Budget 2011–12: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
DFAT’s Portfolio budget statements 2011–12 indicate that the total net resourcing for DFAT is likely to increase by $11.9 million to $2.13 billion. The Portfolio budget statements 2011–12 also record that in 2011–12, $382.3 million in prior year departmental appropriation (estimated adjusted balance) will be carried forward. DFAT’s revenue from Government is also projected to decrease by 6.4 per cent in 2011–12 to $827.8 million. According to Appropriation Bill No. 1 for 2011–12, DFAT will receive $54.8 million less in 2011–12 than in 2010–11 in appropriation for departmental and administered items.
DFAT’s priority areas
The Portfolio budget statements 2011–12 highlight that:
- DFAT’s ‘core work’ lies in the strengthening of regional architecture through enhanced political, security and economic regional dialogue, including through the expanded East Asia Summit, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and other regional mechanisms
- DFAT will play a key role in supporting Australia’s hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth in October 2011
- DFAT will continue to support the Bali Process, a regional mechanism aimed at combating People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, which Australia will also continue to co-chair with Indonesia. DFAT will also support the convening of regional technical experts to exchange information on mutual legal assistance and law enforcement cooperation in anti-human trafficking and anti-human smuggling efforts
- DFAT will help to bring forward the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations and also support multilateral dialogues through Australia’s membership of the G20. DFAT will play an important role alongside other government agencies in facilitating the advancement of free trade agreements (FTAs) with selected countries and regional institutions
- DFAT will continue to provide support for ‘action on climate change in developing countries and small island states’
- Australia will continue its engagement with European countries both bilaterally and in multilateral forums, including through the Asia Europe Meetings (ASEM) process and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which Australia joined in October 2010 and December 2009, respectively.
Other multilateral organisations with which Australia will closely engage in 2011–12 include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with which Australia has developed even closer links in recent years in light of Australia’s contributions to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. It is likely that DFAT and in particular, the Australian mission in Brussels, will support the strengthening of Australia’s political and strategic dialogue with NATO in 2011–12, including on cyber-security issues.
The position of Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, which was provided for in the 2009–10 Budget (but not in 2010–11), has re-emerged in 2011–12. This position has been held by Richard Marles since 14 September 2010. The re-establishment of this position (following Duncan Kerr’s retirement on 30 October 2009) has possibly eased some of the concerns expressed in the past by Australia’s neighbours about the position being vacant. There are currently two Parliamentary Secretaries in the portfolio, down from three in 2009–10.
DFAT’s Portfolio budget statements 2011–12 note the department’s ongoing involvement in the Pacific Islands Forum, this year’s meeting of which will be hosted by New Zealand in September 2011. In particular, the Portfolio budget statements 2011–12 outline that Australia will ’actively support international pressure on Fiji’s military regime to return the country to democracy and the rule of law’. Jenny Hayward-Jones from the Lowy Institute for International Policy has argued that Australia should moderate its approach towards Fiji to achieve more comprehensive results, an argument which has been disputed by another Australian Melanesian expert, Jon Fraenkel, from the Australian National University. The policy debate on Fiji is likely to intensify in Australian domestic and regional discussions in 2011–12.
Regarding the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which had its 6th round of negotiations in March/April 2011, DFAT’s Portfolio budget statements 2011–12 reaffirm the department’s role in supporting an ‘increase [in] economic integration among [the Agreement’s] nine Pacific-rim members’—a measure which was endorsed by the Federal Opposition following a ministerial declaration on 26 November 2008.
Staffing levels and funding by Outcome
There is a projected overall increase of 10 staff, taking the total number of staff across DFAT to 3817 in 2011–12.
Outcome 1, which includes the bulk of DFAT’s diplomatic activities, anticipates a reduction of 13 staff, despite funding of $10.5 million (over two years) from existing DFAT resourcing being allocated to new positions for the final phase of Australia’s bid for a non-permanent two-year membership of the United Nations Security Council (UN SC) in 2013–14. This Budget measure will fund ‘additional positions in New York and Canberra’, ‘extra funding for small posts’, ‘Special Envoys’, and ‘public diplomacy’ initiatives.
The elections for the UN SC non-permanent seat will be held in October 2012. Australia is in direct competition for the seat with Finland and Luxembourg, both of which are members of the European Union, and both of which entered the race before Australia. Australia has previously served on the UN SC four times, whereas Finland has served twice, and Luxembourg never. Two countries will be selected in a secret ballot by members of the UN General Assembly to serve a two-year term in the ‘West European and Others’ group of the 15-member UN SC in 2013–14.
The Federal Opposition has repeatedly criticised the Government’s UN SC bid. It has been suggested by the Federal Opposition that Australia’s new diplomatic and other initiatives with African countries are, at least in part, aimed at securing as many African votes as possible ahead of the 2012 vote. Over the past four years, Australia has gradually established closer linkages with another 10 African countries (up from 41 in 2007 to 51 in 2011).
Some media commentators have claimed that the total cost of Australia’s bid is larger than indicated in the budget papers, as a significant amount of departmental resources has been, and is likely to still be spent, on assisting the Government in its quest for support from other UN members. According to the Coalition’s overseas development assistance spokeswoman, Teresa Gambaro, Australia should instead provide more aid ‘closer to home’.
Total expenses for Outcome 1 are also estimated to decline by about $63.4 million in 2011–12. It is projected that program expenses will decline in 2011–12 by: $47.8 million for ‘foreign affairs and trade operations’ (Program 1.1); $6.6 million in ‘payments to international organisations’ (Program 1.2); and by $6.9 million for ‘public information and public diplomacy’ (Program 1.3).
Staffing levels for Outcome 2, which includes the provision of consular and passport services, are projected to increase by 19 in 2011-12. The Government has indicated that it will finalise the design for a new series of Australian travel documents, as well as proceed with a ‘staged delivery of the National Security–Improved Passport Integrity and Strengthened Issuance Systems program’. This is part of the Government’s upgrading of Australia’s passport information technology systems, to combat identity theft, improve passport security, and to respond to the projected growth in passport demand.
Staffing for Outcome 3 is likely to increase by four staff, while total expenses are expected to decrease by about $2.05 million. Outcome 3 projects include construction of a ‘new chancery and Head of Mission residence in Bangkok’, refurbishment of the Paris chancery, and construction of new establishments in Jakarta.
Key new budget measures
New budget measures include:
- additional funding of $4 million for consular services in 2011–12, following recent natural disasters in New Zealand and Japan, and civil unrest in Egypt and Libya
- $17.5 million in 2011–12 ($1 million of which will be met from within the existing resources of the Department of Defence) for the final phase of transferring responsibility from other agencies to DFAT for security contracts at the Australian embassy in Iraq (Baghdad)
- DFAT’s provision of $2 million over three years to the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, which will be overseen by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. This measure is in line with the Government’s intention to deepen engagement with the United States on ‘economic, political and security issues’.
The Government will also continue to provide support ($223.1 million over ten years) for the International Australian Television Service, The Australia Network. A change in contract arrangements includes an extension of the broadcasting contract from five to ten years, which will be awarded to the most successful bidder in the tender announced on 4 February 2011.