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

Visa, accreditation and other services were provided by the department to facilitate the work of diplomatic and consular representatives and their offices in Australia. With few exceptions, we met the high demand in a timely manner despite an increase in the size of the diplomatic and consular community (including dependants) to over 5000 as at 30 June 2011. The department received positive feedback from the corps on our promptness and responsiveness in providing support consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Vienna Conventions and in addressing any concerns.

A high priority was placed on protecting the security and dignity of diplomatic and consular representatives in Australia. Productive working relationships with relevant agencies, including the Security Coordination Branch, Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, ensured the department responded to issues of concern to individual missions and posts.

Services to the diplomatic and consular corps

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, Queensland Premier, Ms Anna Bligh, and the Diplomatic Corps at the opening of the Diplomatic Corps visit to Queensland on 6 April 2011. Photo: Patrick Sherlock

Services were provided to 95 diplomatic missions resident in Canberra, 35 non-resident diplomatic missions, and 337 consular posts that represent 148 countries, as well as 10 international organisations with offices in Australia. Eighteen new resident and four non-resident heads of mission presented their credentials.

The department liaised with other Australian government agencies to assist the corps on issues that included security, immigration, private domestic employment, customs and quarantine matters, land and premises for foreign missions, taxation and motor vehicle ownership and disposal. We worked closely with relevant agencies to ensure that foreign dignitaries received appropriate airport facilitation and to address any concerns by the corps.

A total of 39 bilateral employment arrangements were managed with foreign governments to regulate employment of dependants of diplomatic officers in the host country. Negotiations for new arrangements were held with 11 countries and some are near completion.

We facilitated the opening of the embassy of Tunisia and preparations by other countries to establish missions in Canberra. We also facilitated the establishment of four new honorary consular posts by Bhutan, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Uruguay in Australia.

Protection of diplomatic and consular missions

The department ensured that Australia met its obligations under international law to protect the security of diplomatic missions and consular posts in Australia. We worked closely with relevant agencies to respond promptly to specific security issues raised by various missions during the reporting period.

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

The right of freedom of expression and peaceful political protest is a key part of Australia’s system of democracy. The department worked with the AFP and local authorities to ensure that the safety and dignity of missions was respected and protected during protests.

Engagement with the diplomatic and consular corps

In April 2011, Mr Rudd revived the practice of inviting the diplomatic corps to visit regional Australia, leading the largest ever delegation from more than 70 countries along with a media contingent. The visit to Brisbane and Cairns was organised with the support of the Queensland Government, local authorities and the department’s Queensland State Office. The visit demonstrated that Queensland was back in business after the floods and Cyclone Yasi. Participants were briefed, including in Brisbane by Dr Emerson, on reconstruction and investment, trade, education and tourism opportunities in Queensland.

The diplomatic corps attended a reception to mark the 75th anniversary of the Department of External Affairs and the 110th anniversary of the Department of Trade and Customs in November 2010 and the 2011 RG Neale Lecture on Australian policy towards Rhodesia/Zimbabwe 1979-1980 held in May 2011. Mr Rudd and the Secretary hosted meetings of the corps, in regional groupings. Four briefings for the diplomatic corps were organised with other agencies, including the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Fair Work Ombudsman, the ACT Work Safety Commissioner and the Australian Electoral Commission. Topics included the Australian federal election process, employment of locally engaged staff and domestic workers, the Government’s new multicultural policy, and launch of the department’s reconciliation action plan.

Outlook

The department will continue to provide high-quality and timely services to the diplomatic and consular corps, with a strong emphasis on security. We will endeavour to maintain a consistency of approach and transparency in our dealings with the corps. Protocol guidelines will continue to be reviewed and improved. More bilateral employment agreements for dependants will be pursued.

Table 6. Services to diplomatic and consular representatives: statistics

  2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
Number of diplomatic representatives for whom the
department provides services
998 1016 1068
Number of consular representatives for whom the
department provides services
856 936 950
Number and category of services provided:      
visas issued for the corps 2307 2111 2330
arrivals and departures processed 1329 1279 1226
identity cards issued 1300 1278 1274
presentation of credentials 38 25 22
exequaturs issued 36 18 21
facilitation of purchase, registration and
disposal of cars by privileged personnel
1065 960 1384
requests processed for foreign awards to
Australian citizens
98 65 59
requests processed for dependants seeking
permission to work
58 104 99
approvals for new foreign missions in Australia
(includes diplomatic missions, consular posts
and offices of international organisations)
14 8 9
approvals for defence advisers/attachés 13 14 14

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