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Archive for Australia/Oceania

Newsline: New Zealand Embassy in Washington covered $7000 booze bill for Trump bash

Taxpayers forked out more than $7000 on alcohol for guests at a glitzy party in Washington celebrating US President Donald Trump’s inauguration. According to official documents, the total bill topped $80,000 ($US58,247). New Zealand spent $750 on customised napkins for the Inauguration Gala on 17 January in Washington. Among the costs were $690 ($US478) on VIP pins, $750 ($US520) on customised napkins and $1780 ($US1235) to hire foliage. More than 320 people attended the four-hour gala on 17 January, including actors, business people and government figures, hosted by New Zealand ambassador Tim Groser. Alcohol cost less than 10 percent of the total budget at slightly more than $7000 ($US4890). The food bill topped $8240 ($US5720) and about $1800 ($US1250) was spent on valet parking. The largest cost by far was $23,670 ($US16,445) to hire furniture, followed by $8520 ($US5917) for the marquee. The total bill was covered by the New Zealand Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s public diplomacy fund. Funding came from within MFAT’s baseline budget and met standard approval criteria, the ministry said. “The event was considered as a constituency building activity to position New Zealand’s interests effectively with the new US administration and Congress.” The embassy noted it had received “positive feedback” from guests. It also touted the “key US influencers” in attendance, including Mr Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and New Zealand-born assistant Chris Liddell. More than 320 people attended the gala in Washington, hosted by NZ ambassador Tim Groser.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/329533/$7000-booze-bill-for-nz%27s-trump-bash

Newsline: Former workers accuse Spain’s embassy in Australia of “betrayal”

A former Canberra embassy worker has spoken of her “betrayal” by her former employers, the Spanish government, which is accused of refusing to hand over years worth of superannuation payments. Another former worker for the Spanish government in Australia says she has been left disabled by cancer but without vital disability cover because of the consulate’s failure to pay her super. The two women are now taking legal action against their former employer, looking to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid super, interest and penalties. But the Spanish government has defended itself, claiming its two former employees were covered by their home country’s social welfare system during the periods in question and their current claim was an attempt to “double-dip”. Canberra grandmother Esperanza Poveda had two stints as a secretary at the embassy of Spain in Canberra between 1986 and 1998, and from 2004 until 2014. In 2012, she secured an order from the ATO for the embassy to pay her unpaid super for the second period she worked there, but she says her former bosses refused to pay her for her first stint. Ms Poveda is claiming damages of $68,000, which includes $32,000 in unpaid superannuation for 1992-1998 and penalty interest. Melbourne woman Miren Itziar Urbieta worked at Spain’s consulate in the Victorian capital for 18 years until 2011 and says she was not any paid any superannuation at all. According to her lawyers, the consulate’s failure to pay her superannuation, left her ineligible for total and permanent disability cover through her VicSuper fund and she is battling tonsil cancer which has left her permanently disabled since 2015. Ms Urbieta is seeking damages of $131,000 including $54,000 in unpaid superannuation, $62,000 in penalty interest, and $15,000 for the TPD benefit that she would have been entitled to if super payments had been made into her VicSuper account. But a spokesman for the Spanish embassy indicated it would be defending the claims, saying the women were covered by the Spanish social security system during the period in question and were therefore not entitled to payments under the Australian system.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/spanish-embassy-workers-allege-betrayal-over-unpaid-superannuation-20170404-gvda1q.html

Newsline: New Zealand to open embassy in Ireland

New Zealand has announced plans to open its first embassy in Dublin. At present, the country is represented here by the New Zealand High Commission in London. However, there is a New Zealand Honorary Consulate-General in the capital. An estimated 14,000 Irish-born people live in New Zealand, while approximately one-in-six New Zealanders claim Irish heritage – out of a total population of 4.7 million.

http://www.newstalk.com/reader/47.301/95697/0/

Newsline: Australian embassy site in Thailand up for sale

The site of the Australian embassy in Sathorn area, almost eight rai of land, is being offered for sale by expression of interest, according to the appointed sole agent JLL. The compound covers 12,728 square metres of freehold land on South Sathorn Road, one of Bangkok’s prime commercial and residential addresses. The closing date for offers is early June.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/news/1219933/australian-embassy-site-on-sathorn-road-up-for-sale

Newsline: New Zealand asks US embassy diplomat to leave

The US embassy in New Zealand has refused to waive diplomatic immunity for one of its staff members New Zealand police want to question. An incident involving a diplomat from the US embassy was brought to the attention of New Zealand police on Sunday, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) spokesman says. MFAT was asked by police on Monday to request a waiver of immunity from the US to enable police to undertake investigations, and did so that day. The US government has on Friday declined to waive the diplomat’s immunity. Therefore, MFAT has asked the US to withdraw the staff member in question from New Zealand. Police were called to an address in Lower Hutt but the man, who works at the embassy in Wellington as a technical attache, had left, apparently nursing a broken nose and a black eye, TVNZ reported. A US government spokesman says as a matter of policy “we do not comment on the specifics of matters under investigation”. “We take seriously any suggestion that our staff have fallen short of the high standards of conduct expected of US government personnel. ”Any allegations of wrongdoing are always fully investigated.”

http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/03/nz-asks-us-embassy-diplomat-to-leave.html

Newsline: Australian embassy in Washington deals with US ban

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says officials are in talks with US counterparts to get clarity on how the order may affect Australians. “The Australian embassy in Washington is engaging with US officials on the potential implications of the suspension for Australian travellers, including dual nationals,” a spokeswoman told AAP in a statement. All travellers are being warned that rules could change at short notice. “Travellers should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the United States for the most current information,” the spokeswoman added. Australians who hold passports from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen may potentially be turned away from the US. The government’s Smarttraveller website has updated its notifications warning travellers to the US about the controversial new rules. Australians who are dual citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria will no longer be allowed to apply for the standard electronic travel authorisation – ETSA – which travellers must complete before heading to the US. The ETSA is an online application that determines entry eligibility based on security or police risks. All those affected will have to apply for a non-immigrant visa at a US embassy or consulate.

http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/australian-travellers-impacted-by-us-ban/news-story/210a2747e046787de9c3438fe1a95f41

Newsline: Russian diplomat slams Australian PM’s intention ‘to shirtfront’ Putin

A Russian diplomat in Australia called the remark of Australian PM Tony Abbott about his intention to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin “immature.” He reminded the Aussie politician that he might be “very fit” but Putin is “a professional judo wrestler.” Abbot’s scandalous remark came on Monday after he told journalists that he is going to “shirtfront” the Russian president on the sidelines of G20 summit over the tragedy of the Malaysian airliner crash in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine in July. “I am going to shirtfront Mr Putin – you bet I am – I am going to be saying to Mr Putin Australians were murdered, they were murdered by Russian backed rebels,” Abbott said. Shirtfront is a football technique for a front-on chest bump or rough handling aimed at knocking your rival backward to the ground. It’s “a reportable offence and considered illegal,” says the Australian Football Rules website. The Russian Embassy in Australia, however, didn’t let Abbot’s remark go unnoticed. Third secretary of the Russian Embassy in Canberra, Aleksandr Odoevsky, told the Australian Associated Press that the remarks of the Australian PM were “immature.”

http://rt.com/news/195820-abbott-putin-shirtfront-judo/