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Foreign diplomats ignore Aussie road rules

Date

Some foreign diplomats are running riot on Canberra's roads and getting away with it.

They've been speeding, running red lights and give-way signs, drink-driving and driving without seatbelts around the Australian capital - but diplomatic immunity means they cannot be prosecuted or even lose their licence.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has sent dozens of letters to embassies over the past three years asking them to keep the worst repeat offenders in line.

But there's no way to tell which countries are to blame because names have been stripped from the letters, which have been released on DFAT's website under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

One female diplomat managed to rack up 11 speeding offences in 15 months. But despite incurring 15 demerit points and DFAT warning her behaviour was "quite unacceptable", she was allowed to keep driving.

A male diplomat also managed to get 15 demerits - 13 of which related to serious speeding offences - in less than two years.

Another offender managed 14 demerit points in just 10 months.

"Were it not for his diplomatic status, his ACT's driver licence would have been suspended for three months," DFAT's chief protocol officer said in a letter to the relevant embassy in March 2010.

Another offender clocked up 12 demerit points in 18 months.

"Eight traffic offences in an 18-month period is unsatisfactory and suggests a worrying disregard for public safety," DFAT warned.

One senior diplomat racked up four offences, including two for speeding, one for failing to give way and one for running a red light. DFAT said they would expect a senior officer to set a better example.

One offender was clocked doing more than 45km/h over the limit in May last year.

Other letters relate to specific incidents but most of the details have been redacted.

In late 2010 one embassy had to be reminded of the "dangerous repercussions of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol" after an incident on Canberra's Commonwealth Bridge.

AAP

19 comments so far

  • This is disgraceful. Anyone else would lose their licence and be considered a threat to the safety of other drivers on the road. Those diplomat that are repeat offenders should be stripped of their licence to drive in the country and the embassy be forced to hire a chauffer for them. The only way to stop their arrogence is to penalise them. Just utterly disgraceful

    Commenter
    Felix
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    February 04, 2013, 4:20PM
    • Maybe it's time for some corrective action by us the citizens itself. If, one of these idiots get carpeted I am sure they will all learn how to behave. Same applies to our people serving abroad if they don’t know how to behave appropriately.

      Commenter
      ShanWeer
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 04, 2013, 7:23PM
  • This is not what diplomatic immunity was created for.

    Mind you, Australian diplomats overseas probably do equivalent stuff often enough for the glass houses rule to kick in.

    Commenter
    His Lordship
    Date and time
    February 04, 2013, 4:41PM
    • I live in Red Hill and am surrounded by these people. They either break the law, speed within school zones or simply cannot drive t our conditions. Why we give them immunity when it comes to our roads and more so our legal system it beats me. Throw the book at them and treat them like the rest of us.

      Commenter
      Capoligist
      Location
      Red Hill
      Date and time
      February 04, 2013, 4:51PM
      • Before throwing stones at our foreign guests, it is perhaps relevant to note the track record of Aussie diplomats overseas.

        In 20+ years in NE Asia, I know of a number of cases where Aussie diplomats have been carpeted for their sins. In one instance, a Counselor at a certain mission knocked a young lass off her bike and either seriously injured or killed her. Despite being clearly at fault, the diplomat in question claimed DI and was either quickly sent home or designated persona non-grata by the hosting nation. I would assume that they moved back to Canberra, without a stain on their character despite clearly having blood on their hands.

        Commenter
        Longterm Expat
        Location
        Overseas
        Date and time
        February 04, 2013, 5:25PM
        • The fact that you twice claim uncertainty in your story, particularly on the crucial facts makes me question the veracity of your claim, Expat...

          Commenter
          That Guy
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          February 04, 2013, 6:59PM
      • I think it;s disgraceful that these diplomats can do what ever they like and not face the consequences. I try to avoid cars with DC plates because you never know what they are going to do!

        One lady with DC plates stopped their car in the middle of London Circuit, got out of their car and wandered off!

        Commenter
        southsider
        Date and time
        February 04, 2013, 6:00PM
        • couldn't they simply cease issuing australian drivers' licenses to members of the embassies that are the worst offenders?

          i've seen diplomats park in handicapped spots when there is an empty spot no more than 2 places away. and there was no way the person in question is handicapped.

          way to represent your country...

          Commenter
          joe
          Date and time
          February 04, 2013, 6:31PM
          • Complain to the dean of the diplomatic corps and if the offender(s) keep doing it, have the diplomat expelled.

            Commenter
            farnarkler
            Date and time
            February 04, 2013, 6:53PM
            • The story I made reference to is fact. It happened in the late 80s in the capital of a certain major trading partner up here in NE Asia. It is simply the case that it was so long ago that I cannot remember if the victim was injured or killed. I do remember that she was a student on her way to school and she got cleaned up by a car driven by an Australian diplomat. It was rather heavily reported in the host country and as a new Aussie in town I took some stick from my local colleagues. I also remember that it created some ruffled feathers in the bilateral relationship. It was also rather big news among the local Aussies. What I cannot remember is whether the person question was shown the door by head of mission or thrown out by the hosting country.

              Commenter
              Longterm Expat
              Location
              Overseas
              Date and time
              February 04, 2013, 8:41PM

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