High Court bins Russia’s injunction application over embassy site

It affirmed the recently passed law terminating Russia's lease for security reasons

High Court bins Russia’s injunction application over embassy site

The High Court of Australia has dismissed Russia’s application for an injunction that would have prevented the government from entering a disputed land next to Parliament House while court action had not been resolved.

The land adjacent to Parliament House had previously been leased to Russia for its embassy but remained a largely empty block until earlier this month, when the federal government passed legislation terminating Russia’s lease for national security reasons last June 15.

Since just last week a man has been living on the disputed site in a portable cabin. Russia’s lawyer in the injunction proceedings Elliot Hyde described him as a security guard protecting the compound, abcnews.go.com reported.

On Monday, the highest court of Australia, speaking through Justice Jayne Jagot, denied Russia's application for an injunction halting the eviction of its embassy from the Canberra site. Russia had challenged the law terminating its lease on constitutional grounds – a strategy Jagot described as weak.

“I do not perceive [Russia’s] case for invalidity as a strong one,” Jagot said. “Indeed, it is difficult to identify a serious question to be tried…. The Commonwealth has a clear sovereign interest that the land not be occupied by [Russia].”

Citing constitutional basis for the power of the parliament to pass the June 15 law, Jagot said the law had to take precedence over any court dispute.

“There is no proper foundation for the interlocutory injunction as sought by [Russia],” she said.

Government lawyer Tim Begbie lauded the high court decision. He said that Russia had sought an injunction purely to protect its own security and intelligence interests.

“It’s not just that they haven’t made a compelling case for constitutional invalidity in this application – they’ve made absolutely no case for it,” Begbie was quoted as saying.

The man who had been occupying the site left almost immediately after the decision was handed down. He was fetched by a diplomatic car, ABC News reported.

Commenting on the high court’s action over Russia’s injunction application, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters: “The court has made clear that there is no legal basis for a Russian presence to continue on the site at this time, and we expect the Russian Federation to act in accordance with the court’s ruling.”

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