JOURNALIST: Let's go to Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who joins us. Foreign Minister, good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure, thank you. Good morning.

JOURNALIST: How much trouble are they in?

JULIE BISHOP: This is another example of Australians travelling overseas and landing themselves in trouble with the laws of another country. They are facing certain charges and what might be seen as a foolish prank or Aussie blokey behaviour in Australia can be seen very differently in another country. As I constantly remind Australians travelling overseas, you are not subject to the laws of Australia; you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. There can be different customs and cultural sensitivities that also come into play.

JOURNALIST: It is a hell of a price to pay though for a lapse of judgment. I mean, realistically what do you think they are facing?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, I don't know that it will be seen as a lapse of judgment. It was clearly premeditated. They were wearing the budgie smugglers and had bought them in Australia. But there are a number of laws that could apply, but I don't want to pre-empt that. I believe the young men are receiving legal advice. The Australian Government can provide consular support, but, of course, as I constantly remind people, we can't bail you out if you get into trouble with the laws of another country and we can't interfere in the legal proceedings of another country any more than a foreign government could interfere in our legal proceedings. But these are young men who are facing the Malaysian legal proceedings and I do point out that at any one time we are supporting about 1300 Australians who are under arrest and about 350 who can be in jail overseas. So we do provide a lot of consular support, but the Australian Government cannot bail you out of these circumstances.

JOURNALIST: Some of these lads are pretty well connected. Do you know some of them?

JULIE BISHOP: Apparently I have met Christopher Pyne's staffer, but I have no recollection of that. But they are all equally culpable, if you like. There is a travel advice that we hope all Australians travelling overseas would read and our Smart Traveller advice for Malaysia points out there are conservative dress standards, there are cultural sensitivities, religious sensitivities and one must abide by the laws of the country you are visiting.

JOURNALIST - Have you spoken to Christopher about his staffer?

JULIE BISHOP: No I haven't

JOURNALIST: OK. Why not

JULIE BISHOP: No. I believe he is overseas.

JOURNALIST: OK. I know Aussie tourism is significant there as well, we send a lot of aid to Malaysia. Are there any manoeuvrings there that can help these guys out?

JULIE BISHOP: Certainly we are providing whatever consular support we can. We would be making representations to the Malaysian officials to ensure that the young men are receiving legal advice, that they are receiving a fair hearing, but there are limits to what we can do and as I say, we are dealing with about 15,000 consular cases a year. That's about 40 on average a day. So our time and resources and efforts are very much under pressure.

JOURNALIST: I know a lot of people find - look, I will be honest; I found it quite amusing when I first saw it. But it has to be balanced up and wedged against the fact you don't want these kids to be - well, not kids, but these young men to be in a Malaysian prison for something that is inherently just stupid.

JULIE BISHOP: Well, there's no excuse in saying this is just Aussie behaviour; this is just a prank that would be seen as a minor matter in Australia. You have to respect the laws of the country you are visiting. We're not subject to the laws of Australia and the laws of other countries can be very different and that's why I urge people to read the Smart Traveller advice so they understand the kind of behaviour that is expected of them when they are visiting another country.

JOURNALIST: Have you been in contact with your Malaysian counterparts?

JULIE BISHOP: No, I haven't. This is a matter for our consular people at this stage.

JOURNALIST: OK.

JULIE BISHOP: The young men are to face court and, of course, our High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur and our consular staff are working closely with them. But as I say, this is one of 15,000 cases that we handle every year.

JOURNALIST: Good to talk to you this morning, Foreign Minister. Appreciate it.

JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure, thank you.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555