CANBERRA, Australia – One of nine Australians who spent four nights in police detention in Malaysia for partying in skimpy swimsuits printed with the Malaysian flag returned to Australia on Friday and urged other travellers to be culturally aware.
The nine friends aged in their late 20s were detained on Sunday after they partied and drank beer from shoes in full view of thousands of spectators at the Sepang race track where Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo won the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix.
Most returned to Australia after pleading guilty in a court on Thursday to causing a public nuisance. They were released without penalty.
A grim-faced Nick Kelly, an advertising executive, was backed by three of his friends — civil engineer Thomas Laslett, corporate risk manager Timothy Yates and business general manager Edward Leaney — as he told reporters at Sydney Airport they were grateful for the help of the Australian consulate in Malaysia and their families.
“I’d like to urge all Australians travelling overseas in the future to be very aware of the cultural differences and sensitivities that exist in other nations,” Kelly said.
Australian media dubbed them the Budgie Nine. A budgerigar is a small Australian parrot that is a popular household pet, and brief men’s swimwear in the Australia is colloquially known as budgie smugglers.
The name plays on nine Australians arrested in Indonesia for heroin trafficking in 2005 who became known as the Bali Nine.
The only one who had not returned to Australia by early Friday was Jack Walker, a senior adviser to Australian Defence Industry Minister Chris Pyne.
Walker remained overseas with family members, who had flown to Malaysia.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday described Malaysia’s treatment of the nine as “very lenient.”
Turnbull suggested Walker faced consequences when Pyne returned from an overseas trip.
“I will speak to Christopher when he is back and certainly the young man involved needs to have a very hard look at himself and he’ll be, I’m sure … considering his future carefully,” Turnbull told Radio FiveAA.
“The young Australian men were very repentant. But they do need to reflect very seriously on their conduct,” he said.
Budgy Smuggler, the Sydney-based, family-owned swimsuit manufacturer that made the Malaysian flag swimwear did not respond to a request for comment.
The company features on its website and social media photographs of customers wearing its swimwear in unusual public locations, including in front of Westminster Palace in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Drinking from a shoe is something Ricciardo does when he wins a race.