In light of escalating hostilities between Moscow and a key ally of the Ukraine offensive against Russia, Australia’s Parliament enacted a law to ban Russia from constructing a new embassy close to their parliament building in Canberra. According to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, the law would terminate Russia’s lease on the facility, based on the advice of security services.
“The government has received very clear security advice as to the risk presented by a new Russian presence so close to Parliament House,” Albanese disclosed to the media. “We are acting quickly to ensure the lease site does not become a formal diplomatic presence.” The Australian government, according to the Prime Minister, opposes Russia’s “illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.”
Outside of NATO, Australia has been one of the most significant contributors of military logistics, training, and assistance to Ukraine, and it has bolstered sanctions against Moscow since the Ukraine conflict began in February 2022.
Albanese stated that, the opposition and other non-government MPs received information on the measure on Wednesday night, and decided to move it through the two houses the following day. The government however, controls the House but not the Senate.
Moreover, immediately after Albanese made the bill public, it passed both the House and the Senate, and was signed into law in less than three hours. The law is set to go into force later Thursday, after it would be assented by Governor-General David Hurley, who represents Australia’s head of state, King Charles III.
When queried if there have been security worries regarding the Chinese Embassy across the street from the Russian site, Albanese did not respond directly.
“We’re dealing with this very specifically, and it’s based upon very specific advice as well about the nature of the construction that’s proposed for this site, about the location of this site, and about the capability that would present in terms of potential interference with activity that occurs in this Parliament House.”Antony Albanese, Prime Minister of Australia.
In a statement later, the Russian Embassy stated it would not comment. The government made the decision to take action, after Russia won a Federal Court challenge last month, that stopped its expulsion from the location where construction is currently taking place.
However, local Canberra authorities revoked the lease due to absence of construction work after Russia obtained the lease in the diplomatic zone of Yarralumla in 2008, and the construction of the complex buildings were authorized in 2011.
Russia pledged to wrap up construction within three years under the lease terms, but the embassy is still under construction.
Also, the National Capital Authority, which oversees embassy leases, chose to end the Russian lease because the “ongoing unfinished works detract from the overall aesthetic, importance, and dignity of the area reserved for diplomatic missions.”
Russia has then taken over the former USSR embassy in Griffith, which is farther away from the Parliament House than the new location. Albanese averred that, the Russian Embassy will remain in Griffith and the Australian Embassy would remain in Moscow.
On the other hand, with regards to national security, the opposition defense spokesperson Andrew Hastie stated that, his party endorsed the government’s move. “In recent times, Russia has not acted in good faith toward its neighbors.” Its attempt to undermine geographical and political autonomy persists in Ukraine,” Hastie added.
“There is a trust deficit, a real risk to our national interest here, and the security advice is that this lease must be terminated,” Hastie continued.
Clare O’Neil, Minister of Home Affairs, also revealed that, no embassy would be permitted on the site. “The principal problem with the proposed second Russian Embassy in Canberra is its location. This location is right next to Parliament House,” O’Neil explained.