Press conference

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Qatari apology regarding events at Hamad International Airport; climate change; COVID-19 vaccine commitment in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.
31 October 2020

Marise Payne: Good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming to Parramatta for this brief media update. Australia wanted to update that we very much welcome the acknowledgement by the Government of Qatar in relation to the events that occurred in Hamad Airport recently. We welcome the investigative process they have undertaken. The acknowledgement of the incidents and the impact on the women involved, and particularly acknowledge the Government’s apology to the women involved, both those from Australia and of course from elsewhere. We understand that matters will be referred in the Qatari legal system to the public prosecution office, and we hope that that will be a transparent and appropriate and proportionate process in relation to this matter. We have had a very constructive engagement with the Government of Qatar on these horrific issues, which of course have caused so much distress to those involved. It is important that the legal processes be allowed to take their course in Qatar, and nevertheless we will remain in touch with the Government as this progresses. Thank you.

Journalist: So what does the Qatari announcement or the prosecutions really actually mean for the women who were [indistinct]?

Marise Payne: Well, it means that those officials and individuals who engaged in the events in Qatar from the Qatari side will be subject to the legal system of Qatar in relation to those actions.

Journalist: Do you know if anyone’s actually been charged, anyone’s been identified? And what are the charges exactly?

Marise Payne: Well, that is a matter for the Qatari legal system. I understand that they have identified those people who were involved, and that will take its appropriate course through the Qatari legal system. We are very grateful that the Qatari Government has taken these steps to identify the individuals involved, to apply the appropriate provisions of the Qatari legal system, and importantly to provide an assurance that this will never happen again. It is a very important international airport. It’s one I have used myself in the past. An important international airport, it is a very, very disturbing and indeed, as I said earlier in the week, offensive event to have happened to the people involved, and I am very grateful for the assurance that has been provided by the Qatari authorities that such an event would never happen again.

Journalist: Is an apology enough, or do you think the women should be compensated by Qatar?

Marise Payne: Well, I am very pleased to have seen an apology forthcoming from the Qatari Government and a sincere apology in relation to the distress caused to those involved. Any further recompense through Qatari processes would be a matter for that Government.

Journalist: How confident are you that anything is going to come out of this referral to the prosecution’s office? What happens if nothing comes out of it, and then we just don’t hear anything from the government?

Marise Payne: Well, there is a legal process in place, and that is part of the referral to the public prosecution office. I’m not able to comment in detail on the Qatari legal processes that underpin this, and I would rely on advice from, of course, our Ambassador in Doha, who has been very focused on dealing with the Qatari Government on these matters. But importantly, these steps have been taken: individuals have been identified, and [audio skip] the appropriate place in the Qatari legal system, and I want to acknowledge that action on behalf of the Qatari Government, and of course, as I said, also acknowledge the apology they have issued to the women involved.

Journalist: Do you know how many people have been identified?

Marise Payne: I don’t have those details. We have preliminary advice from the Qatari Government, and we are awaiting the full report that I referred to earlier in the week.

Journalist: Have you spoken to you counterpart in Qatar and if so what was discussed?

Marise Payne: I spoke with Foreign Minister Al Thani last night, and the Foreign Minister conveyed his sincere apology in relation to these matters, conveyed the assurances that they will be addressed through the Qatari legal system with the referral to the public prosecution office, and also provided a strong assurance that Qatar fully recognises the seriousness of these events and will ensure that they are never repeated.

Journalist: [Inaudible question]

Marise Payne: I understand that the child is well and has been appropriately looked after since the child was located and the events that took place at that time. I’m not going to provide any further comment on the situation of the mother. That is not something of which I have personal awareness and information and is a matter for the Qatari system.

Journalist: On another topic, the Natural Disaster Royal Commission says Australia’s [indistinct]… What’s your view on whether the Government needs to change its policy on carbon emissions to help deal with this problem?

Marise Payne: This is a very comprehensive report by the Royal Commission, and it is a report which I think will bear a great deal of consideration. I understand it contains many recommendations – I think, if I’m not mistaken, 80 recommendations. They will be considered appropriately by government, and I think appropriately by governments at all levels, and then a response will be made to the report.

Journalist: Given how some big companies in other nations are tackling carbon pollution, does Australia risk becoming an international [indistinct]…

Marise Payne: Australia has a very clear path on a number of aspects of these policy areas, including our technology pathway, which Minister Taylor identified just a matter of weeks ago. The efforts that we have made to meet our commitments, the commitment we have to our Paris Agreement targets, all of those are a part of Australia’s approach to this. Importantly though, we will not be raising taxes in the process of addressing these issues, and we’ll be making sure that we maintain our focus on Australian jobs as well.

Journalist: The report says more global warming is inevitable. How difficult is it to make policy to deal with this when some of your own government colleagues don’t believe in climate change?

Marise Payne: Well, we’ll deal with the report and the recommendations, as I said, through the appropriate processes of government.

Journalist: On the eve of the Queensland election, the Premier [indistinct]… what do you make of the timing [audio skip]?

Marise Payne: Well, I’m not sure the Premier has thrown open the borders to interstate travellers, because if you’re standing here with me in Parramatta, then you would not be eligible to travel to Queensland, because it’s part of Greater Sydney. So we hope to see, out of today’s election, Queensland return to the powerhouse that it has always been under the leadership of Deb Frecklington, who would certainly take the LNP into government in Queensland with a very positive agenda, looking forward and making sure that Queensland resumes its rightful place in Australia’s states and territories as a leader of small business, of tourism, all the things that Queensland is so well-known for, and I wish Deb Frecklington very well today.

Journalist: What assurances can you provide about Australia’s fuel security [indistinct]…

Marise Payne: I have seen those reports, and I understand we have expressed our great disappointment at the reported decision of BP to close the fuel refinery. I’m sure Minister Taylor will have more to say about that in due course.

If I may also say today on another matter, Australia has also made a very significant commitment in our region in relation to access to vaccines for COVID-19 in the Indo-Pacific, particularly focused on the Pacific and Timor-Leste and Southeast Asia, to ensure that those countries are able to participate to the fullest extent possible in the economic recovery that is absolutely essential in response to COVID-19. That will take access to vaccines, and Australia’s $500 million commitment today, announced by me, by Health Minister Greg Hunt, and Minister for International Development and the Pacific Alex Hawke, is about making sure our partnerships in the Pacific with our closest neighbours support them to engage fully in that economic recovery and ensure that they have the access they need and should have to vaccines when one becomes available. It will make a significant difference that they have the confidence, working together in the partnerships that we have with them to ensure their entire populations are affected and that we are also able to make a significant contribution to vaccine provision in Southeast Asia. It is $500 million over three years, and it is also going to make sure that their systems that have to be in place to administer such a comprehensive vaccine program are also in place. Part of our regional health security approach and a very important commitment for our neighbours in the Pacific. Thanks. That’s all good? Thanks very much.

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