Press conference, Mural Hall, Parliament

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Incident at the Doha International Airport.
26 October 2020

Marise Payne: Good morning. As you know from the statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday, Australia has taken this occurrence extremely seriously. We’ve taken it up directly with Qatari authorities. We have been liaising with both Qatari authorities here in Australia and in Doha. We’re awaiting the imminent outcome of a report from the Qatari authorities. I understand enquiries are still taking place with those people affected by this occurrence and we also understand that the matter has been reported to the Australian Federal Police. That matter is - further on that - is a matter for the Australian Federal Police. This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events. It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context. We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter.

Journalist: Other than expressing outrage, what is it you want to see from the Qataris? Recompense, an apology? What is it?

Marise Payne: Well I certainly want to see the report. I want to see the report of what occurred at the airport. I understand that the Qatari authorities intend to make that available and then once I have seen that, we will determine next steps. It has been taken up directly with the ambassador here and, of course, directly with authorities in Doha, as I said.

Journalist: Do you plan to have further discussions with the Ambassador to bring him into Parliament House, into Canberra, talk to him about this issue? What is it you want to see from them specifically? And on a separate matter, have you reached out to the women involved, individually?

Marise Payne: I want to see the report, as I just said to Phil. I want to see the report from the Qatari authorities. We have the information from those people concerned who were part of this process, to whom this event occurred. They are still making information available on it, as I understand it. Enquiries are still underway is my point there. And then we will determine next steps.

Journalist: Minister, in your statement you said that, in your very carefully worded statement, you said that women were subject to circumstances- beyond circumstances in which free and informed consent could have been given. Are you suggesting that the women were sexually assaulted?

Marise Payne: No, Andrew, I am not suggesting that, because I have not seen the detailed report of the events.

Journalist: You talked of consent.

Marise Payne: But in terms of consent to a physical examination by medical professionals, that does raise significant concerns, yes.

Journalist: Have you been in contact with the Australians involved and how are they coping?

Marise Payne: Appropriate officials have been in contact with the Australians involved, including health officials. As you would appreciate, they have been in quarantine for a period since their return now, on that flight. They have been provided with appropriate support through the health process during that period.

Journalist: Was the Australian diplomat involved in this from our embassy in Doha and what action did she take at that moment?

Marise Payne: I’m not going to make any comment about individuals. As you would understand, it’s a very small group of people and I don’t intend to make any comment about individuals that may lead to their personal identification. These are very private and personal matters and we will deal with them appropriately with the individuals involved to provide support.

Journalist: Without identifying that person, what action did that diplomat take in that moment?

Marise Payne: I’m going to wait for the report to be made available to me which I understand is coming from Qatari authorities and we, of course, have reports from individuals on the plane and we will deal with those once we’ve received the report.

Journalist: Qatar Airlines is one of the few airlines flying back to Australia at the moment. Do you believe it is safe for Australians to transit through that airport?

Marise Payne: This is, as I said, an extraordinary incident. I have never heard of anything occurring like this in my life. Yes, the Qatar Airport, the airport at Doha – I have used myself on many occasions – is obviously a large international airport. I think we have made our concerns very clear to the Qatari authorities at this point, pending the arrival of the availability of their report, and I would to be confident that they are very well aware of our views of this matter and I don’t expect to see a recurrence.

Journalist: Have you had an update on Kylie Moore-Gilbert? She’s apparently been moved out of prison, the Qarchak prison.

Marise Payne: The Ambassador had a consular visit with Dr Moore-Gilbert a short time ago. The reports that we have seen are ones which we are seeking further information on.

Journalist: Where did she meet her? Where did he meet her? Where did – sorry – where did she meet her?

Marise Payne: Thank you, Stephen, yes, Her Excellency met her in the detention centre in which she was then detained in Qarchak.

Journalist: Minister, on the Qatar incident, what was the age range of the women involved and are they receiving ongoing counselling?

Marise Payne: As I said, they have been in receipt of professional health support, including mental health support, if that is required. I am not at liberty to disclose the age range and I am confident they will receive appropriate support if that is required.

Journalist: Do the AFP have jurisdiction to investigate a possible crime committed in Doha?

Marise Payne: I’m not going to comment on the AFP’s jurisdiction. You would understand that. 

Journalist: What are they investigating?

Marise Payne: I said that a matter has been reported to the AFP. Any further comment on that is a matter for the AFP.

Journalist: Why would DFAT refer the matter to AFP?

Marise Payne: I'm not sure what the actual line referral process was. But most certainly the matter was officially reported to the AFP.

Journalist: I may have missed this but when is the report coming? When are you getting this report?

Marise Payne: I understand it to be imminent, Michelle. I don’t have a specific date, but it is something the Qatari Government has indicated they will provide to Australia imminently.

Journalist: So in the next couple of days?

Marise Payne: I would hope to receive it this week.

Journalist: Do you suspect, Minister, prima facie, do you suspect on a prima facie basis, that Qatari law has been breached?

Marise Payne: I’m not going to speculate, as you wouldn’t expect me to, Phil, on potential breaches of the law and that is why we need to see the report.

Journalist: Minister, how did the Australian Government first become aware of the incident?

Marise Payne: I understand it was raised with us by passengers on the flight.

Journalist: And how long ago?

Marise Payne: At the time of the flight.

Thank you very much. I’m going back to Estimates where I need to be. Thank you.

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