Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia

Newsline: Trump picks US Pacific Command chief Harry Harris to be ambassador to Australia

U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris — known for his strident views on China’s military expansion and nuclear-armed North Korea — to be the United States’ next ambassador to Australia. The White House announced the move in a statement, calling Harris “a highly decorated, combat proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region” and 39 years of experience in the U.S. Navy. Harris, who was the first Asian-American to achieve the rank of admiral in the U.S. Navy, could play a key role in promoting the Trump administration’s strategy for “a free and open Indo-Pacific region” and ensuring a rules-based regional order in partnership with Japan, India and Australia. Currently in the final year of his three-year tour as head of Pacific Command, Harris is due to retire soon. He has been known as an outspoken backer of a strong response to China’s aggressive moves in the East and South China seas, coining the term “Great Wall of Sand” to describe Beijing’s strategy of building up and militarizing disputed features in the South China Sea.



Newsline: Chinese diplomats denied spying on international students at embassy dinner in Australia

Chinese diplomats reportedly denied the Communist Party was trying to control international students studying in Australia at a dinner held in Canberra. About a dozen first-term Labor MPs and senators attended a dinner function at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra last October, according to the ABC. The Chinese diplomats present at the meeting – deputy ambassador Cai Wei and first secretary Liu Wei – reportedly tried to convince the Labor cohort China was not spying on or interfering with students studying abroad in Australia. Mr Wei apparently asked how the embassy could possibly keep an eye on “tens of thousands” of students when there were only “three education officers attached to the embassy”.


Newsline: Iraqi Embassy ordered to pay unfairly sacked driver almost $11000

The Iraq Embassy in Canberra has been ordered to pay a former employee almost $11,000 after he was unfairly sacked. Ahmed Kenawy worked as a driver to Ambassador Hussain Al-Ameri for eight months from July 2017 until February 2017, when he claims he had been forced to resign. He lodged an unfair dismissal application, seeking compensation, with the Fair Work Commission and the matter came before Deputy president John Kovacic in November. Mr Kovacic found that, as Mr Kenawy had four months and one week left to run on his contract, that he would have earned US$8500 (A$10,849.86), less tax, if he had not been sacked. “I do not consider reinstatement appropriate and propose an amount of compensation of US$8500 less applicable tax to be paid.” The embassy was given 21 days to pay Mr Kenawy.


Newsline: FBI Russia probe helped by Australian diplomat tip-off

Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in May 2016 that Russia had political dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the New York Times reported on Saturday. The conversation between Papadopoulos and the diplomat, Alexander Downer, in London was a driving factor behind the FBI’s decision to open a counter-intelligence investigation of Moscow’s contacts with the Trump campaign, the Times reported. Two months after the meeting, Australian officials passed the information that came from Papadopoulos to their American counterparts when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, according to the newspaper, which cited four current and former U.S. and foreign officials. Besides the information from the Australians, the probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch, the Times said. Papadopoulos, a Chicago-based international energy lawyer, pleaded guilty on Oct. 30 to lying to FBI agents about contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials. It was the first criminal charge alleging links between the Trump campaign and Russia.


Newsline: China’s embassy in Canberra issues safety warning for Chinese nationals in Australia

China’s embassy in Canberra has taken the rare step of issuing a public safety warning for Chinese students living in Australia due to “a rising number of insulting incidents”. A notification posted on the embassy website reminded Chinese students to increase their safety awareness and listed the phone numbers of consulates around the country. The statement said recently there has been an increase in “insulting incidents” and assaults against Chinese students in different parts of the country, and urged students to immediately report any safety problems to the Chinese embassy. Student safety has been a growing concern among the 170,000 Chinese students in schools, universities, private colleges and vocational training in Australia. The public safety warning comes amidst a period of worsening ties between Australia and China over public discussion of Chinese Communist Party interference in Australia. Foreign Ministry officials this month summoned Australia’s ambassador to Beijing Jan Adams to formally complain about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull citing China in parliament ahead of the introduction of new counter-espionage laws.


Newsline: Dogs tied to US embassy to be deported after fourth attack in Canberra

Two dogs living on a property owned by the US embassy in Canberra will be deported after attacking two more people on Wednesday night, the latest in a string of attacks linked to the animals since September last year. The German Shepherds were seized by authorities following the latest attack in Stirling on a 15-year-old girl and her father who were on their way to the teen’s high school formal. In October, the same dogs escaped the Lochee Place property and attacked two women and a four-year-old girl, but investigations by ACT Domestic Animal Services had been slowed by diplomatic considerations. One of the dogs’ owners is understood to be a US diplomat, and was reportedly out of the country when the dogs were seized. An ACT government spokeswoman confirmed authorities attended the scene of the attack and impounded the dogs. “The owners of the dogs are making arrangements to export [them] out of Australia and the two dogs will remain impounded at DAS until these arrangements are finalised,” the spokeswoman said.


Newsline: US embassy dragged into Canberra dog attack investigation

A dog living on a property owned by the US embassy has been linked to three separate attacks in the past 18 months, but investigations have been hampered by diplomatic considerations. No action has yet been taken over the attacks, which included one on a four-year old girl, two attacks on adult neighbours of the Stirling property, and one on another dog. The ACT’s domestic animal service confirmed it had been called to the latest attack on October 25, but said it was “currently liaising with the Australian Federal Police diplomatic liaison unit”. In that incident, Stirling woman Livia Auer was bitten on her legs and backside when two German shepherds escaped their yard at a home owned by the embassy and occupied by a diplomat. Less than an hour earlier, one of the dogs had attacked a child and her mother playing in the front yard of their home.