KUALA LUMPUR - Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has signalled that her government could not bail out nine Australians in trouble for stripping down to tight-fitting swimwear at the F1 race in Sepang on Sunday (Oct 2), pointing out that the group had acted in a premeditated manner by wearing swimwear emblazoned with the Malaysian flag.
"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, we can't interfere in the legal proceedings of another country any more than another country can interfere in our legal proceedings," she told the Nine Network, reported the Malaysiakini website.
Ms Bishop's stance was echoed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who told reporters on Wednesday (Oct 4): "When Australians are overseas, they should always be careful of, and respect, the laws of the country in which they are in."
Mr Bishop's warning came as families of the men travelled to Malaysia to be by their side, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Australians have been in custody since Sunday as the Malaysian authorities investigate whether their stunt had breached the peace and disrespected the national flag.
One of the detained men, Mr Jack Walker, is an adviser to Australia's Minister for Defence Industry, Mr Christopher Pyne, while another, Mr Timothy Yates, is the son of the former consul-general in Libya, Mr Tom Yates.
Mr Tom Laslett, a senior project engineer, and Mr Edward Leaney, a general manager for a company, were other members of the group. Mr Branden Stobbs, Mr James Paver, Mr Adam Pasfield, Mr Nick Kelly and Mr Tom Whitworth were identified as the remaining detainees, most of whom were students at the University of Sydney.
Sepang International Circuit chief Razlan Razali told the New Straits Times the incident "shows a huge lack of respect to us as Malaysians; this is stupid behaviour from foreigners who have no sense of cultural sensitivity and respect".
"It embarrasses their own country as well; it gives Australians a bad name," he added.
Sepang assistant police commissioner Abdul Aziz Ali appears adamant that the group had caused intentional insult and says he would have no hesitation in laying charges.