MINISTER PAYNE: Well ladies and gentleman thanks very much for joining my friend and colleague Senator McKenzie for the launch of our Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy.
We’ve had record attendance and support from sporting codes in Australia at the highest levels and I think that speaks volumes about the power of sport and the power of sports diplomacy. It’swork which we have been engaged in personally and directly and one of which we are very proud. I know from my job that sports changes lives, it changes lives in our region, it changes lives internationally and more broadly. This diplomacy strategy sets out some very key steps for Australia’s engagement in that regard.
I’d love to ask the Sports Minister to say a few words as well and then we’d be happy to answer a few questions as well.
MINISTER MCKENZIE: Well thanks, Marise. It’s been absolutely fantastic to work with you on the development of our new Sports Diplomacy Strategy, taking what we do really well as a nation naturally, it’s part of our DNA. We are good on court, in the pool, on the field and we are also good at this in a business sense and you have seen the great success of the Australian Open recently economically. And it is time really to take that expertise and that passion that we as a nation have and use that power for assistance right across our region. We can assist to achieve development goals through the power of sport and we can assist to build strong relationships and ties because sport is a unifying language and it is also a common language. Particularly to be here in Sydney with the Rugby 7s being played, which I hope we win, but I know Fiji will be doing its very best to make sure we don’t, to see the role that sport has been able to play most recently in the empowerment of young women and girls, not only in our own nation but across the region. So we are looking forward to developing this and partnering with sport and other nations to further our diplomatic goals.
MINISTER PAYNE: And we congratulate the Australian women’s team on their win already today and look forward to seeing more over the weekend.
JOURNALIST: Minister, as the former Defence Minister, what is your reaction to hearing of these civilian deaths, the revelation that they accidently killed up to 18 civilians in Mosul?
MINISTER PAYNE: I understand this relates to events of 2017, an extraordinarily difficult period in the efforts to free Mosul from the throes of one of the most appalling violent extremist terrorists organisations the world have seen, ISIL. Without a doubt those efforts were very significant degrees of conflict, it was a war zone. It is always unfortunate when there are deaths of this nature in a warzone. And over time Australia has worked with authorities to ensure that we are transparent, that we have engaged with appropriate inquiries to examine when events such as this happen.
JOURNALIST: When did you find out about [indistinct]
MINISTER PAYNE: Well I’m not going to go into the detail about intelligence briefings that I may have received over time as you would understand, but of course I have seen recent reports.
JOURNALIST: Do you think families affected by this should be given some sort of compensation?
MINISTER PAYNE: There is a system, a well established system, in place for applications of that nature managed through the processes of the International Coalition and I’m sure that if those applications are made they will be dealt with appropriately.
JOURNALIST: Just on another topic, of course [indistinct] publicity of Hakeem Alaraibi and his detention in Bangkok, do you have any update on how the efforts to get him released are going?
MINISTER PAYNE: We are, as I have said on the record previously, extremely concerned about the detention of Hakeem Alaraibi in a Thai prison. We have called on the Thai government, and I have been to Bangkok and met with my counterpart, and with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Justice, to reinforce just how seriously Australia takes this matter and how important this matter is to Australia.
We continue to press the Thai authorities on those issues to assure them not only of our concern, but of the concern of the broader international community and most certainly of course the broader international football community.
I regularly seek updates from my staff on the ground as part of the Bangkok Post and I will be expecting a report for the end of the week.
JOURNALIST: Do you think we are any closer to securing Hakeem’s release, obviously that February 8deadline is fast approaching, time is running out?
MINISTER PAYNE: Well as you would appreciate we are dealing with Thai legal processes and I respect the Thai legal processes that are in place. But we do know that there is the possibility of releasing Mr Alaraibi and allowing him to return home to Australia and to his wife and I would very much hope that our work with the Thai authorities has drawn their attention to this and we will continue to raise our concerns.
JOURNALIST: Will Australia be part of a US coalition of allies working in a buffer zone in northern Syria?
MINISTER PAYNE: I returned from Washington this morning and of course took part in a number of meetings with my counterparts in the United States. Plans are still being developed, as I’m sure you would realise, for their own actions and activities in Syria and elsewhere. We will continue to have those discussions.
JOURNALIST: I’ve just been reading that Mike Pompeo says he is going to be calling Foreign Ministers over to the US for a meeting next week. That was in the Wall Street Journal. Are you aware of that and has Australia been invited.
MINISTER PAYNE: There is a meeting in the United States next week, which the Secretary of State is hosting. Having left Washington myself last night, I’m not able to attend next week’s meeting because I’m committed to opening Australia’s new post in Tuvalu, which is a landmark opening of a new Pacific post. But Australia will be represented at very senior levels by a Deputy Secretary of my department.
JOURNALIST: So do we know who will be representing you, given you can’t attend.
MINISTER PAYNE: A Deputy Secretary of my Department.
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