Department Foreign Affairs & Trade  
Annual Report - Contents
DFAT Annual Report 1998-99

The Year’s Highlights

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade supports the Government in pursuing its foreign and trade policy objectives. Significant Government achievements to which the department contributed in 1998–99 are arranged below according to the three planned outcomes from the department’s new outcomes and outputs framework.

Outcome 1

Australia’s national interests protected and advanced through contributions to international security, national economic and trade performance and global cooperation.

With the support of the department, the Australian Government achieved the following substantial advances during 1998–99. In the international security arena, the Government:

  • took a major step forward in Australian East Timor policy and promoted international efforts to resolve this issue;
  • promoted economic recovery and long-term stabilisation in Indonesia amid great political and economic change;
  • contributed to the peace process in Bougainville, including through five rotations of the Peace Monitoring Group;
  • galvanised international support for a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention by initiating and organising a cross-regional meeting of 60 countries; and
  • secured the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty on 9 July 1998 and the Ottawa Convention on Landmines on 15 January 1999.

In terms of national economic and trade performance, the Government:

  • successfully promoted a consecutive three-year arrangement, involving two regional candidates—the former New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Mike Moore, and the Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi—to resolve the impasse in the selection of a new Director-General of the World Trade Organization;
  • helped to enlist substantial support, including from many developing countries, for a new round of multilateral trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization;
  • maintained the Cairns Group as a key cohesive force for further multilateral agricultural reform, through joint ministerial statements on export subsidies and Common Agricultural Policy reform, and through an outreach program to broaden developing country support for Cairns Group positions;
  • raised Australia’s profile as a strong economic performer and as a regional financial centre, and secured an invitation for Australia to join the G7 Financial Stability Forum;
  • established a foundation for the growth and reliability of Australia’s trade with China by achieving in-principle bilateral agreement on China’s accession to the World Trade Organization; and secured ‘approved destination’ status for Australia, boosting tourism service exports by bringing more Chinese tourists to Australia;
  • achieved tariff reductions and the removal of other barriers to Australian exports, including in Japan, India, the Gulf region and Poland, and helped achieve new contracts for Australian exports in Iran, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States;
  • maintained Australia’s market in the European Union for meat, through negotiations on an action plan for Australia’s meat inspection systems;
  • advanced Australia’s trade interests in the Gulf region by establishing an embassy in Abu Dhabi;
  • opened new markets for Australia in Latin America, and encouraged a more open investment environment in the region through a Declaration on Investment Principles with Mercosur member countries and New Zealand; and
  • supported economic and commercial expansion with South Pacific countries, concluding and signing a Trade and Economic Relations Agreement with Fiji.

In global cooperation, the Government:

  • promoted international coordination on Y2K issues, including through APEC and the United Nations;
  • contributed to positive outcomes for the South Pacific Forum on issues of interest to Australia, including economic reform, the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary and climate change;
  • helped establish new national human rights institutions and expanded human rights exchanges with regional countries;
  • campaigned successfully for an international climate change work program which met Australia’s national interests;
  • contributed significantly to the negotiation and adoption of the International Criminal Court statute; and
  • combated unregulated and illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean through support for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

Outcome 2

Australians informed about, and provided access to, consular and passport services in Australia and overseas.

With the support of the department, the Australian Government:

  • mobilised extensive international support for the release of jailed CARE Australia workers Mr Steven Pratt and Mr Peter Wallace in Yugoslavia;
  • assisted 20 133 Australians overseas, including those involved in the Thai Airways crash, tourist abductions in Yemen and Uganda, and the conflict in Kosovo;
  • continued to provide Australians with a high-quality and secure passport service, issuing more than one million passports: 7.7 per cent more than in the previous period;
  • raised awareness among Australian travellers of potential consular problems overseas by revising and updating Hints for Australian Travellers, and distributing copies with every passport issued;
  • provided the Australian travelling public and the travel industry with timely advice on potential trouble spots and Y2K-related problems by issuing 112 travel advisory notices through travel-industry networks, the media and on the Internet;
  • contributed to the safety of Australians overseas by expanding consular services and advancing negotiations with China on a bilateral consular agreement; and
  • responded to the security dimensions of international crises and unexpected events—including in Iraq, Yugoslavia, the Solomon Islands and Kashmir—by ensuring that Australians were kept abreast of developments and that contingency plans were maintained.

Outcome 3

Public understanding in Australia and overseas of Australia’s foreign and trade policy and a positive image of Australia internationally.

With the support of the department, the Australian Government:

  • maintained an active and highly regarded publications program, including two new reports from the East Asia Analytical Unit, several publications on trade (for example, Global Trade Reform; Trading with East Asia in Difficult Times: Australia rises to the Challenge; and Opening Markets: The Benefit for Australia) and two studies on e-commerce;
  • received positive public reaction to the Trade Outcomes and Objectives Statement 1999 as an analysis of economic and trade conditions and the Government’s trade strategies;
  • secured extensive, accurate media coverage overseas of modern Australia through targeted international public diplomacy programs, including support for visits to Australia of 79 foreign media representatives, and for visits to Asian cities by former Australian of the Year Dr John Yu and former Young Australian of the Year Ms Tan Le;
  • broadened perceptions of modern Australia through well-attended cultural diplomacy events in Asia, including ‘Innovative Australians’, ‘New Directions—Aboriginal Australia and Business’, ‘People of Australia—Richness and Diversity’, and ‘All The Best—From Australia’; and
  • highlighted Australian sporting expertise in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics through support for the Oceania Olympic Torch Relay, the Sydney Olympic Cultural Festival, and the Senior Visiting Fellowship Scheme, and through high attendances at our touring exhibition in Asia: ‘Australia—Our Sporting Life’.

Enabling Services

In support of Government priorities, the department attaches great importance to providing clients with highly professional, efficient and effective services. In the year in review, the department:
  • achieved 93 per cent Y2K compliance for the department’s mission-critical systems, including in Australia and at 81 overseas posts, and gave priority to Y2K contingency planning for overseas posts to ensure the welfare of staff and the continuity of critical operations of the department and other Government organisations;
  • demonstrated continuing commitment to high-quality consular and passport services through the introduction of client service charters in January 1999;
  • initiated a program to brief the diplomatic and consular community on current issues, including Y2K and the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and sustained an effective contribution to the handling of protective security issues affecting diplomatic missions and consular posts during a period of heightened protest activity;
  • maintained good media relations and received extensive, accurate coverage of Australian foreign and trade issues through a range of activities, which included responding to 17 500 media inquiries through the department’s 24-hour media hotline service, issuing 110 ministerial media releases, and distributing 200 interview transcripts;.
  • drafted responses to 6 780 items of ministerial correspondence, prepared 1 598 ministerial submissions and 175 ministerial speeches, drafted 134 answers to questions on notice, and assisted 50 members of Parliament and 15 parliamentary delegations with overseas visits; and
  • established a comprehensive new framework for the first accrual budget, including translation of cash budget into an accrual format for the 1999–2000 Budget process.

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