Federal Budget 2015: Washington embassy rebuilt as new missions open in Asia
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Federal Budget 2015: Washington embassy rebuilt as new missions open in Asia

Australia's embassy in Washington is to be rebuilt at a cost of $237 million and new diplomatic posts will be opened across Asia in the largest expansion of the nation's diplomatic footprint in four decades.

The Washington embassy, which currently has scaffolding surrounding it, is regarded as dilapidated and even approaching an occupational health and safety issue.

Tuesday's budget includes $237 million over seven years for the "construction of a new Australian chancery ... to replace the existing embassy building, which has major defects".

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will also get a boost of $98 million over four years to open five new diplomatic posts across Asia and the Middle East. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop described it as "the single largest expansion of Australia's diplomatic network in 40 years".

These will be in Buka in Papua New Guinea, Doha in Qatar, Makassar in Indonesia, Phuket in Thailand and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. There will be an additional $36.6 million to increase the resources of the diplomatic mission in the US city of Houston, Texas.

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"These new missions will advance trade and investment opportunities for Australia and provide Australians will a greater level of consular assistance when travelling and working overseas," Ms Bishop said.

The high-security embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Australian Defence Force is heavily engaged, will receive substantial funding to continue their operations.

The government will spend $106 million on Baghdad and $138 million on Kabul, both over the next two years.

"The Australian government is committed to broadening and deepening Australia's engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, protecting our national interests, growing our national prosperity and contributing to regional and global stability and security," Ms Bishop said.

The government will also remove penalties for lost and stolen passports by introducing a "replacement passport option". And passports issued to 16 and 17-year-olds will be for 10 years rather than the current five.

David Wroe is the defence and national security correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House