Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Pie

THIS morning’s report in The Australian on the standoff between the Commonwealth and Russia over construction of the latter’s embassy in Canberra is interesting and amusing for a few reasons. First, the Federal Court ruled on 31 May that the Albanese government’s decision to terminate the lease on the prime Yarralumla land is invalid. That means the government must now pass special legislation to effect an eviction. Given the international conventions involved, even a bespoke law won’t necessarily survive court challenges from Russia – which it intends to launch. Meanwhile, a ‘diplomat’ – who must be in Moscow’s bad books to be lumbered with the job – is keeping the lease warm by living on the construction site as a squatter. As the national daily’s photographs show, the man is a long way from the comforts of the Kremlin and is under constant surveillance by the AFP. Shockingly, one brazen MP was yesterday seen visiting him. Because everything these days ‘sends a message’ to China, the real estate showdown can only boost the arrogance of the CCP. For some reason, it hasn’t been asked to pull up stumps at the Port of Darwin.

This entry was posted in Foreign policy, Legal affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Pie

  1. C.L. says:

    Standoff: Russia defies Albanese, refuses to leave prime site

    Vladimir Putin’s regime is defying new laws enacted by Anthony ­Albanese to evict the Russian Federation from a Canberra site near Parliament House, sparking an ­extraordinary diplomatic standoff over the land, which Russia wants for a future embassy.

    The Australian can reveal a Russian diplomat is illegally squatting on the site under the watch of Australian Federal Police officers who have been unable to arrest him ­because he has diplomatic ­immunity.

    The Russian Federation is ­expected to launch unprecedented legal action in coming days to challenge legislation rammed through the parliament last week denying it access to the prime Yarra­lumla block on national ­security grounds.

    The Australian spoke to the man, who has been staying in a portable building on the largely vacant site. “Can I help you?” he asked in thickly accented English.

    When asked to identify himself, the man shook his head and ­entered the shed, which was mounted with multiple CCTV cameras.

    An AFP car has been parked across the road since ­Sunday, ­attracting the attention of residents. The man received food ­deliveries in recent days.

    A spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the government was preparing to seize the land but declined to offer further details.

    “Make no mistake, last week the parliament took decisive ­action to resolve the national ­security challenges presented by this site,” the spokesman said.

    “Processes are under way for the commonwealth to formalise possession of the site.”

    A Russian embassy spokesman declined to comment on the ­actions of its diplomat, or the prospect of legal challenge.

    Announcing special legislation to strip Russia of the site last week, the Prime Minister said the government had received “clear ­national security advice” that the block’s proximity to parliament could enable “potential interference” by Mr Putin’s agents.

    The Russian diplomat camped at the site is trespassing because Russia’s lease over the land has been legally invalidated.

    ANU international law ­expert Don Rothwell said the AFP had limited options at its disposal. “They actually cannot arrest the diplomat. They can obviously seek to engage the diplomat in dialogue and ask him to move on, but he can refuse to do so,” Professor Rothwell said.

    He said if the diplomat continued to defy police, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade could declare him persona non grata and deport him.

    However, another diplomat could take his place, and DFAT would have to be cautious about potential ­retaliation against Australian ­diplomats in Moscow.

    Professor Rothwell said the commonwealth had a clear constitutional mandate for its move last Thursday to invalidate Russia’s lease over the site, given its powers over the ACT as a territory.

    He said there was scope for ­potential legal action by the ­Russian Federation in the Federal Court or the High Court, seeking compensation for its loss of incomplete buildings at the site but Russia had no ­recourse under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations because it retained its existing ­diplomatic premises in nearby Griffith, and there was no suggestion that Russian activities there were being curtailed.

    The Prime Minister refused to elaborate last week on the national security advice that prompted his government to evict Russia from the site.

    Some have speculated that there was a risk of a signals intelligence post being established there, while others have raised potential concerns over “Havana Syndrome” – the mystery illness that was affecting more than 1000 US embassy staff in Cuba.

    The cause of the illness is unknown, but many experts and victims believe it is the result of ­directed energy weapons.

    A Kremlin spokesman lashed the Albanese government’s decision, accusing it of “Russophobic hysteria” and warning of potential retaliation.

    “Another unfriendly display from Australia,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, ­according to a report published by Russia’s TASS news agency last week.

    “We will take this into account and if there are issues on the ­agenda that require the principle of reciprocity, we will act ­accordingly.”

    The National Capital Auth­ority terminated Russia’s lease on the site last August under its “use it or lose it” policy, after it had failed to build an embassy there over the course of 14 years.

    NCA chief executive Sally Barnes said at the time: “The block is a premium site in central Canberra. Ongoing unfinished works detract from the overall aesthetic, importance and dignity of the area reserved for diplomatic missions and foreign representation in the ­national capital.”

    The Federal Court ruled on May 31 that the commonwealth’s attempt to terminate the lease was “invalid and of no effect”.

    Mr Albanese said the decision left the government with no alternative but to legislate.

    He said at the time that his government would await Russia’s ­response to the eviction, but ­argued that the country was on shaky legal and moral ground.

    “We don’t expect that Russia is in a position to talk about inter­national law, given their rejection of it so consistently and so brazenly with their invasion of Ukraine and the atrocities that have occurred, that are occurring on an ongoing basis,” Mr Albanese said.

    It’s understood Russia had sought to bring in its own contractors in over the years to work on the Yarralumla site but the Department of Home Affairs had denied them visas, believing they would include members of Russia’s Federal Security Service.

    The Russian construction project was also hit by financial problems, with workers complaining last year that they were owed some $1.5m by the project’s head ­contractor.

    As well as being one of the closest diplomatic sites to Parliament House, the block is located near the US, British and Canadian embassies, and the city’s Commonwealth Club, which is frequented by senior public servants.


    Ben Packham, Rhiannon Down and Dennis Shanahan in The Australian

  2. NFA says:

    Combeting Global Warming, Catholic Hospitals, Russian Embassies, Voices in The Wilderness…

    what can’t Canberra do?

  3. RacerX says:

    “We don’t expect that Russia is in a position to talk about inter­national law, given their rejection of it so consistently and so brazenly with their invasion of Ukraine

    Thankfully we can take the high ground as we’re with the good guys so all our actions and the acts of our close allies show our respect for international law. Sure we’ve been there for an illegal invasion or two, our allies have ocassionally caused some regional instability here and there with the odd assasination and a few coups whipped up, they’ve used chemical weapons and kept people locked up without charge indefinately but none of that detracts from our commitment to international law.

  4. C.L. says:

    ⬆️ 💯
    By the way, contrary to The Australian’s report, there is no such thing as “Havana syndrome.” Every study on that subject – and there have been many – has concluded it is a psychosomatic myth.

  5. jupes says:

    Shockingly, one brazen MP was yesterday seen visiting him.


  6. Franx says:

    Maybe if we had a Voice things could be sorted.

  7. Petros says:

    We could send Lydia Thorpe to Russia as our ambassador. We did send Krudd to the US of course so we have form.

  8. NFA says:

    Forgive my old age memory but wasn’t the Russian Embassy near to The Canberra Services Club?

  9. NFA says:

    I just checked, at least Mooseheads is still on London Circuit!

  10. cuckoo says:

    there is no such thing as “Havana syndrome.” Every study on that subject – and there have been many – has concluded it is a psychosomatic myth.

    Humph! Next you’ll be telling me that the Australian RSI epidemic of the late 80s-early 90s was a ‘psychosomatic myth’.

  11. Buccaneer says:

    I’m sure Lidia would love a trip to Russia as the ambassador, she loves a bad boy and would probably end up giving them the ‘that’s amore’ treatment.

  12. Entropy says:

    No doubt the reason the Darwin Port hasn’t been resumed is the payout required to do so.
    Which begs the question how much below true value the NT government leased the port to the CCP in the first place. And under the sleepy watch of the SFL too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *