JOURNALIST: Good morning to you Julie. It’s a very sad day for the nation and the world and the depth of this tragedy is only just sinking in. Here’s some of what our Prime Minister Tony Abbott had to say…
“I expect the international community to take appropriate steps to ensure that this kind of thing never happens again and that the perpetrators of this outrage are suitably punished suitably brought to justice.”
All the comments from the Government have been very strong. The world is outraged by this and there were fears that the Australian death toll could rise above 28. What’s the very latest with that?
JULIE BISHOP: Well Australia is in mourning today over the tragic killing of 28 Australians on-board MH17. A total of 298 passengers and crew were killed on that flight. We believe that 28 is the number. There are a couple of other victims that haven’t yet been identified but at this stage we can confirm that it is 28. One of the 28 is a dual national.
JOURNALIST: I think as a nation we’ve got a right to be disgusted by the reaction from Russia so far. Your office hasn’t been able to speak to them directly at least that was the latest we heard. Have you had any communication breakthrough there?
JULIE BISHOP: I called in the Russian Ambassador yesterday and in the course of our discussion I asked for access to Foreign Minister Lavrov. I’ve not been able to achieve that yet but we are continuing our efforts today. Last night I spoke to a number of my Foreign Minister counterparts from Ukraine, United Kingdom, Malaysia I’ve been in contact with Indonesia and we are sharing the pain and the anguish of our respective communities over this tragic loss.
JOURNALIST: Why will they not speak?
JULIE BISHOP: Well I’m determined to speak to one of the Russian Foreign or Vice or Deputy Ministers today.
JOURNALIST: Where is the world going to go from this situation? We hear that the OSCE investigators, the early investigators that arrived at the scene were not able to fully investigate the site.
JULIE BISHOP: Overnight, the United Nations Security Council, including Australia, issued a very strongly worded press statement including condolences, sympathies for the families and loved ones of those on board that flight but also calling for a full and thorough and credible investigation.
JOURNALIST: What do you mean by credible?
JULIE BISHOP: Well it can’t be an investigation that is controlled by one or two parties. It must be international in its composition and there is a UN backed international civil aviation organisation that is well suited to carry out this task. We do understand that the OSCE – that’s the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe – has had access to the site but only temporarily. So Australia believes that there must be a binding resolution of the UN Security Council, binding all members to ensure that the crash site can be secured and the evidence protected as soon as possible and that this full, thorough, open and international investigation can occur immediately.
JOURNALIST: What can be done to make sure that that happens because the early indications are that either the separatists or Russia controlling them is not going to allow that to happen?
JULIE BISHOP: We have sent a team to Kyiv. We have six Australian consular officials and our Ambassador from Warsaw on the ground in Kyiv now. We have sent a team from Australia – five are on their way plus a senior AFP officer. So we will have a team in Kyiv to liaise with the Ukraine Government, the Ukrainian Government is of course coordinating attempts to secure the site. Russia does have a role to play. These are Russian-backed separatists who it is believed were responsible for bringing down this plane. The evidence is increasingly pointing to a surface-to-air missile, fired by these Russian-backed separatists.
JOURNALIST: We’ve heard very strongly worded statements from Australia, from the United States of America, from the United Kingdom. What do you think this means for political tensions around the world?
JULIE BISHOP: We want to see the United Nations Security Council including Russia, unite and work together to find out who was responsible for this. We don’t know the cause, there’s evidence pointing to the cause but we owe it to everyone on board that plane and their families and loved ones, to find out precisely what happened, who is responsible and to hold those people to account.
JOURNALIST: Julie, what will Australia do for the victims of this disaster?
JULIE BISHOP: We have allocated a separate consular officer to each family, they are providing constant support whatever the families may need or ask for we are prepared to support them. We have spoken to Qantas. In fact I had a conversation with Alan Joyce of Qantas overnight. Qantas has offered full support if families or next of kin need to get to Europe, Qantas will support it. Today is a day of mourning. The flags will be at half-mast today and we want to ensure that we can identify and repatriate the bodies with dignity. That’s why our focus is very much on securing the crash site and getting that independent investigation underway because not only is it seeking the evidence to find out what happened but we want to be able to identify, repatriate the bodies as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST: Julie Bishop, it is going to be a very long and difficult day for you. Thank you very much for your time this morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555