A Sydney councilor has alleged that residents of the eastern suburbs are “subsidizing” Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine after it emerged that Russia is one of the countries that routinely fails to pay council fees for their consulates in Sydney.
Woollahra’s local government area is home to 13 foreign consulates – extensions of the embassies in Canberra – four of which do not usually pay fees: Russia, Poland, Turkey and Serbia.
It is not mandatory for consulates to pay, as the Vienna Convention prohibits Australia from levying taxes on other countries’ official buildings. Instead, the municipality collects 60 percent of the service fees through the Department of State and Trade, and voluntarily asks the consulates to pay the other 40 percent.
Woollahra Council confirmed the four countries that are not paying the contribution. Egypt has been inconsistent with payments and Vietnam missed the previous fiscal year, it said. The amount “owed” by Russia in 2021-22 was $8563.78, according to a council document seen by the Herald.
The other consulates in Woollahra all paid the contribution in 2021-22: Switzerland, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, the United States, Korea and Indonesia.
Woollahra Greens councilor Nicola Grieve said Russia’s failure to pay was a problem only because Putin had invaded Ukraine.
“It would be nice if the Russian consulate made that gesture, but I won’t hold my breath.”
Susan Wynne, Mayor of Woollahra
“I think it’s pretty disgusting that they can fund a war, invade a sovereign country, but they can’t afford to pay for the garbage,” she said. “Why are the people of Woollahra letting this war down?”
In a statement, the Russian Consulate General’s press attache said DFAT had long discussed the issue of council rates with diplomatic corps.