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Archive for Australia

Newsline: Australia, Malaysia in war of words over Israel embassy shift

Australia’s treasurer on Friday said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had a history of anti-Jewish statements in an escalating war of words over the possibility Australia might move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison first proposed the move during a local election campaign last month, sparking concern from Indonesia and Malaysia. Mahathir, 93, raised the potential relocation in a meeting with Morrison in Singapore on Thursday, later telling reporters he feared it could increase the threat of attacks. “I pointed out that in dealing with terrorism, one has to know the causes,” Mahathir said. “Adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful.” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg responded saying Canberra would make its own decisions, and pointing out the Malaysian leader’s past comments about Jewish people. “He has called Jews ‘hooked-nosed people’. He has questioned the number of people that have been killed in the Holocaust. He banned Schindler’s List as a movie being shown,” Frydenberg, the son of a Holocaust survivor, told reporters in Melbourne.



Newsline: Australia’s spy agency warned government Israel embassy move could provoke violent unrest

Australia’s spy agency warned ministers that Scott Morrison’s proposed shift in Middle East policy to relocate the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem may “provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank”. Guardian Australia has obtained an Asio bulletin, marked secret, AUSTEO (Australian eyes only), circulated on 15 October – the day before Morrison’s announcement – that notes that the putative shift would “attract international attention”. “We expect any announcement on the possible relocation of the Australian embassy to Jerusalem or consideration of voting against Palestinians in the United Nations may provoke protest, unrest and possibly some violence in Gaza and the West Bank,” the bulletin says.


Newsline: Indonesia may cancel trade deal with Australia if embassy moves to Jerusalem

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi expressed his country’s concern over Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s remarks that the country may move its embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem. Marsudi called on the Australian government to respect the peace process and UN Security Council resolutions issued in this regard. “Indonesia reiterates that [the political status of] Jerusalem is one of six issues that have to be negotiated and decided as a sustainable solution,” she said. “Indonesia asks Australia and other countries to continue supporting the Palestine-Israel peace process in accordance with the principles that have been agreed and to not take steps that may threaten the peace process and world stability.” The Australian Broadcasting Corp. broke the news yesterday that should Australia make the move, Indonesia could put on hold a landmark free trade pact, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which is scheduled to be signed later this year. The Indonesian minister revealed on Twitter that she had summoned the Australian ambassador in Jakarta the same day and “conveyed Indonesia’s strong concern” as well as “question[ed] the merit of Australia’s announcement on the issue of Palestine.”


Newsline: Relocation of Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem discussed

The Liberal candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, has said “he is open” to relocating Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem as the US has done, in contrast to the official policy of both the Liberals and Labor to leave it in Tel Aviv. As the battle in the Wentworth byelection enters its final week, the votes of the large Jewish community that lives in Wentworth could be crucial to whether the Liberals hold the seat. There are around 20,000 Jewish people in Wentworth, according to the 2016 census, making up 12.5% of the population.


Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Canberra apologises after cat picture mistakenly sent out

U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia has apologised on behalf of the Department of State who did just that, accidentally sending a test email featuring a photo of a cat dressed in a Cookie Monster costume. According to the Australian Associated Press, the photo was was titled “cat pajama-jam” and was sent within an email titled “meeting,” as part of a fake meeting invitation sent by the Department of State to recipients. It’s been described as a “training error,” and at least the U.S. Embassy saw the humour in it. “Sorry to disappoint those of you who were hoping to attend this ‘cat pajama-jam’ party, but such an event falls well outside our area of expertise,” U.S. Mission to Australia public affairs counsellor Gavin Sundwall wrote in a subsequent email two days later. “It was a training error made by one of our new staff testing out our email newsletter platform.”


Newsline: Iraqi diplomat ordered to pay $20,000 over ‘morally repugnant’ sacking of Filipino nanny

An Iraqi diplomat who docked $250 from the wages of her live-in Filipino nanny for a bottle of Sunsilk shampoo has been ordered to pay $20,000 over the “morally repugnant” treatment. Juliet Buenaobra was brought to Australia in January 2015 on a 403 temporary work visa by Republic of Iraq Consul-General Anwar Alesi, then First Secretary, to perform domestic work at her home. Ms Buenaobra was promised monthly wages of $1750 but was paid as little as $800, typically in cash. Her contract included a number of monthly “deductions”, including “board and lodging” of $800 — despite not having a private bedroom — “incidentals allowance” of $250, and $125 for “full medical insurance” that was never provided.


Newsline: Slaves still kept by foreign diplomats in Australia, claims Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has called on the Australian government to depart from diplomatic convention and expel foreign diplomats implicated in shocking cases of slavery in the nation’s capital. As a Senate committee this week hears evidence from industry and human rights bodies about the government’s draft Modern Slavery Bill, absent from the discussion is a loophole that allows alleged criminal exploitation to continue within Canberra embassies. In a submission to the Senate committee, the Salvation Army revealed it had assisted almost a dozen domestic workers kept in slave-like conditions by foreign diplomats in their Canberra homes in 11 years. In one case, a woman referred to as Cristina was told she would be paid A$2150 (NZ$2359) per month for 40 hours per week as a live-in housekeeper, but was kept as a virtual prisoner and forced to sign false documents and work seven days a week for minimal pay. The submission, initially compiled last year for an earlier inquiry that led to the current bill, states that workers had their identity documents confiscated and were subject to physical and sexual abuse, threats and intimidation. At least four cases involved the relevant embassy’s head of mission – the highest-ranking diplomatic post, holding such titles as ambassador, high commissioner or charge d’affaires or consul-general. The Salvation Army said the Australian government was not doing enough to stop diplomats from criminally exploiting workers, who were kept in “degrading and humiliating conditions, including deprivation of food, privacy and appropriate living conditions”. Yet, despite media reports on the issue over the past year, the draft Modern Slavery Bill makes no mention of diplomatic employees. Heather Moore, national policy and advocacy co-ordinator at the Salvation Army’s Freedom Partnership, said human trafficking should be grounds for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to take decisive action against a diplomat.