Opinion Number. 1395


privileges and exemptions of consuls: application of workers compensation act 1926 of new south wales to consular staff maintained by foreign GOVERNMENTS

Key Legislation


The Secretary, Prime Minister

The Secretary, Prime Minister’s Department, has forwarded me the following memorandum for advice:

The professional Consuls-General in Sydney have approached the Commonwealth Government with a view to ascertaining to what extent the provisions of the New South Wales Workers Compensation Act 1926 are applicable to the staffs provided and maintained by foreign Governments for the service of their chanceries in New South Wales.

I should be glad if you would be good enough to furnish me at the earliest possible date with your opinion in this regard.

It appears that, although consuls have certain privileges, they do not enjoy the condition of ex-territoriality which is attached to ambassadors and their suites.

According to Halsbury there is no direct authority in English law for the claim put forward by many writers on international law that consuls are entitled to immunity from taxation, although their privileges are generally stated to include the right to safe conduct and inviolability of official documents relating to their consular duties.

Halleck quotes a rule laid down by Garden in the following terms (See Halleck’s International Law, 4th Edition, Volume I, page 405):

Consuls are under the protection of the law of nations; they, undoubtedly, do not enjoy the rights accorded to envoys; they may be subjects of the State where they reside; they are subject to its jurisdiction, to its police, to imposts, but they cannot be denied the privileges necessary to the performance of their office. The consul, therefore, cannot be made liable to civil charges which would prevent him from the performance of his functions.

It appears, from the principles enunciated above, that consuls are probably not exempt from taxation and other financial liabilities to the State in which they reside. They cannot claim exemption from civil charges unless such exemption is necessary for the performance of their functions.

Exemption from the provisions of the Worker’s Compensation Act 1926 of New South Wales is not, in my opinion, necessary for the performance of consular duties.

I am unaware of any provisions in the law in force in New South Wales, or any stipulation in treaties applicable to that State, which grant to consuls any special privileges which would enable them to claim exemption from the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act 1926.

In view of the above considerations, I am of opinion that the Worker’s Compensation Act 1926 is applicable to consular staffs maintained by foreign governments in New South Wales.

[Vol. 22, p. 680]