A rather lengthy thread on EA's support forums suggests that Australian gamers trying to get some multiplayer Mass Effect action on over the holiday period have been met with outages or lost character equipment.
It's not entirely clear at this stage if it's an issue with ISP routing or something at EA's end; I've put a request through with EA for official comment on the case and will let you know when and if there's any statement made, but the best checking that players have done suggest that it's related to access to a US-based backbone provider, Level 3.
As with all the worst kinds of technical problems, it seems to be intermittent — some folk are having problems only at certain times of day, others only having problems with the online pass not verifying problem, while others seem to be connecting smoothly. Any Kotaku readers pining for some Mass Effect multiplayer experiencing this issue?
Thanks to David for the tip!