Interview with Jim Wilson, 2GB Drive
Jim Wilson: Released Australian hostage Kylie Moore-Gilbert says she has nothing but love for the people of Iran after the regime finally released Dr Moore-Gilbert in a prisoner swap. She’s now heading back to Australia. The Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, says she’d been working behind the scenes for some time to secure Kylie’s release, and the Minister is on the line this afternoon, Minister welcome back to Drive.
Marise Payne: Good afternoon Jim.
Jim Wilson: Huge relief, and I know you’ve played a major part in this, and so congratulations.
Marise Payne: Enormously relieved, Jim. And I appreciate those words for the very many people who’ve been working to secure Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s release for over two years now.
Jim Wilson: Have you spoken to Kylie and her family? And what’s been their reaction?
I spoke to Kylie very early this morning – Australian time – and she was I would have to say remarkably positive, and a very pleased young Australian woman. So relieved at leaving that detention facility and to be returning to Australia. Our senior consular officials have spoken to her family, I’ve given them some time today to absorb this news, but we have met and spoken before so I look forward to talking to them at an appropriate time.
Jim Wilson: Okay, so Kylie has left Iran, when is she due back in Australia?
Marise Payne: Jim, it’s a complex travel process, of course. And we are very much respecting the privacy of her arrangements and the plans that she’s involved in. But I can assure your listeners that she will have to go through the quarantine process, but she won't be doing that alone. We'll make sure she's well supported, and is able to just adjust, I think, after so long in detention to life back in Australia and reuniting with her family in due course.
Jim Wilson: But we can confirm she has left Iran?
Marise Payne: Yes.
Jim Wilson: Okay. Can you share any details, Minister, about how the negotiations went and why they were eventually successful after a two year period?
Marise Payne: These are very complex cases, every single one of them. I said earlier today, we have over 200 Australians who are in prison globally for a whole range of reasons and a small number of them, like Kylie Moore-Gilbert, we believe to be arbitrarily detained on charges which we do not accept. So managing those cases is very, very sensitive and occasionally a very difficult process. But our officials and I and other government members engaging on this have been working consistently with the support of Kylie’s family to endeavour to secure her release. Every day is one which you like to see a step forward, but it doesn't always happen. So we grab the positives and we continue to move forward. And ultimately, with an outcome like today, it is an enormous relief.
Jim Wilson: So, there’s obviously been a trade-off, can you confirm these details that three Iranians in Thailand have been released and there’s also been reports that they have got- they in fact might have been bomb makers. It’s a bit of a double edged sword, this.
Marise Payne: Well, I’m not going to comment on arrangements that other governments might have made. All the diplomatic discussions that we have with other governments, I can say that a lot of work has gone on amongst senior officials and governments because of the complexity and the sensitivity of these issues. They are never simple, they are most certainly not straightforward, and importantly we have been able to achieve an outcome which has seen Kylie able to come home.
Jim Wilson: And I think the overall sense amongst our listeners will be one of relief and very happy for Kylie’s family, and for Kylie obviously, but the trade-off does raise some concerns.
Marise Payne: Well, we would absolutely be clear that we would never compromise Australia's national interests and the protection of Australian citizens in this process, that the sensitivities around these issues - no matter where they occur and they do have to occur from time to time - is such that countries will make their own decisions about what they do. Australia makes our own in our national interest and then in the interests of our citizens. And in this case, Dr Moore-Gilbert’s interests.
Jim Wilson: A couple other things before I let you go, Minister, and we appreciate your time on a very, very busy day, about 35,000 Australians are trying to get home from abroad, 8,000 are considered vulnerable, can you confirm if they’ll be home for Christmas?
Marise Payne: We are working very hard to get as many Australians as we possibly can home before Christmas. Since the prime minister spoke about this some time ago on 18 September, almost 36,000 Australians have returned. Around 14,000 of those are registered with DFAT, and that includes 3000 vulnerable Australians. Of course, that number does change. It actually goes up and down to be honest, because some people change their arrangements and wish to adjust their travel time or don't wish to come home. So we are doing everything we can to bring as many Australians as possible back. We are organising facilitated commercial flights from Europe and from India. Seven of those have already arrived in Darwin and Perth. We have a flight arriving in Canberra today from Singapore, another flight from Delhi in Darwin on Saturday, and a flight from London on Monday, using quarantine that is available to the maximum level possible. So we've obviously had to adjust that for recent events in South Australia. But we have also seen other states and territories add some more numbers to their quarantine space. So we’re using as many of those as we possibly can.
Jim Wilson: How about the relationship with China, any updates when these 50 Australian coal ships held up at Chinese ports will be allowed to dock and unload?
Marise Payne: Jim, we are very concerned about the export issues. And I know that the Trade Minister has spoken on 2GB about that from time to time. They are issues which we are working closely with the Chinese agencies and authorities, and with industry here, making sure that we are doing everything we can do from the Australian side to facilitate the movement of those goods. That includes the coal vessels, and other products, of course, which we've heard reported as suffering delays. From Australia's part we will do everything we can to identify what issues are held out by China as being problematic, and to address those, that's what industry is also doing. And we encourage China very strongly to operate inside the world trade obligations that they are a signatory to, and to work with, you know, as they say they do. And they do say at the highest levels of their leadership that they are observing those trade obligations, those open market obligations.
Jim Wilson: We spoke last week on the program, about the Australian sports medals to our Invictus team for 2018, an inspiring performance by athletes in Sydney. They were promised these medals two years ago, Minister, and are still waiting for them, you told me you were on the case, have you got any updates?
Marise Payne: Well, I’ve certainly made very clear my view to your counterparts. I don't have a specific update for you this week, Jim. But I'm very conscious you're not going to let me forget this particular matter, so I will continue to pursue it for you.
Jim Wilson: No. Thank you, and I know you’re on board with this, and you were in 2018, and I know you're passionate about our veterans and about the Invictus athletes. I just- as I said, there was bipartisan support, they were promised it two years ago and they're still waiting for these Australian sports medals. I just want it to happen.
Marise Payne: I know you do, and it would be a very good outcome, so we’ll continue to pursue that.
Jim Wilson: Thank you for your time this afternoon, Minister.
Marise Payne: Thanks Jim.
Jim Wilson: That’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne.