5 Oct 2016

'Aussie blokey behaviour' no excuse for Malaysia 'budgie smuggler' incident - Bishop

1:44 pm on 5 October 2016

Bad behaviour by Australians overseas cannot be excused by the 'blokey culture' at home, says Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Spectators - reported to be Australian tourists - with swimwear featuring the Malaysian flag during the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on 2 October.

Spectators - reported to be Australian tourists - with swimwear featuring the Malaysian flag during the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on 2 October. Photo: AFP

Nine Australian men are in custody in Malaysia after stripping down to their underpants - which were branded with the Malaysian flag - after an Australian driver won the country's Grand Prix at the weekend.

They could face fines and two years in jail over laws relating to intentional insult.

Ms Bishop said the men were receiving consular assistance but it was annoying that taxpayers had to clean up their mess.

She said it was another example of Australian tourists landing 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," Ms Bishop told Channel Nine.

"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."

Australian foreign minister and Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop speaking at the Coalition launch in Sydney.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop Photo: AFP

The Australians stripped to reveal swimwear bearing the Malaysian flag after Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo won the car race on Sunday.

Video images also show some of the men drinking from their shoes.

The deputy police chief, who covers the Sepang district where the race track is located, told the ABC police hoped to charge the men under penal code 504, relating to intentional insult with a minimum penalty of a fine and maximum two-year jail term.

Malaysia is taking the incident seriously with the Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed suggesting during a news conference that the actions of the men could have been politically motivated.

"When they come here with the intention to, you know, commit indecent acts to embarrass us, I think that's not how visitors should respond to our good treatment," the minister said.

Superintendent Rusdi also told the ABC a lesser charge of insulting Malaysia's national emblem is being considered - that carries a maximum six-month jail term.

But it will be up to the Malaysian public prosecutors and the attorney-general's office if charges are laid at all in the highly sensitive case.

The men are being held in two cells at the Sepang police headquarters, and are being provided with three meals a day.

The ABC has been told the group includes 26-year-old, Branden Michael Stobbs, 25-year-old Edward Timothy Leaney, 28-year-old Thomas Craig Laslett, 27-year-old Nicolas William, 28-year-old Thomas James Whitworth, 27-year-old James Daniel Paver, and 29-year-old Timothy Yates.

A 26-year-old, Jack Robert Walker, who works for Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne, is also among the group, along with another Australian who is believed to be 25 years old.

Ms Bishop said the men were being offered consular assistance.

"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," she said.

"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."

The men's four-day remand period ends on Friday.

Police have said they expect the men to appear in court by Monday, but the case could be expedited given the sensitivities.