An unprecedented step is taken over the failure to return two wanted men The government has taken the unprecedented step of lodging a diplomatic protest with Australia over the refusal of its justice minister to extradite two men wanted in Hong Kong over a short-piling scandal. The secretary of security last week delivered a diplomatic note to the Australian consulate conveying Hong Kong's 'strong concern and disappointment' at the decision by Justice Minister Chris Ellison to refuse to hand over David Hendy, 42, and Carl Voigt, 46, despite Australian courts having found them eligible for extradition. It is the first time since the handover that a request for surrender has been refused by an overseas treaty partner. Extradition is one of the few areas of Hong Kong's external affairs that the city has maintained control of under the 'one country, two systems' principle. 'The Hong Kong government has conveyed to the Australian government its disappointment at the minister's failure to return Voigt and Hendy to Hong Kong under the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders Agreement and his failure to give reasons for his decision in each case,' a government spokesman said. Senator Ellison has refused to offer an official explanation for his decision to Hong Kong authorities, maintaining that the agreement between the two jurisdictions does not compel him to do so. Hendy and Voigt are alleged to have instructed staff to build short, sub-standard piles on a residential project in Tung Chung and to have offered bribes to an engineer to fabricate construction records. Four others have been jailed in the case. Although government sources were at pains to point out they do not consider the matter finished, the only official recourse available now is a judicial review of the minister's decision. However, it is unlikely the government would request such a move given the fact that under the existing agreement, any decision to come out of such a review would still need to be approved by the minister - who, from his public statements, appears unlikely to change his mind. It is understood the government has several extradition cases under way in Australia. With this in mind, the administration has requested consultations on the future operation of the agreement. 'We have proposed the consultations in order to deal with the matter in a constructive and pragmatic manner,' a government source said. The government would be prepared to begin talks within months. 'Any consultations will be between the International Law Division of the Hong Kong Department of Justice and the Australian Attorney-General's Department, who are the designated authorities for each party under the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders Agreement between the Hong Kong SAR and Australia,' a spokesman said.