Archive for Australia
Seven people are being treated for smoke inhalation after a fire in a paper shredder caused the French Embassy in Yarralumla to be evacuated. ACT Fire and Rescue crews extinguished the paper fire in the industrial shredder on the ground floor of the Perth Avenue mission shortly after 11.19am on Monday. An Emergency Services Agency spokesperson said intensive care paramedics treated seven patients for mild smoke inhalation. The two-storey embassy building received minimal fire damage. Three fire pumpers attended the scene, accompanied by the specialist hazardous materials unit, breathing apparatus van and the Bronto Skylift hydraulic platform.
A maid sacked by the Peruvian embassy in Canberra is facing possible deportation amid claims she was mistreated by her employer. The woman will be in breach of her visa conditions from Sunday. Maria Nelida Paz Mori has complained to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but the embassy has described as baseless the allegations she has made. Ms Paz Mori, speaking through an interpreter, said she had been denied food, medical aid and had never been paid her superannuation contributions, which she said totalled tens of thousands of dollars. Ms Paz Mori, 65, who had worked at the embassy since 2007 and has poor literacy skills, said, when she complained, staff tried to get her to sign documents without reading them, then fired her without notice and threatened her with deportation. ”They said they cared for me and they didn’t want that [deportation] to happen so they tried to give me a cheque for almost $2500 and a plane ticket and $50 cash for the taxi,” she said. She said she had been unfairly accused of stealing from the embassy and had her integrity attacked. Peruvian embassy charge d’affaires Franklin Rojas rejected the allegations and stood by the accusation that Ms Mori had stolen from the embassy. Mr Rojas said no money was outstanding and her claim for more than $90,000 appeared to be wrongly based on Australian pay conditions and a promotion that was never granted. DFAT said it was aware of the situation but it would be inappropriate for the Australian government to comment.
About 100 protesters in East Timor have thrown rocks at the Australian embassy, with police responding with tear gas as a spying row intensifies. East Timor has expressed outrage over reports that Australia secretly bugged ministerial deliberations in Dili in 2004 to gain leverage in negotiations on an oil and gas revenue-sharing deal. The protest followed a raid on Tuesday by Australian intelligence agents on the Canberra office of a lawyer representing East Timor in an arbitration case at The Hague over the deal. The protesters, mostly students and young Timorese rights activists, carried banners reading “Australia is a thief” and “Australia has no morals”, an AFP correspondent said. The embassy was guarded with just four police until a dozen more arrived and fired tear gas at demonstrators, saying they had no permit to protest. East Timor argues that the 50-50 profit-sharing deal of $A40 billion in proceeds from the Timor Sea’s resources should be torn up because of the alleged spying. The claims that Australia spied on East Timor and Indonesia are based on documents leaked by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden.
Two homosexual U.S. ambassadors and their partners have settled into their posts in Australia and the Dominican Republic – both nations that ban gay marriages. John Berry, who recruited gay supporters for President Obama last year, made his debut in a television interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corp., where he displayed his diplomatic talent by declining to discuss Australia’s laws on same-sex marriage. “I believe gay marriage is a sensitive topic, and it’s one that Australians need to decide for Australia,” he said. Mr. Berry married his partner of 17 years, Curtis Yee, in August, shortly after the Senate confirmed his nomination. In the Dominican Republic, Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster and Bob Satawake announced their arrival in the Caribbean nation on a video posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website.
Hundreds of members from various hard-line Islamic groups have clashed with police as they moved towards the Australian embassy compound in Jakarta. Staff remained in lockdown for the second successive day as the Australian embassy in Jakarta is being pelted with eggs by protesters. More than 1600 police have been deployed near the Australian and US embassies plus several other potential targets in the capital ahead of members of the hardline group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), attending rallies after Friday prayers. Protesters, from the Komando Pejuang Merah Putih (Red and White Fighter Commandos), have burnt photos of Mr Abbott and for a second day called for war with Australia while demanding the Australian ambassador, Greg Moriarty, be expelled from Indonesia. “Our nation has been insulted by Australia. Let’s attack them,” one shouted outside the embassy on Friday. Mr Abbott, who has promised a swift and courteous response to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s call for an apology, met with the national security committee of cabinet on Thursday and was declining to comment on Friday. Indonesians are angry over reports Australia tapped their president’s phone, and that of his wife, in 2009 and they want Mr Abbott to apologise and explain how and why it occurred.
Indonesians burned Australian flags on Thursday over reports that Australia’s spies tried to tap the phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife, as relations between the neighbors plunged to their lowest point since the late 1990s. About 200 people marched to the heavily fortified Australian embassy in Jakarta – the scene of a 2004 bombing that killed 10 people – to demand an apology over the alleged spying, which prompted Yudhoyono to downgrade diplomatic relations with Canberra on Wednesday. Australia earlier updated its travel advisory for Indonesia, the country’s second most popular tourist destination after New Zealand, urging citizens in the Southeast Asian archipelago to avoid protests and “maintain high levels of vigilance”. Yudhoyono went on national television on Wednesday to announce that he was freezing military and intelligence cooperation, including over the issue of asylum seekers, that has long been an irritant in relations. The reports that sparked the Indonesian outrage quoted documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, suggesting Australia had tried to monitor the phones of top Indonesian officials in 2009.
The Indonesian government has decided to recall its ambassador to Australia as a strong protest over the illegal wiretapping conducted by Australian surveillance agencies that had targeted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the First Lady. Documents released by whistle blower Edward Snowden reveal that in 2009 Australias Defence Signals Directorate wiretapped the personal mobile numbers of both Yudhoyono and his wife, Kristiani Herawati, as well as eight others in the Presidents inner circle, including Vice President Boediono. According to top secret documents revealed by The Guardian and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the other targets of Australias espionage were former president Yusuf Kalla, the then presidents spokesman on foreign relations affairs Dino Patti Djalal, the then Minister/State Secretary Hatta Rajasa, the then Presidents Spokesman on Domestic Affairs Andi Mallarangeng, the then Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the then Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto and the then Information Minister Sofyan Djalil. Earlier, news stories about wiretapping, allegedly conducted by the United States and Australia on Indonesia, were reported in Australias Sydney Morning Herald on October 31. The Herald wrote that Australian surveillance collection facilities were located at embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili, Timor Leste, and at the high commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Following reports that Australias Jakarta embassy was used as part of a U.S.-led spying network in Asia, Indonesias Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa stated that if such facilities existed, they did not only seriously violate the nations security, but also diplomatic norms and ethics. Following the latest revelations on espionage, Indonesia has decided to recall its ambassador “as he would be unable to perform his tasks properly amidst the ongoing spying issues,” according to Marty Natalegawa. “We have recalled the ambassador to Australia in Canberra for consultation and to receive information on what is happening in Australia,” he said during a press conference. The intention to review cooperation with Australia was also confirmed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on his Twitter account @SBYudhoyono on Tuesday (Nov 19). “We will also review a number of bilateral cooperation agreements as a consequence of this hurtful action by Australia,” Yudhoyono said
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Australia Ms Jacqueline Zwambila stands to lose property worth over US$2 700 that is set to be attached from her Norton home after she failed to settle a debt. According to a report by the Zanu PF controlled Sunday Mail newspaper this follows the successful application for a default judgment by a local construction company that accuses Ms Zwambila of failing to settle a US$2 429 debt emanating from renovations done at her house in January this year. Chaliff Construction recently won a default judgment that saw its director, Crispen Dangirwa, being armed with a warrant of execution to recover the sum of US$2 769 through attaching property from the envoy’s home.
The case in which Zimbabwe’s controversial ambassador to Australia Jacqueline Zwambila is suing a journalist for defaming her following an allegation that she stripped naked before embassy staff members began. Zwambila reportedly stripped her clothes in front of embassy staff in protest that they were leaking information to the state media. She however managed to bring an Australian newspaper that re-published the news to its knees as she snatched an out of court settlement of at least 60,000 dollars. The major reason used for pulling down the Australian paper was that their journalists failed to obtain her personal comment before publishing the story. But not long after that, she triggered greater suspicion as she ironically ignored and continued to snub journalists seeking consultation on the same matter.
Already mired in a diplomatic crisis in Europe over National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance operations, Washington—as well as Canberra—is facing a backlash in Asia over the latest revelations that the NSA, working in tandem with Australian agencies, intercepted phone calls and data from embassies throughout the region. The Fairfax media yesterday reported on the involvement of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) in the NSA program, codenamed STATEROOM, which gathers electronic intelligence from covert facilities inside diplomatic missions. According to a former Australian intelligence officer, the ASD operates “from Australian embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Beijing and Dili, and High Commissions in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby, as well as other diplomatic posts.” Details of the STATEROOM program are contained in an NSA document leaked by Edward Snowden and originally published by Der Spiegel in Germany. US diplomatic missions and those of other members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance, including Canada and Britain, are involved. The document noted that the highly secretive “collection sites” are small in size and “their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff” where they are located. A top secret NSA map published by Der Spiegel on Tuesday displayed 90 surveillance facilities in US diplomatic missions worldwide, run by a joint CIA-NSA group known as the “Special Collection Service.” China is the major target in East Asia, with surveillance facilities in the US embassy in Beijing, as well as US consulates in Shanghai and Chengdu, and in the unofficial US diplomatic office in Taiwan. The US has eight listening posts in South Asia, including in US embassies in India and Pakistan. In South East Asia, there are listening posts in embassies in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia. The embassy in Bangkok also features a technical support team and monitors a remotely operated facility in the US consulate at Chang Mai in northern Thailand. The latest revelations are a blow to the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia”—a diplomatic offensive and military build-up aimed at undermining China’s influence and strategic position throughout the region. The Obama administration risks alienating key allies and strategic partners that form part of its plans for the strategic encirclement of China.