Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia

Newsline: Venezuela called to appear in Canberra court over missed embassy rent payments

The Republic of Venezuela has been taken to court by a Canberra family who alleges the country owes them thousands in unpaid rent money. The Rosa family claimed the South American nation had missed more than $50,000 in rent payments for two properties in O’Malley it had previously used as an embassy. (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-28/venezuela-called-to-appear-in-canberra-court-over-missed-rent/11151010) In documents seeking a hearing in the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the family claimed that from 2017 the republic began to fall behind in payments, and eventually vacated under contentious circumstances. In October of that year, the embassy made headlines when its landlord blockaded the entrance using a construction vehicle. Things boiled over when top Venezuelan skier Cesar Augusto Baena Sierraalta struck the landlord, claiming the man had showed disrespect for his country. Mr Sierraalta pleaded guilty and was released on a good behaviour order, with no conviction recorded.

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Newsline: Canberra Moroccan embassy employee claims underpayment

The Moroccan embassy is locked in a dispute with an employee who claims to have been underpaid and overworked while in Canberra. Khalid Nassih said he was not paid in the the first six months he worked for the embassy, was forced to sleep in a laundry at the embassy residence, and regularly worked excessively long shifts. Mr Nassih said the embassy threatened to revoke his visa after his Australian-born wife challenged it to repay money owed to her husband. (https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6063130/moroccan-embassy-staffer-claims-he-has-been-underpaid-overworked/?src=rss) The embassy rejected the allegations in a statement to The Canberra Times. However, embassy employees have since met with Mr Nassih’s wife, and agreed to increase his pay, cover some recent medical expenses and specify working hours as part of a new employment contract.

Newsline: Indonesia calls in Australian ambassador

Indonesia called in its Australian ambassador to convey strong condemnation over Fraser Anning’s statements linking the shooting to fears about immigration. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2019/mar/18/new-zealand-mosque-attack-police-search-homes-in-nsw-in-connection-with-shooting-live) Speaking on Mar. 18, Australian senator Fraser Anning refused to apologise over the original comments he made, he repeated his calls for a ban on Muslim immigration and said he is not sorry for hitting the 17-year-old boy who egged him.

Newsline: U.S. diplomat accuses China of using ‘pay-day loan diplomacy’

China’s is using “pay-day loan diplomacy” to exert influence in the Pacific, the new U.S. ambassador to Australia said on Mar. 13, comments that threaten to inflame regional tensions. Late last year U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused China of ensnaring tiny island nations in foreign aid “debt traps”. New U.S. Ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse said Pence’s criticism was not strong enough. “I would use stronger language – I would use payday loan diplomacy,” Culvahouse told reporters in Canberra after presenting his diplomatic credentials to Australia’s Governor-General. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-china-pacific/china-using-pay-day-loan-diplomacy-in-the-pacific-u-s-diplomat-idUSKBN1QU0CG) “The money looks attractive and easy upfront, but you better read the fine print,” he said. Lenders of pay-day loans typically charge a higher interest rate. Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China’s cooperation with Pacific island countries was good for both parties and broadly welcomed by these countries.

Newsline: Australian embassy visa office in Iran shut down amid warning of possible corruption

The Government has shut down its visa processing operations in Iran after it was warned some migration agents were boasting of corruptly obtaining visas through a contact in the Australian embassy in Tehran. The ABC understands the allegations, outlined in a letter sent to the embassy in January 2017, were then referred to Australia’s peak corruption watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), for investigation (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-31/australian-embassy-in-iran-shuts-down-visa-processing-office/10761994). The visa processing section at the embassy was shut down in July last year. The ABC has been told that investigators — believed to be from ACLEI’s Visa Integrity Task Force — have questioned several Iranians in Australia about the circumstances in which they obtained their visas.

Newsline: Man charged in Australia over suspect embassy packages

A Victorian man is accused of sending asbestos in 38 packages to embassies and consulates in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. Victorian man Savas Avan, 49, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, charged with sending 38 dangerous articles in the post. He was arrested on Wednesday night at his Shepparton home, hours after consulates in Melbourne were forced into lockdown having received suspicious packages in the mail. A prosecutor told court the deliveries contained asbestos and Avan did not apply for bail.

https://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/consulates-warned-of-suspect-packages/news-story/e04e3de0d12e7cfc5ea011d95043af94

Newsline: Suspicious packages investigated at consulates, embassies in Australia

Authorities said Wednesday that they were investigating suspicious packages that had been sent to several consulates and embassies in Melbourne and Canberra, the capital. Australian Federal Police gave few details, saying only that emergency units were responding to suspicious packages delivered to diplomatic addresses in the two cities. Victoria State Emergency Services began reporting hazardous-materials alerts along major streets that are home to numerous foreign consulates in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, beginning early Wednesday afternoon. U.S. diplomatic officials in Australia told ABC, Australia’s national public broadcaster, that the U.S. Consulate in Melbourne was among the institutions that had received the packages but that the U.S. Embassy in Canberra wasn’t. “We handled the package according to our standard procedures and in close coordination with local authorities … who are investigating the incident,” a spokesman for the Melbourne consulate told the news service. No further information was immediately available about Wednesday’s reports, which came two days after a suspicious white powder was discovered in a package at the Argentine Consulate in Sydney, Australia’s largest city.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/suspicious-packages-investigated-consulates-embassies-australia-n956536