Charter for the Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR)
1. To promote between the peoples of Australia and the Arab world mutual interests and a greater understanding and acceptance of each others’ cultures, values, beliefs and diversity.
2. The function of the Council is to make recommendations to the Australian Government through the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade (hereafter referred to as “the Ministers”) on strengthening Australia’s cultural, economic, political and social relations with Arab countries in support of Australian foreign and trade policy priorities.
3. In developing its function, the Council should consult as widely as possible with individuals, organisations, enterprises and Government departments and agencies associated or concerned with the broadening of relations between Australia and the Arab region.
4. The Council is an advisory body for the Ministers, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (hereafter referred to as “the Department”), and has no executive or legal powers. The Council is directly responsible and accountable to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (hereafter referred to as “the Minister”) for the exercise of its responsibilities.
5. The Minister may from time to time issue directives to the Council, and the Council will be bound by such directives.
6. The Council and its members will undertake the following:
- develop a Strategic Plan for approval by the Minister;
- develop an annual Business Plan within the context of the Strategic Plan for approval by the Minister;
- implement the Strategic and Business Plans;
- develop and implement programs and services which achieve the objectives of the Council as specified in the Strategic and Business Plans;
- ensure the quality of programs and services;
- develop and implement a Risk Management Plan;
- monitor Council expenditure and make recommendations to the relevant financial delegate for expenditure within the context of the approved Business Plan;
- conduct an annual review of the performance of the Board; and
- ensure the Council is functioning well by reviewing the work of the Council at least once every three years.
Structure and membership
7. The Council shall consist of:
- a Board, drawn from business, Government and the academic community, comprising:
- a Chair; and
- the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) or a DFAT representative appointed by the Secretary, and the Chief Executive Officer of Austrade or an Austrade representative appointed by the Chief Executive Officer, as ex-officio members; and
- not less than four and not more than seven other members; and
- a Secretariat provided by DFAT.
8. The Chair of the Council shall be appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs with the agreement of the Minister for Trade.
9. The Chair shall be appointed:
- for a period not exceeding three years; and
- on a part-time basis.
10. Should the Chair be temporarily unable to carry out functions which he or she may be required to carry out outside of Council meetings, a replacement Chair will be appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs with the agreement of the Minister for Trade to carry out those functions.
11. Members of the Board, other than the Chair and the ex-officio members, shall be appointed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs with the agreement of the Minister for Trade:
- for a period not exceeding three years; and
- on a part-time basis.
12. The Chair and members may be re-appointed.
13. The Minister for Foreign Affairs may terminate the appointment of the Chair or a member of the Board at any time by notice in writing. The Chair or a member may resign his or her membership by notification in writing to the Minister, but the resignation does not take effect until it is accepted by the Minister. This sub-clause does not apply to the ex-officio members.
14. Neither the Chair nor the other members of the Council will be employees of the Department or the Commonwealth by virtue only of their appointment to the Council.
15. The responsibilities of individual Council members (including the Chair and ex-officio members) are to:
- have a commitment to the Council’s mission and goals and act in the best interests of the Council;
- make reasonable inquiries to ensure the Council is operating efficiently, effectively, appropriately and legally in achieving its mission and goals;
- contribute the time needed to study and understand material for meetings and other Council work in advance;
- comply with DFAT’s policies and procedures for the management of Foundations, Councils and Institutes;
- meet all of their fiduciary duties and responsibilities; and
- apply good analytical skills, objectivity and good judgment; and express opinions frankly, ask questions that go to the core of the issue, and pursue independent lines of enquiry when:
- attending Council meetings,
- participating in discussions,
- participating in decisions, and
- participating in sub-committees as appropriate.
16. In addition to paragraph 15, the Chair is responsible for:
- chairing meetings (unless agreed otherwise);
- facilitating Council meetings to ensure there is effective participation and decision making at Council meetings including:
- working through the agenda;
- ensuring the effective participation of all members present at meetings;
- encouraging constructive questioning and strategic thinking;
- clarifying decisions (and wording where appropriate) for the Secretariat and the Council as a whole;
- managing potential conflicts of interest in accordance with Departmental policies;
- ensuring adequate follow-up and reporting; and
- promoting good relations with Ministers, the Secretary and other staff of DFAT, and key stakeholders.
17. In addition to paragraph 15, the ex-officio members have full voting rights on the Council and are responsible for:
- providing recommendations on Council member appointments and extensions to Ministers;
- providing strategic-level policy advice to the Council on the Government’s foreign and trade priorities;
- providing strategic-level advice on the administration and management of grant programs; and
- ensuring all spending proposals recommended for approval are consistent with discretionary grant program guidelines and the Department’s financial management and accountability requirements.
18. The responsibilities of the Secretariat, under the authority of the Minister, are to:
- provide administrative support to the Council, including record, circulate and retain copies of the minutes of each Council meeting and maintain records of all out-of-session decisions made;
- implement the recommendations of the Council; and
- undertake other activities that progress the goals of the Council.
19. As the Council is not a legal entity, it will not be able to enter into contracts, incur debts or spend funds. To meet government accountability requirements, the First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division (FAS MAD), or other relevant financial delegate, will have responsibility for approving the expenditure of funds, the engagement of consultants and entering into contracts by the Department for the performance of the activities mandated by the Council’s Business Plan and for other matters related to the carrying out of the Council’s purposes.
Conduct and ethics
20. The Chair and members of the Council are required to abide by the principles set out in the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct - http://www.apsc.gov.au/values/conductguidelines.htm, and where applicable, the Department’s Code of Conduct for Overseas Service - http://www.dfat.gov.au/dept/code_of_conduct.html
with the exception that they shall not be subject to the Department’s disciplinary procedures. In particular, the Chair and members of the Council are required to:
- disclose potential conflicts of interest and address any issues in accordance with Departmental policies;
- not use their position and information for personal benefit or advantage at the expense of the Council;
- deal with other members and the Secretariat with courtesy and respect; and
- respect the privacy and confidentiality of information obtained in the course of their participation and not share information that members are instructed to keep confidential.
21. Nothing in paragraph 20 shall be taken as conferring any diplomatic or consular immunity, privileges or status on the Chair or members of the Council.
22. A person appointed to be a member of the Council, other than the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or the Chief Executive Officer of Austrade, or their representatives, shall be:
- entitled to the following remuneration at the rates and subject to the conditions determined from time to time under the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 for part-time holders of public offices:
- the “Category 2” daily fee for Council business, including attendance at Council meetings; and
- the “Tier 2” travelling allowance for attending Council business; and
- entitled to be reimbursed for other expenses actually incurred by the member in the performance of their duties as a member of the Council and as recommended by the Council and approved by the relevant financial delegate.
23. A member of the Council who holds any office or appointment (or is otherwise employed) on a full time basis in the service of the Commonwealth, the Administration of a Territory or a public statutory corporation is not entitled to be paid any remuneration in respect of his or her holding or performing the duties of the Chair or member of the Council. The member may be entitled to travelling allowances.
24. Meetings of the Council shall be held at such times and at such places as the Council determines, or when the Minister requests a meeting be convened. At least one, and no more than three meetings, will be held in person each financial year.
25. The Chair shall, upon receipt of a written request signed by four other members of the Council, summon a meeting of the Council to deal with such matters as are specified in that written request.
26. At a meeting of the Council, a quorum shall be constituted by any four members or not less than half the members for the time being holding office, whichever is the larger.
27. The Chair will preside at all meetings at which he or she is present. The procedures for the conduct of meetings of the Council, including procedures for the appointment by the members from amongst their number of an Acting Chair and a Deputy Chair, shall be determined from time to time by the Council. In the absence of the Chair at any meeting, the member elected to preside will be entitled to the remuneration he or she would have received for attendance at that meeting as the Chair.
28. Questions arising at a meeting of the Council will be determined by a majority of the votes of members present and voting. Each member present at a meeting of the Council (including the Chair or member presiding at the meeting and the ex-officio members) is entitled to one vote but, in the event of an equality of votes on any question, the Chair or member presiding at the meeting also has a casting vote.
29. Procedures for the conduct of meetings of the Council, including procedures for the election by members from amongst their number of an acting Chair, shall be determined and fully documented at the first meeting after the appointment of a new Chair. The procedures may be reviewed from time to time by the Council as required. All amendments to existing procedures must be fully documented and the Secretariat must retain copies of the appropriate documentation.
30. Procedures for “out-of-session” decisions or recommendations on routine matters shall be determined and fully documented at the first meeting after the appointment of a new Chair. The procedures may be reviewed from time to time by the Council as required. All amendments to existing procedures must be fully documented and the Secretariat must retain copies of the appropriate documentation.
31. The agenda for each meeting and any briefing papers will be distributed to members no less than one week prior to each meeting.
32. The minutes for each meeting will be circulated no more than two weeks after each meeting.
33. The Council will ensure all discretionary grants awarded to third parties are included in the Discretionary Grants Central Register (DGCR) and advertised on the DFAT website.
34. The Council will participate in the mid-term and annual review of its activities coordinated by the Department, the results of which are forwarded to the Minister for consideration.
35. The Council will produce an annual Program Report for the Minister’s consideration as soon as practicable after 30 June each year. The Program Report is to be published on the Department’s website once it is approved by the Minister.
36. The Department will have responsibility for fulfilling all financial reporting requirements in respect of the Council and its activities.
37. The Council must give the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Trade any additional reports (with or without financial statements) that the Ministers from time to time require.
38. Moneys required for the purpose of enabling the Council to discharge its functions and the implementation of the Council’s recommendations shall be obtained from:
- within the resources of South and West Asia and Middle East Division (SMD) of DFAT, and will be allocated to a specially created cost centre;
- moneys allocated under the International Relations Grant Program (IRGP) by the Minister for Foreign Affairs; and
- moneys standing to the credit of any Special Account established under Section 20 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 for those purposes; or
- any other moneys lawfully available for those purposes.
39. Subject to the Department’s guidelines and a requirement of consistency with the Council’s purposes, the Council will also be encouraged and authorised to attract additional revenue by way of sponsorship and other means such as the sale of publications. Such additional revenue will be allocated to the same cost centre as the Council’s funding as provided by the Department, and its expenditure will be subject to the same procedures and conditions.