Sean Turnell has received a standing ovation in the House of Representatives after visiting parliament following his release from a Myanmar prison.
The Macquarie University economist and his wife Dr Ha Vu arrived in the lower house with Anthony Albanese for the start of the final question time of 2022.
Professor Turnell worked as an economic adviser to Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, before she and her government were overthrown by the country’s military junta in a coup in February last year.
He spent 650 days in prison after being charged with violating state secrets by the junta in Myanmar.
Professor Turnell arrived back in Australia two weeks ago after the Australian government secured his release.
The Prime Minister said it was a great honour to have Professor Turnell and his wife in parliament on Thursday.
“What he endured in his 650 days of incarceration is something no human being should have to endure,” Mr Albanese told the lower house.
“And yet he has done it with grace and, even with inhumane conditions, with profound humanity.
“Our relief and joy at your release is also tinged with no small amount of fare and respect at your courage, optimism and resilience.”
Shortly after Mr Albanese began speaking, he and every other MP in the chamber rose to their feet to applaud Professor Turnell.
Mr Albanese thanked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her team and Australia’s ASEAN partners including Japan for their work in securing Professor Turnell’s release.
“Most of all, I want to thank Professor Turnell for being here today and for displaying the absolute best of the Australian spirit,” he said.
Peter Dutton also paid tribute to Professor Turnell, saying the “demeanour and grace” with which he had carried himself was “remarkable”.
“Given what you’ve gone through, the passion you have, because you were fighting for people less fortunate than yourself, for a better future for Myanmar … is on display in every public appearance that you have,” the Opposition Leader told parliament.
“We just acknowledge what you as a family have gone through, the pain, the separation … now the love you can share is shared by our nation and we wish you every success in the future.”
MPs from both sides of politics – including Mr Dutton and former prime minister Scott Morrison – walked up to shake the hands of Professor Turnell and Dr Vu, who were sitting on the side of the chamber.
A short time later, Professor Turnell made his way to the Senate, where he received another round of applause.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said he emerged from the “unjust detention” with “humour and humanity”.
“I have spoken to both of you, but it is lovely to see you,” she told them.
She also thanked her predecessor in the foreign affairs portfolio, Marise Payne, for her hard work in assisting to secure Professor Turnell’s release.
Coalition Senate leader Simon Birmingham also “warmly welcomed (him) back to Australia safe and sound”.