Budge Nine fly safely home
Nine young Australian males became the unwitting subjects of an international incident after being arrested at Sepang during the podium celebrations after the Malaysian Grand Prix.
They were detained by police and investigated for ‘breaching the peace, public indecency and disrespecting the national ag’. For the charge of insulting a national emblem in Malaysia, the nine faced a potential two-year gaol sentence.
The nine had stripped down to reveal matching swimming costumes bearing the Malaysian ag adorned with the image of a budgerigar. Chanting ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!’, they drank alcohol from their shoes in celebration of Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix. The men, who would become known as the ‘Budgie Nine’, spent the following four days in a Malaysian prison before appearing at the Sepang Magistrates Court.
In court, one of the men read a statement saying they were very remorseful and that they apologised for ‘disrespecting the Malaysian ag and people’. Judge Harith Sham Mohamed Yasin told them their behaviour was ‘totally inappropriate’ before they were cautioned and discharged.
While the Budgie Nine affair fell short of becoming a diplomatic incident between the two countries, there was embarrassment in Canberra when it was revealed that one of the nine, James Walker, was an advisor to federal defence minister Christopher Pyne.
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop commented during the men’s detention that the government could provide them only with consular support.
“…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 could interfere in our legal proceedings.”
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull echoed Ms Bishop’s comments.
“When Australians are overseas, they should always be careful of, and respect, the laws of the country in which they are in,” the prime minister said.
On the podium, Daniel Ricciardo had been unaware of the drama and only heard about it afterwards.
“At the time they thought it was a bit of harmless fun, and were enjoying the celebrations,” he told the Hufngton Post. “It was a while since I won [a race] and they were excited. They didn’t realise the effect it would have on the locals.”