Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:44): I thank the member for Bennelong for his question.
In addition to the Prime Minister's statement at the commencement of question time today concerning his phone call with his Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Najib, I can inform the House that, immediately after the Australian government became aware that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was missing, the Prime Minister contacted Prime Minister Najib. Likewise, I contacted Foreign Minister Anifah to offer our sympathies and support, and whatever assistance was required. I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in extending my thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those aboard the flight. It is clearly a deeply distressing and agonising time for them all.
I can confirm that, from the outset, Australian officials have been in close contact with Malaysian authorities on efforts to locate the missing flight. On Sunday 9 March Australia deployed two RAAF P-3C Orions—our maritime surveillance aircraft—to support the search coordinated by Malaysian authorities. From 15 March this search has relocated from the South China Sea to two flight corridors north from Malaysia to Kazakhstan and south from Indonesia into the southern Indian Ocean. Our Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, last night advised that Malaysian authorities had re-tasked our aircraft in response to the changed area of search operations. Yesterday one Orion commenced searching the Indian Ocean to the north and west of the Cocos Islands, and it is continuing its search operations in the area today. Our second aircraft will continue to search west of Malaysia. I can inform the House that, as of yesterday, the two Orions had flown more than 50 hours in search missions as part of the international effort.
In addition, as part of the search missions—there are currently 14 countries assisting—all our Defence intelligence relating to flight 370 has been, and will continue to be, passed on to Malaysian authorities, who are ultimately responsible for providing updated public information on efforts to locate this flight. There is an enormous international search effort underway. As the Prime Minister has indicated, Australia stands ready to provide whatever additional support might be required. In the meantime, I can confirm that our consular officials will continue to keep in regular contact with the families of the Australians on board.
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