"The ambassador had a consular visit with Doctor Moore-Gilbert a short time ago. The reports that we have seen are ones which we are seeking further information on," Senator Payne told reporters.
Source: The Modern Middle East
Jessie Moritz, a Middle East academic and friend of Dr Moore-Gilbert, told SBS News it was the second time the government had been unaware of the academic's location in months, referring to the earlier move of the academic from Evin Prison outside Tehran to the harsher Qarchak Prison.
"Marise Payne saying the government is seeking further information is not promising, that suggests they don't know where she is at the moment and that they're seeking clarification from the Iranian government about where she is," she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also refused to confirm reports of the move, but said Australia's Ambassador in Tehran had regular consular access to Dr Moore-Gilbert.
This includes a meeting which happened "a short time ago" within the prison, Senator Payne said.
"The Government’s continuing efforts to secure Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release are an absolute priority. We remain focused on her health, wellbeing and safety," a spokesperson said.
The former University of Melbourne lecturer has been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years after she was arrested in Tehran following an academic conference in September 2018. She has since been sentenced to 10 years jail for alleged spying charges.
Both Dr Moore-Gilbert and the Australian government steadfastly reject the allegations. "We do not accept the charges upon which Dr Moore-Gilbert was convicted, and want to see her returned to Australia as soon as possible," a DFAT spokesperson said.
Last month, former colleagues and students described Dr Moore-Gilbert as incredibly bright, humble and a rising star of academia.
They are calling for the Australian government to confirm she's safe and, more broadly, to do more to secure her release from prison.
"I really do understand that there needs to be a level of secrecy in cases like this, and if it is, this is a result of negotiations moving forward. There'll be a level of secrecy around that," Dr Moritz said.
"But the alternative is that Iran has been reshuffling prisoners due to the massive COVID-19 outbreak, due to the upcoming anniversary of protests... and we have no way to know if this is a positive or negative development."
Qarchak prison has a crowded population of between 1,200 and 2,000 inmates, some who have contracted COVID-19.
Last month, Iran's Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights released a report into the impact of COVID-19 in Iranian prisons, revealing harrowing conditions inside Qarchak, including overflowing sewage, undrinkable “salty” water, poor quality food delivered in small quantities, and wards transformed into quarantine facilities.