1.8 International Legal Interests
In 1997-98, the objectives of sub-program 1.8 were to:
The Legal Branch of the International Organisations and Legal Division administers the subprogram. All Australian overseas posts contribute to this sub-program.
This sub-program pursues strategies designed to help achieve four of the Departments corporate goals: to enhance Australias security; to promote Australias economic growth, jobs and standard of living; to strengthen global cooperation in ways which advance Australias interests; and to provide clients with highly professional, efficient and effective services. These strategies include advising the Government on aspects of public international law, including Australias international legal rights and obligations as well as domestic law, implementing the Governments treaties policy, negotiating international legal issues and providing advice on legal issues relevant to managing the Departments operations. The sub-programs strategies rely on maintaining a strong core of expertise in international and relevant domestic law.
In 1997-98, the Department indicated that it would evaluate its performance using:
1.8.1 International Agreements, Resource Law and Law Advising
The Department played a leading role in formulating policy and negotiating with Indonesia and the United States to seek acceptable outcomes for Australia on the designation of Indonesias archipelagic sealanes under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Maritime access through Indonesias archipelagic waters was guaranteed when in May, the International Maritime Organization accepted Indonesias proposal to designate three north-south archipelagic sealanes. The Department was extensively involved in developing the whole-of-government position on archipelagic sealanes and the Indonesian proposal. This included successful representations to Indonesian and US authorities presenting Australias policy position. Australias preferred policy position was ultimately reflected in the proposal the International Maritime Organization adopted.
The Department supported the Governments efforts to promote bilateral trade and investment through finalising investment protection agreements with India, Slovakia, Angola and Pakistan, and trade agreements with Morocco and Ukraine.
The Department played a critical role in developing whole-of-government policy on the International Criminal Court and took a leading role in the multilateral negotiations to establish the court. These negotiations are due to conclude in July 1998 with the adoption of a statute for the court.
The Department advanced Australias interests on drugs and organised crime issues by providing advice on the Australian negotiating position on practical outputs addressing both supply and demand for illicit drugs for adoption by the UN Special Session on Narcotic Drugs in June. The Department supported Mr Downers participation in the Special Session where the Government announced its safer borders, safer streets initiative to help countries of the Asia Pacific region reduce the supply and demand for drugs.
The Department successfully supported the Governments commitment to maintain transparent consultative arrangements for treaty action. The treaties process enabled the tabling of 49 treaties in the Parliament, resulting in 34 hearings (19 in Canberra, 15 elsewhere) and six reports by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Parliamentary and private sector sources gave positive feedback on the mechanisms employed to consult the community on treaties.
In conjunction with the Australasian Law Information Institute, the Department continued to develop a treaties Internet database (available through the DFAT website or at http://austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/). This is the most comprehensive treaties database in the world. Public interest in it is very high, with approximately 300 successful access requests per day.
The Department successfully managed the portfolios smooth transition to the new public service administrative law regime and related public sector management issues. The Senior Executive received detailed advice on the Departments legal rights and obligations in the Certified Agreement and AWA negotiations. Extensive legal advice also was provided on drafting the DFAT Code of Conduct, implementing the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and clarifying the terms of the proposed Public Service Act. Specialist legal advice was provided to the Department on a wide range of matters including freedom of information, staffing issues, privacy matters, contracts, security and consular issues.
The Department has managed effectively the legislation process for all portfolio related bills. The Foreign Affairs and Trade Legislation Amendment Act 1997 was enacted in October; the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Act 1998 was passed by both Houses of Parliament in June; and a draft Anti-personnel Landmine Bill was prepared for introducing into the House of Representatives.
The Department concluded negotiations for six formal bilateral spouse employment arrangements, and a further ten are being negotiated. The Department established the regulatory regimes required to implement UN sanctions with respect to Iraq, Sierra Leone, Angola and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It conducted over 20 internal reviews of passport decisions and provided advice on, and cleared over, 100 Memorandums of Association on behalf of commonwealth and state agencies. The Department also established over 15 regulatory regimes granting privileges and immunities to international organisations.
1.8.2 Internaltional and Domestic Litigation
The Legal Branch is responsible for managing the Departments legal exposure both internationally and domestically. During the review period, the Legal Branch advised the Department on all legal proceedings involving the Department, including five court proceedings in Australia and four proceedings overseas. The Department settled one Federal Court claim against it, subject only to execution of a formal deed. The Department also undertook five investigations into defective administration and processed 15 subpoenas to produce documents issued against the Department.
The Department successfully defended a claim in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal relating to the cancellation of a passport and represented the Commonwealth in a Victorian Coroners Court inquiry into the overseas death of an Australian citizen. It also supported key client interests through advice in relation to domestic and overseas litigation by the private legal sector. The Department responded to 35 requests from law firms seeking information on the taking of evidence overseas for legal proceedings and handled over 300 cases for service of documents abroad in relation to private proceedings; these involved arranging service of legal documents through diplomatic channels.
Photo: Legal Adviser, Richard Rowe, works with members of his team in the Department's law library: (left to right) James Larsen, Marguerite Gaffey, Sridhar Ayyalaraju, and Marina Tsirbas. (photo: Michael Jensen)
This page last modified: Tuesday, 16-Sep-2003 13:09:27 EST
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