Abbott And Shorten Address Parliament On Shooting Down Of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made a statement to the House of Representatives on the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, and the Deputy Leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, also spoke.

“This looks less like an accident than a crime,” Abbott said. “And if so, the perpetrators must be brought to justice.”

It now appears that 28 Australians were amongst the 298 people killed in the attack. Many of the passengers were due to attend an international conference on AIDS in Melbourne.

  • Watch Abbott, Shorten & Bandt (14m – transcripts below)
  • Listen to Abbott (4m)
  • Listen to Shorten (7m)
  • Listen to Bandt (2m)

Statement released by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

The thoughts and prayers of all Australians today are with the families and loved ones of the Australians that have tragically been killed on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

Our hearts go out to the families of all the dead.

At least 27 Australians citizens have lost their lives on flight MH17. Nine resided in Queensland, nine in Victoria, seven in Western Australia, one in the ACT and one in New South Wales.

We can’t restore them to life but we can and will do everything to support them in this sad and bitter time because that is the Australian way – we help in times of trouble.

Counselling, consular and all possible assistance will be provided to the families during the difficult days ahead.

We will do all we possibly can to support the families and to find out exactly what has happened and exactly who is responsible.

Anyone who has concerns for the welfare of family or friends are encouraged to contact DFAT’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or within Australia on 1300 555 135.

Hansard transcript of Tony Abbott’s statement to the House of Representatives.

Mr ABBOTT (Warringah—Prime Minister) (11:02): I crave the indulgence of the parliament to make a statement about some very significant events that have happened overnight. This is a grim day for our country and it is a grim day for the world. Malaysian Airlines, MH17, has been shot down over Eastern Ukraine, it seems, by Russian-backed rebels. Two hundred and ninety-five people have been killed. At least 27 Australians have been killed.

Our hearts go out to the families of all the dead. Our thoughts and prayers are especially with the families of the Australian dead. We cannot restore them to life but we can and will do everything to support them in this sad and bitter time, because that is the Australian way. We help in times of trouble.

A Department of Foreign Affairs team is preparing to leave for Kiev. Next of kin and families will be notified as soon as possible. They will be offered counselling and assistance, and bodies will be repatriated to Australia as quickly as possible.

We owe it as well to the families of the dead to find out exactly what has happened and exactly who is responsible.

As things stand, this looks less like an accident than a crime. I want to repeat this: as things stand, this looks less like an accident than a crime. If so, the perpetrators must be brought to justice. So I can inform the House that, as quickly as possible, Australia will be working at the United Nations Security Council for a binding resolution calling for a full and impartial investigation with full access to the site, with full access to the debris, with full access to the black box and with full access to all individuals who might be in a position to shed light on this terrible event. I can also inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will shortly summons the Russian ambassador to seek a categorical assurance from the ambassador that the Russian government will fully cooperate in this investigation. We owe it to the dead and to their families, we owe it to the peace and stability of the wider world, to establish the facts, and we will do all we humanly can to bring that about.

Let me conclude with this: the bullying of small countries by big ones, the trampling of justice and decency in the pursuit of national aggrandisement, and reckless indifference to human life should have no place in our world.

Hansard transcript of Bill Shorten’s statement to the House of Representatives.

Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Leader of the Opposition) (11:06): I rise to support the words of the Prime Minister this morning, and I thank him for the conversations we have had this morning. This news that we woke up to this morning is worse than shocking; it is debilitating and bewildering, with bewildering losses. Travelling at six miles height, this is unimaginable. This is a violation of the rules of civilisation. It is a tyrannical, wild act. And I appreciate that when I rang the Prime Minister this morning he was most forthcoming and, in a time when international events require one to put aside partisan issues, I greatly appreciate it. I acknowledge too foreign minister, Julie Bishop, and my colleague Tanya Plibersek, who have also been working on this.

As the parliament convenes right now and throughout the day, there will be anxious families having their worst fears confirmed. Three kilometres from the town of Grabovo, near the Russian-Ukrainian border, on a patch of disputed ground currently controlled by separatist terrorists lies the scattered ruin of MH17. Two hundred and ninety-eight innocent people have lost their lives in sudden, unspeakable circumstances. When I spoke to the Ukrainian charge d’affaire to Australia, he said he believed a surface-to-air missile had shot down the plane. But most tragically amongst this terrible news, there are at least 27 Australians who have been murdered: mothers and fathers; brothers and sisters; neighbours, colleagues, classmates and teammates. There are Australians who would have planned to be at the airport tomorrow night to collect friends and family, amongst them some of the world’s leading AIDS experts. The cost of this will be felt in many parts of the world. We grieve for all of them.

This does reach beyond Australian shores. I spoke this morning with the ambassador from the Netherlands and conveyed my sympathies for her country’s terrible losses. One hundred and fifty-four Dutch nationals were on this flight, including, as I mentioned, world-renowned researchers and the former president of the International AIDS Society Dr Joep Lange. This flight is one of the most popular flights between Amsterdam and Melbourne and Sydney, via Kuala Lumpur. Undoubtedly many of the Dutch nationals on this plane were coming to visit friends and possibly Australian family in Australia. In Afghanistan, Australia and the Netherlands stood united in their courage for the service of peace; today our countries are embraced in a shared grief.

I have also spoken with the Malaysian High Commissioner to Australia, whose country is reeling from this sudden blow. It is truly a tragic day in a tragic year for Malaysia. For the people of Ukraine, this is another terrible chapter in a conflict that has already come at a most terrible human cost.

In Australia, we are immune and protected from much of the conflict in the world, and for that we should be thankful, but on recent estimates more than 500 people have already died—civilians and Ukrainian soldiers—in the conflict in the Donbas region in the last weeks and months. This horrific situation can seem far removed from our daily lives, but there is no question that the conflict in this disputed part of the Ukraine has now reached Australia. The missile that brought down MH17 and the missiles that have claimed numerous Ukrainian aircraft could not possibly be made by the people who possibly fired them. These separatist terrorists are obtaining these instruments of murder from elsewhere. This must be investigated and it must be stopped. The Ukrainian Charge d’Affaires informed me this morning that they will be inviting experts from around the world to assist with investigating this matter. Labor most certainly supports the comments of the Prime Minister with regard to the United Nations Security Council. And Labor supports the chorus internationally calling for a full, independent, international investigation of this tragedy.

This is a time for national unity. As the Prime Minister discussed with me this morning, it is a time for temperate responses, cool heads and measured action. That is, indeed, the strongest possible response that Australians expect from us, but it also demands, as I believe the Prime Minister was saying, strong resolve. I say this to the Prime Minister today: Labor understands the complexity and the difficulty of the decisions that you will face. We understand that, as people are working through the pain and the grief, there will be many understandable calls for all sorts of action. I say that Labor is prepared to support the government and will cooperate with the Prime Minister and the government on what is the right next step to be taken in this most bewildering and shocking event. Whether or not that involves anything to do with the G20, we say to the government: we will work with your measured approach.

More generally, in relation to the situation in the Ukraine, Russia carries a significant and central responsibility in helping manage this crisis and resolving the dispute peacefully. We will support the government in vigorously pursuing and asserting this position in our position at the United Nations Security Council and in representations to the Russian government.

Today the parliament mourns the loss of all on MH17. We pay tribute to their memory. We are conscious that there are members of our Australian community who do not yet know what has happened to people they love. And we renew our commitment to a safe and more peaceful world.

Hansard transcript of statement to the House of Representatives by Adam Bandt.

The SPEAKER: Normally, we only hear from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Without creating a precedent, this morning I am going to give the call to the member for Melbourne to make a short statement.

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (11:13): Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I appreciate it. Melbourne has been getting ready for some time for the AIDS 2014 conference. This weekend the city was looking forward to welcoming a number of people home and also welcoming a number of distinguished international guests and researchers. Thousands of lives are going to be touched by this tragedy. It is a reminder that any of us in this parliament or in this country could have been on that plane. As the member for Melbourne and on behalf of the Greens, I want to associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER: As Speaker, I wish to associate myself with the remarks of both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and indeed with the Greens. I am to address that conference on Monday and I know there will be many empty spots. I think that what we are doing is mourning with all the world and all who have been lost. We want to see justice but in a measured way. I would ask everybody, both in the gallery and the chamber, to stand as a mark of respect.

Honourable members and those in the gallery having stood in their places—

The SPEAKER: I thank the House and those in the gallery.

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