Doorstop interview, Spotless Stadium Sydney, Launch of Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Sports diplomacy, Mosul airstrikes, Hakeem Alaraibi, Syria withdrawal.
01 February 2019

MINISTER PAYNE: Well ladies and gentleman thanks very much for joiningmy friend and colleague Senator McKenzie for the launch of our SportsDiplomacy 2030 strategy.

We've had record attendance and support from sporting codesin Australia at the highest levels and I think that speaks volumes about thepower of sport and the power of sports diplomacy. It'swork which we havebeen engaged in personally and directly and one of which we are very proud. Iknow from my job that sports changes lives, it changes lives in our region, itchanges lives internationally and more broadly. This diplomacy strategy setsout some very key steps for Australia's engagement in that regard.

I'd love to ask the Sports Minister to say a few words aswell and then we'd be happy to answer a few questions as well.

MINISTER MCKENZIE: Well thanks, Marise. It's been absolutely fantastic to workwith you on the development of our new Sports Diplomacy Strategy, taking whatwe do really well as a nation naturally, it's part of our DNA. We are good oncourt, in the pool, on the field and we are also good at this in a businesssense and you have seen the great success of the Australian Open recentlyeconomically. And it is time really to take that expertise and that passionthat we as a nation have and use that power for assistance right across ourregion. We can assist to achieve development goals through the power of sportand we can assist to build strong relationships and ties because sport is aunifying language and it is also a common language. Particularly to be here inSydney with the Rugby 7s being played, which I hope we win, but I know Fijiwill be doing its very best to make sure we don't, to see the role that sporthas been able to play most recently in the empowerment of young women andgirls, not only in our own nation but across the region. So we are lookingforward to developing this and partnering with sport and other nations tofurther our diplomatic goals.

MINISTER PAYNE: And we congratulate the Australian women's team on their winalready today and look forward to seeing more over the weekend.

JOURNALIST: Minister, as the former Defence Minister, what is yourreaction to hearing of these civilian deaths, the revelation that theyaccidently killed up to 18 civilians in Mosul?

MINISTER PAYNE: I understand this relates to events of 2017, anextraordinarily difficult period in the efforts to free Mosul from the throesof one of the most appalling violent extremist terrorists organisations theworld have seen, ISIL. Without a doubt those efforts were very significantdegrees of conflict, it was a war zone. It is always unfortunate when there aredeaths of this nature in a warzone. And over time Australia has worked withauthorities to ensure that we are transparent, that we have engaged withappropriate inquiries to examine when events such as this happen.

JOURNALIST: When did you find out about [indistinct]

MINISTER PAYNE: Well I'm not going to go into the detail about intelligencebriefings that I may have received over time as you would understand, but ofcourse I have seen recent reports.

JOURNALIST: Do you think families affected by this should be given somesort of compensation?

MINISTER PAYNE: There is a system, a well established system, in place forapplications of that nature managed through the processes of the InternationalCoalition and I'm sure that if those applications are made they will be dealtwith appropriately.

JOURNALIST: Just on another topic, of course [indistinct] publicity ofHakeem Alaraibi and his detention in Bangkok, do you have any update on how theefforts to get him released are going?

MINISTER PAYNE: We are, as I have said on the record previously, extremelyconcerned about the detention of Hakeem Alaraibi in a Thai prison. We havecalled on the Thai government, and I have been to Bangkok and met with mycounterpart, and with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice, toreinforce just how seriously Australia takes this matter and how important thismatter is to Australia.

We continue to press the Thai authorities on those issues toassure them not only of our concern, but of the concern of the broaderinternational community and most certainly of course the broader internationalfootball community.

I regularly seek updates from my staff on the ground as partof the Bangkok Post and I will be expecting a report for the end of the week.

JOURNALIST: Do you think we are any closer to securing Hakeem's release,obviously that February 8deadline is fast approaching, timeis running out?

MINISTER PAYNE: Well as you would appreciate we are dealing with Thai legalprocesses and I respect the Thai legal processes that are in place. But we doknow that there is the possibility of releasing Mr Alaraibi and allowing him toreturn home to Australia and to his wife and I would very much hope that ourwork with the Thai authorities has drawn their attention to this and we willcontinue to raise our concerns.

JOURNALIST: Will Australia be part of a US coalition of allies workingin a buffer zone in northern Syria?

MINISTER PAYNE: I returned from Washington this morning and of course tookpart in a number of meetings with my counterparts in the United States. Plansare still being developed, as I'm sure you would realise, for their own actionsand activities in Syria and elsewhere. We will continue to have thosediscussions.

JOURNALIST: I've just been reading that Mike Pompeo says he is going tobe calling Foreign Ministers over to the US for a meeting next week. That wasin the Wall Street Journal. Are you aware of that and has Australia beeninvited.

MINISTER PAYNE: There is a meeting in the United States next week, which theSecretary of State is hosting. Having left Washington myself last night, I'mnot able to attend next week's meeting because I'm committed to openingAustralia's new post in Tuvalu, which is a landmark opening of a new Pacificpost. But Australia will be represented at very senior levels by a Deputy Secretaryof my department.

JOURNALIST: So do we know who will be representing you, given you can'tattend.

MINISTER PAYNE: A Deputy Secretary of my Department.

[ENDS]

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