Source: Prime Minister of Australia
Allison Langdon: Prime Minister, thank you so much for your time. I know there has been so much hard work taking place behind the scenes for a very long time. You must be relieved this morning?
Prime Minister: Thrilled and relieved, prayers answered and amazing work done by our consular teams and officials to secure Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s release. She is coming home. We got the confirmation last night and I was able to speak to her this morning. She is obviously thrilled, but still processing what has been a horrible ordeal. She had been sentenced to 10 years in this prison. A conviction that we always completely rejected. She was detained frankly not long after I became – about the time I became Prime Minister. So, this has been an enduring and high priority case for us for many years, and Minister Marise Payne has done an extraordinary job as Foreign Minister in leading this process, and we are just so happy that Kylie is coming home, and I’m sure her family feels the same way. They have asked for privacy, obviously, and I’m sure everybody will respect that. She will have a lot of adjustment to go through when she comes home. She is an extraordinary, strong and courageous and intelligent person. That’s enabled her to get through this awful ordeal. But it will be quite an adjustment when she gets home.
Karl Stefanovic: Can you give us an idea, take us inside that phone call, PM, on what her mood was like, the kind of things that she was saying, because we haven’t heard anything from her. Just give us an idea on what it was like?
Prime Minister: Look, she is still processing, but I’ve got to say the sound of her voice and the tone of her voice was very uplifting, particularly given what she has been through. She is obviously still taking it all in, as you’d would expect. I mean, there she was on her way back to Australia, in the care of our officials, and we are bringing her home. But there was a deep gratitude on her part, not just obviously to those who helped secure her release, but also just the support she knows was there, which was conveyed to her through our Ambassador Sachs there in Tehran, of all Australians support, and so she is grateful for that and she has issued a statement this morning to that effect and that she holds nothing against the people of Iran or anything like that and there were mixed feelings about that. She obviously loves the people of Iran, but she loves Australia and we love her and we can’t wait to see her back here.
Langdon: I mean, she sounds like an incredibly strong woman, to know that these allegations of psychological torture what she’s gone through. In relation to this prisoner swap, are they convicted terrorists?
Prime Minister: Again, I don’t go into any of those details, confirm them one way or the other. The way we are able to be successful in these arrangements is we deal with them discreetly but I can assure Australians that we would never do anything to prejudice the safety of Australians. Any suggestion that there has been prisoners released in Australia or anything like that is completely false. But I would urge those that – you know, we have to deal with these matters sensitively, because sadly I suspect this – and there are many other cases around the world, our officials need to be able to get on and do their job to secure the release of Australians in these situations. So, this is as much – my discretion on this is as much for the safety of other Australians who could find themselves in this situation as it is to protect the arrangements that have secured her release.
Stefanovic: I get all of that, but I think also, PM, and look you are the man to make those calls, but I think Australians probably will want to know if we have done a prisoner swap and we have released actual terrorists?
Prime Minister: Well, I just said that there has been no-one released in Australia –
Stefanovic: But overseas, if terrorists have been released?
Prime Minister: Again, Karl, I’m not going to go into it because it is my job to protect the safety of Australians, and I can assure you that’s exactly what we have done, and a big part of that has been securing Kylie’s release. She was going to spend 10 years in that prison, Karl, 10 years. And that has been a key focus of ours for every single day of my Prime Ministership until now. So when I got that news last night, I couldn’t tell you – I said before I believe in miracles. I tell you what, just got another one.
Stefanovic: It is really emotional for you. I mean I know DFAT has been plugging away tirelessly for this and when you say that, that level of feeling that you have for this woman, why? Why do you feel it so keenly?
Prime Minister: I feel that about any Australian who finds themselves in these awful and unfair and unjust situations. We have secured the release of other Australians, just by working the process patiently and consistently. The skill and experience of the people who have been involved in working through these issues is extraordinary, but a caution to Australians. Be careful when you are travelling. Follow the travel advice. That’s why it is so important. But Kylie’s situation, she was there working as an academic. She is an incredibly talented person. And I look forward to the great contribution no doubt she’s going to make when she returns to Australia again and she adjusts back to life here. But, you know, the world is a dangerous place, and sometimes – we are very adventurous, Australians. We like to go out and see the world and try new things and explore new horizons. That’s great, it is who we are. But we have also got to be aware that, you know, not everybody feels the same way, and, about freedom and liberty, and I’m just – I couldn’t be happier that Marise has led such a great effort to get Kylie home.
Langdon: So when will she actually touch down in Australia and what happens then? Will she be able to see her family immediately or will she need to go into two weeks quarantine?
Prime Minister: Well, the family have also asked for privacy about all of these arrangements so I’m going to respect that. Obviously, she is being brought back to Australia by the Australian Government, and she would go through the normal health and other checks and processes that you would expect under these arrangements, not just her physical health, but also her mental health, and go through a debriefing process, and help her to make this adjustment, not just because of the arrangements regarding COVID. She has been in Iran, obviously, in an Iranian prison, which is not exactly – it is not a safe, healthy zone by any stretch of the imagination. All of those health issues will be managed in the way we always will.
Stefanovic: I can’t imagine the psychological trauma she has to work through and with the best of care try and work through. I know that she has to go through the real processes, and try and get herself better but it’s going to take some time, isn’t it?
Prime Minister: It certainly is.
Stefanovic: Look on another- Sorry, go on.
Prime Minister: It certainly is. I mean, and that’s why talking to her, the sound of her voice, being so normal was so encouraging. But a long way to go, no doubt.
Stefanovic: Just quickly, another couple of matters if we can.
Prime Minister: Sure.
Stefanovic: While we have you, 53 ships, $700 million worth of coal being held off China. What are we doing about this? It has moved to coal?
Prime Minister: We will keep working those issues one at a time. I’ve made it very clear that Australia makes decisions about our policies and our national interests, in no-one elses, and we will obviously always continue to do that, but we will work through these issues with respect with the Chinese Government, as we are doing. There are obviously tensions there. But those tensions aren’t resolved by Australia surrendering its sovereignty. People are aware of the issues that have been raised. We have discussed them before. And these matters go to the heart of who we are as Australians, and so we will respect others sovereignty, and we expect nothing else in return other than ours also be respected, as an individual sovereign state, who sets our laws about how we run Australia, here in Australia, consistent with our interests, not at the bequest or at the pressure of any other country.
Langdon: The issue you have got about all those ships in Chinese waters is something like 1,000 people on those ships. What are we doing to help them?
Prime Minister: Again, this is why we just work through the process through with the Chinese Government to get the best possible outcome we can. These are not easy issues. I think your viewers would understand that. It is incredibly complicated what we are dealing with here and we have the best people working on these issues. Just in the same way, we have amazing consular people who have been working on the case of Dr Moore-Gilbert. Equally our trade officials and others are very experienced in handling these matters, but this is an extraordinary period of time in the relationship, and we are very clear about what we want to achieve here, guys. What we want to achieve is this – of course we want a happy co-existence and positive relationship with China. They are our single largest trading partner. There’s massive people to people relationships and we share an interest both being in the Indo-Pacific region. But we also have a wonderful alliance with the United States and a friendship with them as like-minded countries with a similar outlook with Liberal democratic values and then we have our core national interests as well. And we want to see all those managed together. That’s not simple, but simple things are not the only issues we deal with as a government. We deal with very complicated and difficult issues, which this is one of, but we are very keen to ensure we get the best outcome for Australia and in the best interests of our relationship.
Stefanovic: Prime Minister, very well done on the release of Kylie Moore-Gilbert. That’s incredible work by yourself and DFAT. That needs to be said. She’s coming home and that’s great news, well done. Thank you for your time today.
Langdon: Thanks Prime Minister.
Prime Minister: Thank you.