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Australia diplomacy seriously under-resourced: report

(Xinhua)

13:07, August 22, 2011

CANBERRA, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- A new report released on Monday said Australian diplomacy was seriously under-resourced, saying much smaller nations have a greater international presence.

Australia-based Lowy Institute for International Policy released the Diplomatic Disrepair report showing that the world's 13th biggest economy, Australia, languishes in 25th position of 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations in the number of missions abroad it has.

While on average OECD nations have 133 diplomatic posts, Australia has 95, fewer than Norway, Finland and Sweden, with the report said Australia's overseas diplomatic service continues to face serious shortfalls.

"For a highly globalized country facing a more challenging external environment, Australia's diplomatic footprint remains too limited," the report released on Monday said.

"Unless these deficiencies are remedied, our economic, political and security interests could be seriously jeopardized."

The report found although having a relatively small number of overseas missions, Australians are increasingly turning to diplomats for help.

It found there are over 200,000 requests each year for consular assistance, up 50 percent over the past two years, and more than seven million Australians travel overseas each year.

Also, as Australian diplomats cannot speak enough Asian languages, are poorly funded and hopelessly overstretched, the report recommended the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ( DFAT) be given a major ongoing funding boost, and to open extra 20 diplomatic missions over the next decade.

It said Australia should also build stronger relationships with Brazil, Russia, India and China and emerging powers like Turkey, South Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and United Arab Emirates.

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