Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia

Newsline: Canberra snubs CIA over Pyongyang embassy

It is not often that the CIA makes a request of its close friend and ally Australia and gets knocked back, but it has happened twice, in 2013 and 2014, and it related to the most sensitive security issue of our time, North Korea. In early 2014, only a few months after the Coalition government led by Tony Abbott had been elected, the US State Department, at the urging of the CIA, made a strong suggestion to Canberra that it consider opening a resident embassy in North Korea. At first, Abbott was inclined to agree. He and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had several discussions about it, although the matter never reached cabinet. Canberra sounded out several friendly governments that had embassies in North Korea to ascertain what value they got from their presence in the Hermit Kingdom and was generally told pretty dismal stories of ambassadors being kept away from meaningful North Korean decision-makers and being subject to relentless, 24/7 surveillance. Australia and North Korea have diplomatic relations, but do not have resident embassies in each others’ countries. At about the time of the American request, the North Koreans had been making life difficult for Australia’s ambassador to Seoul whenever he wanted to go to North Korea on an official trip. The other problem with the Americans’ proposal from Canberra’s point of view was that North Korea would certainly agree to hosting an Australian ­embassy in Pyongyang only if it were allowed to reopen a resident ­embassy in Canberra. North Korean embassies around the world are notorious for using the privileged diplomatic communications and transport rights of embassies to facilitate crime and illegal money-making schemes for their regime. In 2003, at a time when North Korea did have an embassy in Canberra, a North Korean ship, the Pong Su, delivered a shipment of heroin to Australia. The ship, and the heroin, were seized by Australian authorities. Although Canberra co-operates intensely with Washington on North Korea, the decision, on balance, was not to proceed with a new embassy in Pyongyang.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/canberra-tells-cia-thanks-but-no-thanks-over-pyongyang-embassy/news-story/8b3da4a04a161f80be11aaf50a65fbb6

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Newsline: Canberra man allegedly broke into Russian embassy to steal bike

A Canberra man has been remanded in custody after allegedly breaking into the grounds of the Russian embassy in an attempt to steal a BMX bike. Luke Gray, 26, of Griffith was arrested about 6:00am on Saturday with bolt cutters and a screwdriver in his bag. Prosecutors said he entered the secure embassy grounds and tried to steal a child’s BMX bike. He has been charged with burglary, attempted theft, and being equipped with articles for intent to commit a theft. In the ACT Magistrates Court prosecutors said Gray was high on methamphetamine at the time of the break-in. Gray was crying and agitated during his brief appearance, and said he could not remember making his way to the embassy. He was remanded in custody and will appear again in court on Tuesday.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-05/man-allegedly-broke-into-russian-embassy-to-steal-bmx-bike/8777568

Newsline: Dodgy guns compromise security of Australian embassy in Afghanistan

A faulty shipment of assault rifles compromised security at the Australian embassy in Afghanistan and prompted a change of the guards at checkpoints, it has emerged. Some of the weapons exploded during test firing and others were found to be inoperable. Checkpoint, embassy and diplomatic residence guards, generally Nepalese Gurkha and locally employed staff, were issued locally purchased AK-47s — some of which were 60 years old — which were found to have malfunctions, including bent barrels, a source has told the Herald Sun. Australian mobile teams, armed with M4 assault rifles and Glock pistols, were retasked from close personal protection and transport missions to manning checkpoints and the residences of diplomatic staff until the issue was addressed earlier this month. “The embassy are fully aware of the incident, it has gone very high-level and there is an investigation under way. DFAT are fully aware as is the ambassador,” the source, familiar with the problems, said. “They were without proper protection for up to two days until the mobile teams were used to cover for them. This lasted about 24 to 48 hours.” It is understood that of the 71 AK-47s in a shipment purchased for approximately $130,000, about 63 were found to have defects and several “exploded” during fire range testing by an armourer.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/dodgy-guns-compromise-security-australian-embassy-in-afghanistan/news-story/a4ee475a5428caf1a3ba2646f4dd2ea6

Newsline: China says Australia spying on embassy

The Australian government has been spying on China’s embassy in the country and “harassing” Chinese people to provide intelligence, an influential state-run newspaper said on Thursday, citing a security source. China and Australia have close business and economic ties, but Beijing is deeply suspicious of Canberra’s defense relationship with Washington. Quoting an unidentified official with “China’s national security department”, the Global Times tabloid said the Australian government was spying on China and monitoring Chinese people in Australia. “The national security department staffer said Australia’s agents in disguise would get close to Chinese people working or living overseas to collect information or even encourage them to subvert China,” the report said. “Meanwhile, in the name of avoiding ‘Chinese spy threats’, Australian intelligence operatives are closely monitoring Chinese people and the Chinese Embassy in Australia,” it said. The report said “many” Chinese people had been interviewed or harassed and were being required to give information about Chinese communities and the Chinese embassy. “Some of the Chinese people were even sent back to China to gather information,” it said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-australia-idUSKBN19K05B?il=0

Newsline: Australian husband of diplomat kept Ethiopian girl as sex slave

Four maids were abused by Russell Howard, the Australian husband of US diplomat Linda Howard, who kept an Ethiopian girl as a virtual prisoner and sex slave. The Australian has exclusively revealed that as well as keeping the girl as his sex slave while living with his wife on a diplomatic posting in Tokyo, he also abused three further maids. Russell Howard, who died in 2012 following a US Department of Justice investigation into the Ethiopian maid, abused other women in Yemen. New evidence uncovered by the a US State Department investigation claims this happened while Linda Howard was on a posting in the Middle Eastern country. Linda Howard has since moved to Victoria, where she lives in the Melbourne suburb of Docklands.

http://www.news.com.au/national/australian-husband-of-diplomat-kept-ethiopian-girl-as-sex-slave-and-abused-four-maids/news-story/ddc186d888b1ced16d7469f97fe16590

Newsline: US, UK, Australia Embassy warn citizens after Philippines attack

The US, UK and Australian governments issued separate travel advisories on Friday, June 2, urging their citizens to exercise caution following the attack that left 37 people dead at Resorts World Manila. A gunman stormed the Resorts World Manila and torched gambling tables in the crowded area on Friday before dawn, June 2. Aside from 37 fatalities, dozens were injured. The resort hotel is located in Newport City, opposite the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 in Pasay City. In a statement posted on its website, the US Embassy advised American citizens to “exercise caution and review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, including local events, and monitor local news stations for updates.” The United Kingdom, meanwhile, advised its citizens to “avoid the area and follow the advice of local authorities.” British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad said in his tweet that there were no Britons harmed in the incident.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/2017/06/02/us-uk-australia-warn-citizens-after-resorts-world-attack-545284

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