Foreign diplomats arriving in Australia have been granted exemptions from strict hotel quarantine rules to quarantine at home, while one diplomat had to be "counselled" for breaching self-isolation rules.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has told the Senate her department is aware of one case of a breach of rules, but didn't say which country the diplomat was from, or how officials became aware of the breach.
"The Chief of Protocol immediately called the official's Head of Mission and told him that this was an unacceptable breach of Australian health requirements," Senator Payne said in an answer to a question on notice.
"She followed up by email to the Head of Mission, who reported the matter to his Foreign Ministry and counselled the official."
All Heads of Mission in Canberra were then emailed to stress the importance of abiding by the rules, referring to the incident but not naming the country the diplomat was from.
Since the spread of COVID-19 has forced travellers to Australia to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the country, more than 70 diplomatic and consular personnel have arrived and been subject to the rules.
Since restrictions were first enforced on arrivals from China in February, 33 consular staff have arrived from there and had to obey self-isolation rules.
At least 11 staff from other missions arrived between March 16 and 20 and were required to self-isolate, Senator Payne said, acknowledging the number could be higher.
Since the Australian government introduced requirements for overseas arrivals to be quarantined in hotels, at least another 38 diplomatic or consular staff arrived in Australia but all were granted an exemption to the rules.
"All diplomats and dependants who arrived after 29 March 2020 were granted exemptions to quarantine in private accommodation," Senator Payne said.
"This reflects the treatment we expect foreign governments will accord to Australian officers posted overseas."
Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick requested the information from the minister and said it was concerning a foreign diplomat had ignored Australia's self-isolation rules after arriving from overseas.
"The Australian Government should be very insistent in requiring that foreign diplomatic and consular personnel comply fully with all our COVID-19 health requirements," Senator Patrick said.
"While we have to be mindful of the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a warning has been given and our government should not hesitate to name and shame any further instances of non-compliance. Any repeat offenders should declared persona non grata."
Senator Payne was contacted about how the department became aware of the breach and where the diplomat was but is yet to respond.
- For information on COVID-19, please go to the federal Health Department's website.
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- If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call Triple Zero (000)
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