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Foreign Arrangements Scheme

On 10 December 2020, the Australian Parliament passed the Australia's Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020 (the Act).

The Act creates the Commonwealth government’s Foreign Arrangements Scheme (the Scheme) that:

  • imposes new obligations on State entities to notify the Commonwealth of existing arrangements with foreign government entities;
  • requires, from 10 March 2021, compliance with an approval process for ‘core’ foreign arrangements and a notification process for ‘non-core’ foreign arrangements; and
  • establishes a public register to provide transparency about foreign arrangements.

The Act has broad implications for the local government sector, as arrangements between councils and a foreign government entity (as defined in the Act) are captured by the Act as ‘non-core foreign arrangements’.

For example, arrangements between Australian councils and foreign national governments and departments, foreign regional and local governments and departments and foreign public universities.

Requirements on local governments

  • From 10 March 2021, all local governments must notify the Minister for Foreign Affairs of a proposal to enter or negotiate a foreign arrangement. If the arrangement is entered into, the Minister must also be notified about the arrangement within 14 days.
  • The Act also requires all Local Governments to provide a comprehensive list of all their existing foreign arrangements (including non-binding arrangements) to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) by 10 June 2021
  • Registration of an arrangement is made via DFAT’s online portal accessible at: https://fas.foreignarrangements.gov.au/fasportal/s/

You can find more information on the Scheme and the arrangements to which it applies on the DFAT website.

The Foreign Arrangements Taskforce is available to support local governments to comply with the requirements of the Scheme. Enquiries can be directed by email to foreignarrangements@dfat.gov.au.

Last updated: Thursday, Feb 25, 2021