Doorstop interview, Martin Place, Sydney

  • Transcript, E&OE
02 February 2015

JULIE BISHOP: I'm here in Martin Place with [Defence Minister] Kevin Andrews and our British counterparts, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. We will be laying a wreath at the Cenotaph here in Martin Place - notwithstanding the weather - in commemoration of the centenary of World War I and our shared sacrifice. Then we will be joined by Premier Mike Baird and we will proceed to the Lindt Cafe here in Martin Place to sign the condolence book and to pay our respects to the hostage victims in the December Martin Place siege.

But I'm here this morning to announce that Australian journalist Peter Greste has been released unconditionally from jail in Cairo and he has departed from Egypt. He was escorted by Australian consular officials and at the airport he was with his brother Michael and Australia's Ambassador to Egypt Dr Ralph King. I spoke to Peter Greste shortly after his release and before he departed Egypt. He was immensely relieved and he was desperate to come home to Australia and reunite with his family, his parents Lois and Juris, and his brothers Michael - who is with him - and his other brother Andrew.

He expressed his heartfelt thanks for the support that he has received here in Australia during this ordeal. He thanked the Australian Government, the public of Australia and particularly the journalists who had rallied to his cause and he told me that it had sustained him through the very long time that he spent in jail - over 12 months. He is now in Cyprus. He has been met by Australian consular officials there and will then make his way home to Australia to be with his family and friends once more.

On behalf of the Australian Government, I would like to thank our consular staff who have demonstrated throughout the very high level of service that Australia is able to provide to its citizens who are in trouble overseas. I also particularly want to thank a number of other Governments around the world who supported his cause and, at our request, made representation on Peter Greste's behalf to the Egyptian Government.

I personally spoke with the Foreign Minister, Shoukry, and made a number of representations, orally and in writing. Prime Minister Abbott spoke to President al-Sisi. We had had many other Governments, including in the region, make representations on Mr Greste's behalf. I particularly mention the Government of Latvia, given Peter's family background, the Latvian Government were also of great assistance. So it is with great relief that I can confirm that Peter Greste is on his way home.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

JULIE BISHOP: Yes, Tony Abbott does have my support. He will be giving a significant speech today at the National Press Club. Last night we had a very congenial meeting with our British counterparts who are here for the annual Ministerial meeting between the United Kingdom and Australia. He hosted dinner with our friends from the United Kingdom and it was a very congenial and productive meeting. Today he will outline a strategic direction for us in the lead up to the next election.

JOURNALIST: Do you have details about Peter Greste's movements, when he'll arrive back in Australia?

JULIE BISHOP: I'll leave that to Peter's family but Peter does need a little time to adjust. He was somewhat bewildered, he was only given short notice by Egyptian authorities that he was to be released unconditionally. We moved as fast as we could to collect him from the prison and escort him to the airport and made arrangements for his immediate departure. He will make his way home, in his own time. I think he wants a little bit of rest and recreation, but he also wants to be reunited with his family and friends as soon as possible.

JOURNALIST: Two of his colleagues are still believed to be in jail. Are you fighting for their release as well?

JULIE BISHOP: We don't have any specific information about the other journalists detained, but I know the Canadian Foreign Minister will continue to make representations and Australia will follow their fate with considerable interest as well.

JOURNALIST Do you have any idea when he'll be back on Australian soil?

JULIE BISHOP: That's a matter for the Greste family, but I'm sure he'll want to be home as soon as possible. From my discussion with him, he was very keen to be back on a beach and lying in the sun in Australia. I'll allow the Greste family to provide those details, should they wish.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

JULIE BISHOP: It has been a very long ordeal for him. Australia has been at the forefront of calling for his release. We have worked very hard behind the scenes, working directly with the Egyptian Government and as I've indicated, with many other Governments around the world. We haven't stopped in working as hard as we can to ensure his release, so I am personally very relieved and delighted that Peter Greste is finally on his way home. Thank you.

- Ends -

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