Claims that diplomats at Australia’s embassy in Baghdad are being protected by cut-price security have been dismissed as offensive by the head of foreign affairs. Department secretary Peter Varghese dismissed media reports as a beat-up, saying they were misleading and inaccurate. They had also created an extra security risk, he told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Thursday. Mr Varghese insisted there was no additional risk to the embassy during the transition from a firm whose contract had expired to a new provider. He hit out at disgruntled former employees who had spoken to the media. The difference in the contract price – from $100 million over five years to $51 million over three years – reflected a change in the marketplace and salary levels. Asked if Baghdad had become safer, Mr Varghese admitted the embassy was operating in a high-level risk environment.
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