The department provided high-quality support to Parliament, ministers and assistant ministers.

We assisted with overseas travel in support of whole-of government policy objectives often under significant time pressures. Portfolio ministers and their staff appreciated the quality and timeliness of our policy advice and logistical assistance, including our day-to-day support for the operations of their offices.

Facilitating senior-level decision-making and communicating the Government’s policies to domestic and international audiences are fundamental to our efforts to advance Australia’s interests and shape the international environment. The department actioned 11,944 items of ministerial correspondence, prepared 34 Cabinet submissions, while contributing to a further 147, and produced 1,202 ministerial submissions and 60 Cabinet briefings. We met our obligations in supporting parliamentary committees.

To better manage parliamentary and executive information, we successfully introduced the whole-of-government Parliamentary Document Management System (PDMS). In doing so, we were the first department to implement PDMS on a classified system.

Speeches are a major vehicle for disseminating Australian foreign, development and trade policy and our unique perspective on global trends and events. The department drafted or contributed to around 170 speeches for delivery in Australia and overseas by portfolio ministers, the Secretary and executive.

We continued to provide corporate enabling and support services to other agencies with a presence at DFAT-managed posts to assist efficient administration and avoid operational and financial duplication. Under the Service Level Agreement, the department delivered financial, office, human resources, property and fleet management services on a cost-recovery basis to 25 government departments and agencies, including the New Zealand Government (see Appendix 9).

The department’s state and territory offices continued their important role with domestic constituencies, promoting a better understanding of Australia’s foreign, trade and development policies. Throughout the year, the offices worked with Austrade and other agencies to promote trade and investment, provided advice to inform policy making and applied their local knowledge and extensive networks to advance policy objectives. The offices also delivered briefings for government representatives and businesses, facilitated trade and investment missions and assisted state governments develop their international priorities and activities.


Promoting a stable and prosperous regional and global environment by cultivating and deepening our engagement with bilateral and regional partners and multilateral institutions

Supporting ministerial travel

Case Study
Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo speaks at the Health and Aged Care Seminar, Australia Week in China, Beijing, 11 April 2016. [AUSTRADE]

Supporting ministerial travel

Facilitating travel for ministers to different corners of the globe and organising productive meetings with counterparts is a key focus for the department and our global network.

We undertake this work because ministers cultivate and deepen Australia’s engagement with bilateral and regional partners and with multilateral institutions. They are a force multiplier for Australia’s contribution to global stability and economic growth.

For much of 2015–16, the department supported four ministers. We arranged 44 visits by our portfolio ministers to 36 countries for a combined duration of 271 days. We booked cost-effective flights and accommodation, arranged airport facilitation and ground transport, identified strategic objectives, prepared briefs and speeches, and managed meetings and events. Often our portfolio ministers travelled abroad simultaneously.

The department worked with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to support eight prime ministerial visits overseas to a total of 15 countries. In addition, we assisted 45 federal parliamentarians to travel to 32 countries. This included parliamentary delegations to 11 countries. We also assisted five former prime ministers with 45 visits to 26 countries. The department received excellent feedback on our efforts.

Each ministerial visit confirmed the value to effective diplomacy of physical proximity and personal connection. While the digital age has delivered increased interconnectedness, our experience shows that there is no substitute for a face-to-face ministerial meeting when finalising a trade negotiation or securing support for a multilateral agreement.

We will continue to refine our processes for supporting ministers overseas and enabling them to represent Australia effectively on the global stage. This year we digitised our pre-departure booklets, delivering a more up-to-date product and saving $11,500.

Building personal networks and institutional links to enhance Australia’s influence, reputation and relationships internationally and promote Australia’s economic, cultural, educational, scientific and other national assets

State and territory offices support trade and investment in science and innovation

Case Study

Our state and territory offices promote Australia as a centre of world-leading innovation, research, science and technology and work to create opportunities for international collaboration, exchange and partnerships, and inward investment.

In June 2016, the Victorian state office hosted members of the consular corps for an innovation tour of Victoria. The diplomats visited world-leading projects in biotech innovation and health research and care, including the new $1 billion Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, and some of Melbourne’s most successful co-working spaces, accelerator programs and start-up initiatives. In Ballarat and Geelong, we showcased innovations in frontier materials and virtual reality, and how investments in education can support a culture of entrepreneurship and research commercialisation.

The visit highlighted Australia’s capacity for economic re-invention, as regional cities increasingly move from traditional industries to jobs built on the new economy of information and creativity. As a result of the visit, international partnerships are now being established in areas of virtual reality, cyber security and strategic urban planning.

The Western Australian state office included a science and innovation focus for all international visitors in 2015–16. For example, it showcased the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) global radio telescope project, northeast of Geraldton, and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth to the former Indian Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology, and to 10 international media visitors.

Professor Peter Quinn, Executive Director of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, said the efforts of the state office had ‘helped enhance Australia’s position in the international SKA program and our efforts to raise the international profile of WA scientists, researchers and innovators’.

Both these activities show the important role that the department’s state and territory offices play in building Australia’s international reputation and influence. As the department looks to raise Australia’s profile in these areas in the future, the department’s domestic network will continue to play a key role.

Analysis and outlook

Demand for support services for our ministers will likely intensify as the Government pursues an extensive agenda in the overseas environment. We can expect ministers to maintain a high-tempo travel schedule. We will continue to work with our ICT specialists to develop technical solutions that enable ministers to have secure communications and remote access to classified material while travelling.

In 2016–17, we will adopt additional PDMS modules to achieve further efficiencies in managing parliamentary and executive information.

Supporting other agencies overseas will remain an important element of our work, particularly as they broaden their engagement with foreign governments, institutions, NGOs, industries and the corporate sector. We will continue to improve service delivery by renegotiating the SLA to provide streamlined billing processes and a more equitable cost recovery model.

State and territory offices will help drive implementation of the department’s economic diplomacy agenda through strengthened relationships with state governments and the private sector, and focused effort on assisting businesses to utilise Australia’s free trade agreements.

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