This report argues that the operations of Australia's diplomatic network are challenged by a lack of funding, the shift of global power towards Asia, the impact of technology, and the rising importance of public diplomacy.
It argues that there is an urgent need to rebuild Australia’s diplomatic network.
This report follows the findings of two earlier inquiries by the Committee and identifies a chronic underfunding of DFAT over the last three decades.
The previous inquiries concerned Australia’s relationship with the countries of Africa, and a review of the DFAT 2009–10 annual report.
In the review of DFAT’s annual report, the Committee commented that there was a substantial question regarding DFAT’s future role and the adequacy of the services it provides on behalf of Australia.
An underlying theme throughout this report is the effect of this underfunding on the spread and depth of Australia’s diplomatic network (Chapter Two), the activities undertaken at diplomatic posts (Chapter Three) and the ability to take up innovative forms of e-diplomacy (Chapter Four).
DFAT has experienced cuts and financial constraints through successive governments and this has resulted in a diplomatic network which is seriously deficient and does not reflect Australia’s position within the G20 and OECD economies. Australia has the smallest diplomatic network of the G20 countries and sits at 25th in comparison to the 34 nations of the OECD. Australia clearly is punching below its weight.