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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23295


Mr BAIRD (2:15 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House on any measures the government is taking to further protect the security of Australia's diplomatic missions overseas?


Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —Firstly, can I thank the honourable member for Cook for his question and acknowledge the interest that he shows in our diplomatic missions and in our consular and diplomatic staff overseas. I suppose all members of the House at one time or another would have had some contact with them and would share with the government our view that we give a very high priority to the security of Australians, as well as locally engaged staff, who work in our missions overseas. We have about 100 of these missions spread around the world.

At the end of last week—on Friday—I announced the government's decision to provide a further $70 million to upgrade security across our consulates and embassies. That will bring to a total of $100 million the amount of additional expenditure on security in our missions since 2001-02. The extra spending will allow us to upgrade our mission surveillance and guarding systems, to strengthen perimeters, to put in place wider application of ballistic and bomb blast protection and to improve access control. In a small number of cases, we will be moving our missions from their current locations to other locations because we regard the security of the current locations as unsatisfactory. I think the House will understand if I do not outline which missions they are. We obviously do not want to declare where we have some concerns about the security of our missions. We will keep the security measures under continual review, to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to keep the staff of our missions secure. We cannot guarantee the elimination of all risk—we absolutely cannot do that, and we should be up front in admitting that—but the additional measures to be introduced will enhance the protection of our overseas staff and the locally engaged staff.