though they may form the basis of subsequent submissions seeking formal ministerial approval.

The branch also plays a role in strengthening the department’s ‘ideas culture’ by expanding ties with Australia’s wider international policy community. PLB liaises closely with government agencies, business, the media, academia and independent think tanks to find innovative policy ideas and reduce the risk of bureaucratic ‘groupthink’. To stimulate healthy internal debate, PLB regularly invites external experts to present seminars on topical or emerging foreign, trade and security policy issues.



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Structure of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio

The foreign affairs and trade portfolio supports the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Trade, the Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs 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.

NB: EFIC is not included for outcome reporting purposes in Figure 4 because it is covered by the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act).







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