| Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
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Chapter 1 Introduction
The conduct of this review
On 7 March 2011 the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade announced a review of the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2009–10.
The decision to conduct this review was made pursuant to paragraph 1(b)
of the Committee’s resolution of appointment, which empowers the Committee to
consider and report on the annual reports of government agencies, in accordance
with a schedule presented by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Speaker’s schedule lists annual reports from agencies within the Foreign
Affairs and Trade portfolio as being available for review by the Committee.
The Committee had not reviewed a DFAT Annual Report since 2001–2. Given
the changing world Australia finds itself in, and the changing needs of the
increasing number of Australians living, working and travelling abroad, the
review was timely. The Committee found the exercise useful and worth repeating,
but in future would consider doing so at a different time so that it is not
conducted simultaneously with Senate Estimates. This would give the opportunity
to call more witnesses for longer periods, and allow a deeper exploration of
The Committee received nine submissions, which are listed in Appendix A.
These raised several issues, including:
- the adequacy of
Australia’s diplomatic and consular representation and activities;
- the lack of a human
rights ambassador, and a human rights policy against which the human rights
impact of other policies can be measured;
- the lack of
e-diplomacy, and the underutilisation of new media and social networking by
- the need for DFAT
staff to be trained in new media and human rights, and for an increase in
The exhibits received are listed in Appendix B.
Two public hearings were conducted:
- The first examined
evidence from members of the public with expertise in foreign affairs, new
media and human rights. It was held on 23 May 2011.
- The second examined
evidence from DFAT on the contents of the Annual Report, and sought responses
to the issues raised earlier. The hearing was held on 27 May 2011.
Details of witnesses are listed in Appendix C.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report
The Public Service Act 1999 states that secretaries of Australian
Government departments must prepare annual reports at the end of each financial
year. These reports are prepared for the responsible Minister, and are
presented to Parliament on or before 31 October each year.
Annual reports provide a detailed retrospective account of the
activities and outputs of departments, as well as a statement of the
expenditure administered. They are the means by which departments are
accountable to the Parliament and the wider community for their activities.
The DFAT Annual Report 2009–10 is made up of five main parts:
- Section 1 provides an
overview of the Department’s activities, role and structure;
- Section 2 reports on
outcomes and program performance;
- Section 3 reports
matters such as external scrutiny, corporate governance, and the management of
human and financial resources;
- Section 4 is made up
of statistical and other appendices; and
- Section 5 contains
This review focused mostly on Section 2, which itself is split into
- Outcome 1 focuses on
‘the advancement of Australia’s international strategic, security and economic
interests including through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement’ in
government trade and foreign policies.
- Outcome 2 details
DFAT efforts in ‘the protection and welfare of Australians abroad’ through the
provision of travel advice, passports, and consular services.
- Outcome 3 examines
the provision of ‘a secure Australian Government presence overseas’ and
specifically focuses on security, information and communication technology
infrastructure, and the management of overseas property.
Structure of the report
The report continues in Chapter 2 with consideration of issues arising
from DFAT's Outcome 1—the advancement of Australia's international strategic,
security and economic interests. Issues considered are: Australia's overseas
representation; DFAT's promotion of human rights; and Australia's public
Chapter 3 considers issues arising from Outcome 2—the protection and
welfare of Australians abroad. Issues considered are: the provision of
responsive travel advice; the administration of travel warnings; and the
provision of services to overseas Australians.
Chapter 4 considers issues arising from Outcome 3—the provision of a
secure Australian Government presence overseas. Issues considered are the
potential role of e-diplomacy and the management of the Overseas Owned Estate.
The final chapter considers other issues such as gender equality and