The Australian Senate has today urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make direct contact with the Egyptian Government to seek the immediate release of Australian citizen Peter Greste and 19 other journalists who are currently detained in Cairo.
"The Prime Minister needs to act on the responsibilities that come with his office. Australian citizens deserve the highest level of representation and, in this case, time is running out," said Greens Leader Christine Milne, who put forward the motion that passed this afternoon.
Senator Milne has spoken with Mr Greste's parents this week, who are worried their son will not be bailed, and therefore will not have access to his lawyers to prepare his defence.
"Peter is due to appear in court one week from today. Tony Abbott cannot stay out of this. It's important that he steps up now.
"When you look at the Prime Minister's recent efforts in this regard, he personally visited the Middle East to campaign for the release of two Australian businessmen last year. He did not intervene on behalf of an Australian citizen who was involved in non-violent environmental protests and he's now not intervening on behalf of a journalist. This is a double standard.
"Consular officials have been excellent, doing everything possible to support Mr Greste and his family, but this is now beyond consular assistance.
"We need the Australian government to step up and insist, as other countries have, as the United Nations has, that Peter Greste and his colleagues be released."
Motion passed today:
That the Senate-
(i) with deep concern, the charges the Egyptian Government has laid against Australian citizen and journalist, Mr Peter Greste, and fellow Al Jazeera journalists,
(ii) calls by the White House, the United Nations, and global news agencies for their release
(iii) the excellent support Australian consular officials are providing to Mr Greste and his family; and
(b) calls on the Prime Minister (Mr Abbott) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Ms Bishop) to make direct contact with the Egyptian Government to seek the immediate release of Mr Greste and the other 19 individuals detained.