Chief Executive Officer's report
The year in review
I am pleased to present the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) Annual Report for 2011–12.
During the past year, Austrade has undertaken a coordinated program of change in response to the outcomes of a review of the organisation completed in 2011.
As I indicated in my report last year, the review revealed that Austrade provides the most value to business through the commercial connections and insights of its overseas network, where language and business culture can be a barrier; where there is less openness of regulatory frameworks and transparency of business processes; where there are difficulties accessing distribution channels and commercial connections; and where the value of the ‘badge of government' is highest.
The reforms undertaken in 2011–12 have fundamentally reshaped Austrade's strategy, priorities and structure. These reforms have encompassed Austrade's service delivery and initiatives to strengthen its governance framework. The majority of the changes required have been progressively implemented during the last year, with completion of the reform process due in 2012–13. The reforms have been undertaken within Austrade's existing budget, and within the context of Austrade's contribution to whole-of-government savings requirements.
A stronger focus on delivering commercial opportunities
Implementation of the new operating model commenced on 1 July 2011, with the realigned organisational management structure in place on 1 October 2011.
Austrade's network of 90 offices across 50 countries is now weighted towards growth and emerging markets that have high growth potential. During 2011–12, the Government extended Austrade's emerging market presence to include an Austrade-managed consulate in Mongolia. Austrade has also prepared for further extension of its representation in growth and emerging markets in 2012–13. This will include an Austrade-managed consulate to be opened in Colombia, and further strengthening of representation in Africa and Latin America through placement of a Trade Commissioner in Accra, Ghana, and an additional Trade Commissioner in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Austrade's activities in growth and emerging markets have a strong focus on trade development, as well as on the marketing of Australia's international education and training services. In line with the findings of the review, Austrade's offshore offices now have a stronger emphasis on identifying and delivering international commercial opportunities to Australian businesses. In established markets, such as North America and Europe, Austrade's activity is now predominantly focused on opportunities for inward investment and international education and training services, delivered through a smaller number of locations.
During 2011–12, Austrade continued to support the marketing of Australia's international education and training sector. This work included the development of the new Future Unlimited brand in conjunction with the sector. Austrade also continued to lead the Australian Government's Building Brand Australia program, including the promotion of the Australia Unlimited nation brand. During this third year of the program, the Australia Unlimited brand has been used to demonstrate Australian capability through innovative digital content channels, including a monthly iPad magazine, as well as a diverse range of international activities.
This year marked the final year of funding for Austrade's contribution to both the Clean Energy Trade and Investment Strategy and the Automotive Market Access Program (AMAP). Austrade continued to attract inward investment and identify export opportunities to assist the growth of a sustainable clean energy sector. Under AMAP, Austrade supported the Australian automotive components sector to integrate into global supply chains and increase its share of markets in Asia and North America.
Austrade also continued to deliver consular services on behalf of the Australian Government in a range of overseas locations. In 2011–12, Austrade delivered consular advice and information to more than 90,000 people. These services included consular assistance, passport services, notarial acts and general advice.
The year ahead
For the year ahead, Austrade's trade facilitation activities will continue to focus on growth and emerging markets that offer commercial potential, provide opportunities that align with Australia's interests, and where there is a clear role for government assistance. Austrade will deliver practical in-market support, advice and insights, and will place increased emphasis on seeking tangible opportunities for Australian companies.
Austrade will make greater use of referrals to other service providers and online information and services to support Australia's exporters. Austrade's service delivery model will be strengthened through collaboration and partnerships with other government and private service organisations, focusing on shared objectives and areas in which these organisations are either better placed to assist Australian firms or can extend Austrade's reach. This will achieve a more contemporary approach to service delivery.
Austrade's investment work will focus on priorities that have been developed in consultation across government. These include tourism infrastructure, innovation, economic infrastructure and clean energy (each supported by the relevant Commonwealth agency); and digital economy, including ICT, agricultural science and food technology and processing, technology, services and processing for the resources sector (each supported by a number of state and territory governments).
Austrade will continue to work closely with institutions and associations across the international education and training sector to support their activities. In the context of a wide range of proactive work across the Austrade network, emerging areas of focus for the year ahead will include vocational skills development and transnational education delivery in Asia, higher education linkages with Brazil and corporate human capital development in Japan.
Austrade will also continue to lead the Australia Unlimited nation brand activity on behalf of the Government. Throughout the fourth and final year of the current funding for the Building Brand Australia program, Austrade will work with industry to encourage the use of the Australia Unlimited brand and support activities that showcase Australia's credentials in international markets.
In addition to trade, international education and investment activities, the establishment of new Austrade-managed consulates in Mongolia and Colombia will increase Austrade's focus on consular activities in its overall priorities.
In 2012–13, Austrade will also continue its governance improvement program, with key areas of focus to include security (personal, information and facilities) and work health and safety. In addition, Austrade will continue to place a major focus on anti-bribery policies and practices, including communicating these to Australian businesses.
The global trade and investment outlook has some continued sources of uncertainty in 2012–13. As a result of the substantial work Austrade has completed on the reform process in the past year, the agency is now better prepared in terms of strategic direction and resource allocation to capture opportunities in areas of high growth.
I extend my recognition and thanks to my colleagues within Austrade for their work and dedication in 2011–12 and look forward to working together in the coming year to contribute to the important role that Austrade plays in increasing Australia's prosperity.
Chief Executive Officer