Mr. Kevin Rudd,
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More Aussies breaking law abroad
Emma Chalmers - The Courier-Mail - December 29, 2009 12:25AM
More than 1,000 Australians arrested overseas
295 convicted, sentenced and imprisoned
334 travellers get emergency Govt loans
MORE Australians are playing up abroad, with a record number arrested overseas during the past year.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade helped more than 27,800 Australians in difficulty during 2008-09.
More than 1000 Australians were arrested and 295 were convicted, sentenced and imprisoned.
Melbourne woman Annice Smoel, 36, was one of the year's highest-profile cases, making international headlines and risking five years' jail for allegedly stealing a bar mat from a pub on the Thai resort island of Phuket. She was fined $30 and allowed home after pleading guilty.
In its annual report, DFAT said its consular case load increased as the number of Australians who travelled overseas exceeded six million for the first time.
"Managing increasing expectations of the level of consular assistance, especially in cases involving Australians detained or imprisoned under foreign laws, remained a significant challenge," DFAT said.
The consular emergency centre received more than 37,000 calls in 2008-09, and almost 18,000 people contacted DFAT worried about relatives they could not contact overseas - an increase of 4000.
"Our consular case load was complex and diverse, often directed to Australians requiring assistance in remote and politically unstable locations," DFAT's annual report said.
DFAT responded to several kidnappings during the year, including the case of 37-year-old Bundaberg photojournalist Nigel Brennan, who was released from captivity in Somalia just weeks ago after a private negotiator paid a ransom.
The department also helped Yandina man Hayden Adcock, who spent 11 days lost in the Laotian jungle. It also weathered a storm of publicity over the murder of backpacker Britt Lapthorne in Croatia. DFAT said it also helped an Australian family to leave Kabul in Afghanistan "following a dispute that led to threats to the welfare of several children and their mother".
Among more than 60 international crises the department responded to were the Bangkok bomb attack, a tourist bus crash in Israel, Fiji floods and the Mumbai terror attacks.
The Federal Government provided more than $415,000 in emergency loans to 334 travellers overseas, including to some prisoners to ensure they received proper food and care.
Hu may have broken our laws: academic
Brendan Nicholson Foreign Affairs Correspondent - August 4, 2009 - The Australian
STERN HU, the Rio Tinto executive detained in China, could be investigated by the Australian Federal Police and charged under Australian law with bribery of foreign officials, says a top international law expert.
Don Rothwell, from the Australian National University College of Law, suggested yesterday the Australian Federal Police should carry out an investigation into Mr Hu’s activities.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, was checking last night whether any such investigation was under way.
Professor Rothwell said that while the Chinese Government had released limited information about the case, it could be asserted under Australian law that Mr Hu’s dealings with some officials in the Chinese steel industry amounted to bribery.
It is not a defence under Australian law that bribing officials in another country might be considered customary, necessary, or required, he said.
Professor Rothwell was responding to comments by the Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister, Liu Jieyu, that Mr Hu’s alleged crimes would have broken Australian law had they taken place in Australia. Mr Liu said the Chinese Government believed
the case against Mr Hu was strong and he added that the facts ‘‘would constitute a violation of Australian laws’’.
Mr Hu and three Chinese nationals have been held without charge for a month on suspicion of stealing state secrets while negotiating iron ore deals.
Professor Rothwell said Australia had campaigned hard against the bribery of officials around the world and if Mr Hu had that he would have broken Australian law.
‘‘Stern Hu could be charged with bribery under Australian law,’’ Professor Rothwell said.
‘‘This raises issues as to whether the Australian Federal Police, in light of the revelations in this case, are conducting their own inquiries into the conduct of Stern Hu in China with a view to possible criminal proceedings under Australian law.’’
In 1999 Australia committed itself to combating bribery of officials by signing an OECD convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international transactions.
‘‘This convention is designed to … combat a culture of graft, corruption and bribery … ,’’ Professor Rothwell said