The Saudi Arabian embassy has once again been revealed as the mission most likely to ignore Australia’s road rules. In a series of documents from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released under freedom of information, one member of the Saudi Arabian mission, whose identity is redacted, was fined for returning a blood-alcohol limit of more than double the legal limit, and others were fined for speeding more than 30 kilometres above the limit.
Under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, diplomats in Australia are required to “respect the laws and regulations of the receiving state,” and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expects that they should pay fines associated with traffic infringements, even if demerit points are not enforced and licences aren’t suspended.
In May last year a member of the Saudi embassy recorded a blood-alcohol reading of 0.115 and was warned of the serious nature of driving under the influence of alcohol, but because of his diplomatic immunity did not face court over the incident, which carries a maximum penalty of a $1400 fine or six months in prison for a first-time offender. According to internal DFAT emails, the son of a member of the Saudi mission was caught speeding at 126 kilometres per hour in an 80 km/hr zone, and when the driver was asked why he was speeding, he said it was because he needed to go to the toilet. A member of the Saudi mission was also caught 63 kilometres above the speed limit and told police it was because he needed to take his antibiotics. In a separate incident in the same three-month period as the other offences, a car believed to be attached to the Saudi embassy was clocked by police doing 107 km/hr in an 80/km zone, but failed to pull over when signalled to do so by police, who did not to pursue the vehicle.
One member of the Saudi mission racked up 10 demerit points between February and June last year, and another received nine demerit points within three weeks in May. One driver associated with the embassy racked up a staggering 31 demerit points between 2012 and 2015, well above the 11 that would result in a citizen losing his or her licence for three months.
The letters from DFAT chief of protocol Chris Cannan to the Saudis become increasingly pointed, writing in July “it is concerning that less than a year into his posting I have to write to you about repeated traffic infringements”.
“I note that this is the seventh letter I have written to you since January this year about repeat traffic infringements by Saudi diplomats. The embassy has by a very large margin the highest number of unpaid fines of the diplomatic missions in Canberra.”
Cannan also wrote that he would no longer support requests for visa extensions for a member of the Saudi mission because of his infringements.
According to the documents, which cover correspondence between January 1 and October last year, members of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia, Mexico, Turkey, the United States and others received letters warning them about speeding, using a mobile phone while driving and failing to stop at red lights, but the letters to the Saudi Arabian embassy overwhelms the release with 82 offences over 10 months.