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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Int Relations

ROLE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE IN AUSTRALIA'S INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides foreign and trade policy advice to the government. It works with other government agencies to ensure that Australia’s pursuit of its global, regional and bilateral interests is co-ordinated effectively. DFAT is the lead agency managing Australia’s international presence. It oversees a network spanning five continents, with 93 diplomatic and consular missions, one representative office and 46 consulates headed by honorary consuls, and the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei. The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) manages 13 consular posts and three consulates headed by honorary consuls. DFAT’s central office is in Canberra and it maintains state and passport offices in all other state and territory capitals, as well as a passport office in Newcastle and a liaison office on Thursday Island.

Through this network, DFAT works to achieve three primary outcomes to advance the interests of Australia and Australians internationally:

  • advancing Australia’s international strategic, security and economic interests including through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement on Australian Government foreign and trade policy priorities
  • protecting the welfare of Australians abroad and access to secure international travel documentation through timely and responsive travel advice and consular and passport services in Australia and overseas, and
  • fostering public understanding of Australia’s foreign and trade policy as well as projecting a positive image of Australia internationally.

As at 30 June 2011, DFAT employed 2,480 Australia-based staff, of whom around 24% were posted overseas; an additional 1,644 locally-engaged staff (LES) were employed by the Department’s overseas missions. Information on the location of overseas embassies, high commissions, consulates and multilateral missions managed by DFAT, and on the location of DFAT staff overseas, can be found in the online version of the Department’s annual report.


SERVICES TO THE AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY

Consular services

DFAT provides a wide range of consular services to the increasing number of Australians travelling overseas and finding themselves in need. Consular services provided by DFAT include assisting Australians who are hospitalised, imprisoned, or require welfare assistance overseas; helping family members when Australian travellers go missing or die overseas; and co-ordinating responses to overseas emergencies affecting Australian nationals. Of the 7,609,300 Australians who travelled overseas in 2010–11, consular assistance was provided to 24,186 people, including in several major international crises through the first part of 2011, in Egypt, Christchurch, Libya and Japan.

DFAT provides consular services through its network of overseas missions and honorary consulates (consisting of 170 points of consular service world-wide), the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra and consular co-operation arrangements with other countries. DFAT’s Smartraveller campaign promotes safe overseas travel by Australians and its newest phase, launched in November 2011, uses social media platforms and web apps to provide easy access to DFAT’s travel advice. The Smartraveller website received 30.1 million page views in 2010–11.

Passport services

An increasing number of Australian citizens travelling overseas rely on the government to provide secure travel documents. The government, through DFAT, issued a record 1,803,549 passports in 2010–11, up from 1,774, 224 in 2009–10 and with an average turnaround time of 3.7 days. The new generation of ePassport – the N series – is Australia’s most secure and visually sophisticated travel document to date. As at mid 2011, more than 10.9 million valid Australian passports were in circulation, of which more than 8.1 million were ePassports. The government delivers passport services through its network of passport offices in nine cities around Australia, diplomatic and consular missions overseas, a call centre (the Australian Passport Information Service) and around 1,700 Australia Post outlets.

Protecting the security of identity, travel documents and borders is an essential part of providing a reliable passport service. Australia contributes to the development of technical standards for travel documents as a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and of biometrics standards as a member of the International Organization for Standardization. The government co-operates with Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, through the Five Nations Passport Conference, to refine passport operations and policy and international programs on passport fraud and biometrics.

Public information services

Public diplomacy is vital to the successful promotion and protection of Australia’s national interests. Building a stronger understanding of Australia at home and abroad is essential to realising Australia’s place in the world. DFAT uses diverse public diplomacy tools, such as social media, conferences, speeches and participation in international expos, to reach target audiences. These initiatives promote an accurate and contemporary image of Australia internationally and foster a clearer understanding of Australia’s foreign and trade policies and priorities.

The government, through DFAT, also funds the Australia Network international television service. The Australia Network facilitates cross-cultural communication, encourages awareness of Australia and builds regional partnerships across more than 44 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

 

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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.


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