Launch of the Australia-Pacific Olympic and Paralympic Partnership

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: PacificAus Sports Partnership; Tokyo2020; Sean Turnell, locally engaged Afghanis.
08 June 2021

Marise Payne: Good morning. I am very excited about our PacificAus Sports initiative. It sends a very powerful message about the partnerships between Australia and the Pacific. I think you can see in the three athletes who are here today from Papua New Guinea, from Fiji and from Tonga, their excitement at what it means for them to assist their participation in the Tokyo Olympics. It's been – I don't think you could describe an Olympic preparation in your wildest dreams, it could be as difficult as this. So for these young people who are going to be able to go to Tokyo as part of their national teams, but with this PacificAus Sports support, I think it's a very powerful message. One of the things that I've seen, and I know Zed is very focussed on, is how strongly those bonds of sport are forged between our countries. Doesn't matter what game it is, doesn't matter what sport it is. You're a Wallaroo like Sera Naiqama, our emcee today; you are Tonga’s flag carrier at two Olympics; you are a Paralympian amputee athlete; you are a Papua New Guinean long jumper. To be able to do that for your country, no greater pride. And I'm really thrilled that we've been able to support them and 165 other athletes around the Pacific. Zed.

Zed Seselja: Yeah, look, thank you Marise. It's, you know, we often say that this is our family, as Peter put it so well. We are one. And when we look to our Pacific friends and family, we look at how we can work together, how we can assist. And we all know that the Pacific is absolutely bursting with sporting talent. There is, across so many, such a wide variety of sports. And to be able to assist in this meaningful way so that individual athletes can realise their dreams, I think is extraordinary. But I think it's also, it’s not just about those individual athletes. It is also about what they represent, who they represent and their nations and the pride that they take in seeing some of their absolutely most outstanding athletes have the opportunity to compete on the world stage. So it's great we can do this together. It's part of a range of partnerships, not just in sports, but well beyond that. But sport is one of the really important things that binds us together with our Pacific family. So it's- these are fun events. These are fantastic events. And we're all looking forward to the Olympics and the Paralympics and seeing some extraordinary performances.

Journalist: Minister Payne, just on some other issues. The Australian academic, Sean Turnell-

Marise Payne: [Interrupts] No questions on the Pacific?

Journalist: There may be, but just on some other issues. The Australian academic Sean Turnell is facing criminal charges in Myanmar and he's listed to appear at the Supreme Court without legal representation. Does the Australian Government have any concerns about that case?

Marise Payne: Well, we do have concerns which we expressed consistently since Professor Turnell was detained. We've been very clear that we are not apprised of charges. We're not apprised of the details of the case against him and we have called for his release consistently in the months since his detention. We have acknowledged the consular access that we have been able to receive during that time and also some contact with his family. But overall, we have indicated very clearly that we would wish to see him released.

Journalist: Senator Payne, on Afghanistan - Australian interpreters we've heard are literally on a kill list now. What's the Australian Government doing to get them here? And are we giving enough sense of urgency to the matter?

Marise Payne: Well, this has been a priority for Australia for many years. And in fact, over 1000, I think locally engaged Afghanis have come to Australia in the years since we have been engaged. It's something that I spoke about when I was in Kabul last month. And both Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a role in certifying the applications and Home Affairs issues the visas. We are keen to support those, all those who are eligible to come to Australia, and that is an absolute priority.

Journalist: So what are you doing to try to fast track the process?

Marise Payne: There's a number of visa applications already granted. There's a number of applications underway. And then there are families who, of course, will make their own decisions about whether they wish to apply and we will support them through that process.

Journalist: Senator Payne, is the Government doing anything about relocating the family of the Tamil girl who's been deported off Christmas Island for medical help?

Marise Payne: I understand our priority is her health care and her health support and that she has been transported for that health support.

Journalist: But don't you think she should be with her family? She's only eight years old.

Marise Payne: Well, I understand that she has been provided with appropriate support.

Journalist: Can I just ask you a question about the Olympics? The Australian Olympians who are going to Japan, all - or mostly at least - will have had two vaccines on board by the time they return. Will, they have to go through the normal quarantine process. Or would there be any other sort of situation set up for them?

Marise Payne: My understanding is that the normal quarantine process will apply.

Thank you.

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