Archive for Australia
Israeli authorities told a diplomat at the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv about the arrest of Australian citizen Ben Zygier – but the diplomat never relayed the information to Canberra through the conventional channels, a spokesman for Australian Foreign Affairs Minister admitted early Wednesday morning. Carr has therefore ordered a new investigation of the Australian authorities’ behavior in the affair. In his first comment on the affair, Carr said that the Australian authorities had not known of Zygier’s arrest until his family contacted the embassy in Tel Aviv, asking for help in bringing his body to Melbourne for burial. But according to the newspaper The Australian, after the affair exploded in the media, Carr changed his story. He now admits that Israel told the embassy in Tel Aviv about the arrest, but the information was never passed on. At this stage, the Australian government has not asked Israel for clarifications. An official spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Minsitry in Canberra told Haaretz that Zygier’s family did not ask the government for assistance other than in flying Zygier’s body to Melbourne, nor did it ask for an investigation of the affair. A spokesman for Carr said that the internal investigation that will be held may or may not include a request to Israel for clarifications.
Two people sentenced to death for their involvement in the bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004 should be sentenced to death because they have expressed no remorse for their actions, the Association of Bomb Victims in Indonesia says. Iwan Darmawan, also known as Rois, and Achmad Hasan were sentenced to death after they were convicted of bombing the Jalan Rasuna Said facility. Lawyers for the two men convicted of the embassy bombing are drafting legal review pleas to the Supreme Court in order to have their clients escape the death sentence. The bomb killed nine people, including the bomber, and wounding up to 150. The bomb shook the South Jakarta embassy building and the surrounding area, blowing out windows up to 30 stories above street level in several office towers nearby and leaving a huge crater in front of the heavy security gates where visitors line up before entering. No Australians were killed in the attack. The embassy bombing was followed by twin hotel bombings in 2009 that killed three Australians, one New Zealander, two Dutch people and an Indonesian.
More than two dozen foreign diplomats and consular officials have been warned about repeated or serious driving offences on Australian soil over the past three years. The offences include drink driving, speeding more than 30km/h over the limit, running red lights, driving while talking on a mobile phone and not wearing a seatbelt. But none of the offenders can be prosecuted or even lose their driving licence because of diplomatic immunity. The offences are outlined in 26 warning letters sent by the Department of Foreign Affairs since 2010 to the heads of various foreign embassies and consulates about members of staff who had lost seven or more demerit points on their licence or who were involved in a serious driving incident that came to the attention of police. One letter describes a diplomat who lost 15 demerit points from 11 speeding fines in just 15 months. Another refers to a diplomat who was deemed too drunk to continue driving after being intercepted by police on Canberra’s Commonwealth Avenue Bridge at 1am on a Sunday. Police only agreed to release him when one of his own passengers agreed to get behind the wheel and take him home.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has welcomed a proposal to share UK embassies in Africa, saying it would ensure diplomatic support for Australian mining interests on the continent. Mr Carr will discuss the possibility of Australian diplomats having access to UK embassies in Africa when he meets with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Perth on Friday. It follows comments by Mr Hague on Thursday, in which he said the two allies would seek to increase “diplomatic support for each other”. This would include making some UK embassies “available for Australian diplomats in Africa during Australia’s membership of the UN Security council”, Mr Hague said. Mr Carr said the proposal would offer “a great advantage to Australia”, which did not have the resources to have an embassy in every African country. “With billions of dollars in Australian mining investment taking place in Africa and a lot of engagement by us with African countries these days we might want to have a mission located for a short time at least,” Mr Carr told reporters in Sydney. “We’d be able to locate our personnel in an African country where we haven’t got an embassy and wouldn’t have the resources to open an embassy.”
North Korea wants to set up a new embassy in Canberra, possibly signalling the hermit state’s intention under its young leader Kim Jong-un to inch towards greater engagement with the world. A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the government had received a request from the rogue nation to re-open its embassy, which was abruptly closed in January 2008. The Gillard government does not oppose the move, though it comes as Australia pushes to step up international sanctions on North Korea because of its recent suspected test of a missile that could carry nuclear warheads.
Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty is seeking the support of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for the construction of Canberra’s new embassy in Jakarta, which is poised to be its largest in the world. The Australian envoy met with the governor at City Hall as members of an Islamic group staged a rally calling on the governor to reject a similar plan by the US Embassy in Jakarta. The new embassy complex will be built on a 40,500-square-meter site in Patra Kuningan, South Jakarta, one block down from the current Australian Embassy on Jl. HR Rasuna Said. Some of the land was bought from a private company, while the rest was city property the administration had agreed to sell. In September, the embassy announced that a joint venture between Australian-Indonesian firm PT Leighton Contractors Indonesia and construction company PT Total Bangun Persada had won the A$230 million (US$241 million) contract to build the new complex.
Australian tourists in Phuket should be wary of extortion gangs, some of which are in cahoots with local police. Australian Ambassador James Wise and his British counterpart, Mark Kent, have joined a Thai Ministry of Tourism campaign to tackle tourist scams on Phuket. Up to 25,000 Australians visit Phuket each month, with Christmas and New Year the peak of the tourism season. The main scams involve taxi and jet-ski operators in Phuket and the seaside resort town of Pattaya. Wise told AAP travellers needed to be on their guard when they hired jet-skis or motorcycles. “Consider the implications if it is stolen or damaged. Foreigners are commonly detained by police until compensation, often thousands of dollars, is negotiated between the parties.” Larry Cunningham, Australia’s honorary consul in Phuket, said scams and criminality had increased to such an extent that expatriates wanted to leave the island. Cunningham said young travellers were specially targeted by gangs and on occasion by local police. In one incident, a young Australian man was involved in a minor traffic accident when riding a rental bike. He was told by police an injured man’s condition was serious and was forced to pay thousands of dollars in compensation. An investigation found the Thai man had minor injuries.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he intends to run for an Australian senate seat in the next election, and that plans for an Australian WikiLeaks party are significantly advanced. The Australian has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy since June in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over sexual assault allegations. It is likely he would run in absentia, although he says because of political developments in Sweden the case against him may be dropped within six months. Mr Assange said he had not yet registered to vote, but told Fairfax Media in Australia he believes he will be able to register in either New South Wales or Victoria as an overseas voter. He said “a number of very worthy people admired by the Australian public” have expressed interest in standing for a yet-to-be registered Australian WikiLeaks party. Party registration with the Australian Electoral Commission would require confirmation of at least 500 members listed on the electoral roll.
The Australian embassy in Italy — helping an Australian mother abduct her four girls — made last-minute flight changes in order to avoid detection by their Italian father, Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes claimed last night. The woman fled with her four Italian-born children to Australia from custody arrangements with her ex-husband in 2010 under the guise of a two-week holiday.
China has flown in a small army of workers on diplomatic visas for a highly secretive project to build its new embassy in Canberra. Immune from local laws, the builders are toiling away on the new mega embassy behind high steel walls designed to keep out prying eyes. The extraordinary project – a few blocks from Parliament House – ensures the building will not be bugged as its consulate was when it was built in the early 1980s. There is talk of a tunnel linking the buildings, but Chinese and Australian officials remained tight-lipped. An embassy liaison officer, who gave his name as Dan, referred questions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “I can’t tell you anything regarding this project,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. In an hour on Friday morning, two vehicles – supplying cement and gas bottles – entered the site, which is obscured from most sides.