Remarks on Australians detained in Iran, Senate Question Time

  • Transcript, E&OE
12 September 2019

SENATOR FAWCETT: Can the Minister please update the Senate on the matter of Australians who are detained in Iran?

PRESIDENT: The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne —

SENATOR PAYNE: Thank you very much, Mr President. I thank Senator Fawcett for his question. I can advise the Senate — and there has been media reporting on this matter, Mr President — that three Australians are being held in prison in Iran. This is a matter of deep concern to the Government, to me personally as Foreign Minister and, I note, to the people of Australia. They relate to two separate cases. One involves an Australian woman who has been detained for a number of months. The second concerns a young couple who have been detained now for a number of weeks.

Since they were detained, the Australian Government has been pressing the Iranian Government for their release. I have communicated with my Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Zarif, many times about these cases, including through face-to-face meetings. We met as recently as last week. I will maintain my practice of many years by keeping the contents of my discussions with Foreign Minister Zarif private, but I will say that a central topic of our meetings has been the three Australians. The families of two of the detained Australians have released a statement saying they hope to see their loved ones safely home as soon as possible. The families have no further comment at this time and ask that the media respects their privacy. I know I join others in this place in saying that we, too, hope a speedy return for these Australians from Iran.

PRESIDENT: Senator Fawcett, a supplementary question.

SENATOR FAWCETT: Thank you, Mr. President. Minister, could you update the Senate on what the Australian Government is doing to support these three Australians and their families?

PRESIDENT: Senator Payne.

SENATOR PAYNE: Thank you very much, Mr. President. I want to acknowledge those officials who have been working with me very hard behind the scenes to secure the release of these three Australians. The Government has been making efforts to ensure they are treated fairly, humanely and in accordance with international norms. We also continue to provide consular assistance to the three Australians’ families with whom we have maintained regular contact. On the basis of ongoing discussions, I continue to believe that the best chance of a successful outcome for these three Australians is with Iran through diplomatic channels and not through the media. We will always, always act in the best interests of the Australians and their families.

PRESIDENT: Senator Fawcett, a final supplementary question.

SENATOR FAWCETT: Thanks, Mr President. Could the Minister update the Senate on any other aspects of these cases?

PRESIDENT: Senator Payne.

SENATOR PAYNE: Thank you, Mr. President. DFAT officials have had several meetings with the Iranian Ambassador in Canberra. Our Embassy in Tehran has made repeated representations to very senior Iranian officials in Tehran. Given these conversations and the timing of the arrests, I can say these arrests do not relate to broader issues. We have no reason to think that these arrests are connected to international concern over Iran's nuclear program, United Nations sanctions or sanctions enforcement, or maritime security and the safety of civilian shipping. I would finally like to remind Australians of the importance of consulting the DFAT Smartraveller website. DFAT’s travel advice for Iran is ‘reconsider your need to travel’. The highest level of ‘do not travel’ applies in some parts of the country.

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