NEIL MITCHELL Julie Bishop, thank you for speaking with us.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning.
NEIL MITCHELL I’m afraid the initial thought in this era is terrorism. Is there any suggestion or ruling that out yet?
JULIE BISHOP Well Lufthansa says that it is working on an assumption that the plane crash was an accident and any other theory would be speculative at this stage. It is tragic news. It is heartbreaking that there were two Australian citizens on board and we are seeking to identify whether any other Australian citizens or dual nationals, or permanent residents may have been on board. But Neil our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of this shocking tragedy, not only our Australian citizens but also the families and friends of the victims from other nations. Germany and Spain appear to have borne the brunt of this tragedy.
NEIL MITCHELL Is there still a possibility that there are other Australians on board?
JULIE BISHOP Well at this stage we are still liaising with the French authorities. We can confirm two Australian citizens, a mother and her adult son from Victoria, but we are still seeking to identify whether there were other Australian citizens. It is more difficult to determine dual nationals or permanent residents who may have been on board.
But we have had confirmation, just a short while ago, that the French authorities will allow our consular officials to travel to the region. There is a town called Gap where the French authorities are going to liaise with the officials of other countries and where I believe they will identify a location for the recovery effort for the identification of remains and that kind of grim task that must be carried out. We will of course set up a mobile office at that location so that we can communicate directly with our consular officials on the ground.
NEIL MITCHELL I’m sure the families will need privacy at an awful time like this but are you able to tell us anything about the mother and son? Where they came from or anything like that?
JULIE BISHOP No not at this stage. The privacy considerations of the family are paramount at this difficult time but obviously as information becomes available and with the families consent we can make it available. All I can tell you is that it is a mother and her adult son from Victoria and that we are seeking to confirm whether there are any other Australian citizens. At this stage it is believed that all on board were killed in the crash and, as I say, the airline, the parent company of Germanwings - the airline is working on the assumption that the plane crash was an accident.
NEIL MITCHELL Is there any role for Australia other than those consular officials you are talking about?
JULIE BISHOP We of course would make an offer of assistance if it is required. Our Ambassador Stephen Brady in Paris is liaising directly with the French authorities. The French Interiors Minister is travelling to the site. Of course it is 10.30pm or thereabouts in France at present so it will be overnight and obviously we will continue to coordinate with the Interiors Ministry that seems to be in charge of the investigation at this stage.
NEIL MITCHELL Other than being told that they believe it is an accident, have you had any details at all on what happened?
JULIE BISHOP No we understand that the black box has been found, which when it is analysed will hopefully provide more answers about how this terrible accident occurred but at this stage we don’t have any specific details. Obviously there is a number of reports about what went on but I’m very careful not to go into details without absolute confirmation. At one point there were media reports that the aircraft made a mayday call, well the French authorities have advised that it didn’t make a mayday call. So I want to ensure that whatever information I provide is accurate, verifiable and has been confirmed by our Embassy in Paris.
NEIL MITCHELL Look I thank you for your time. It has been a tough time in aviation hasn’t it? Since you were Foreign Minister you’ve had to deal with some very bad ones – MH370, MH17, now this one.
JULIE BISHOP Yes there have been some terrible air accidents occurring but plane travel is safe for the vast majority of people. Australians are inveterate travellers, we are curious, we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for travelling overseas so that will continue to occur, but terrible accidents can occur from time to time and at this point, this heartbreaking news that two Australians citizens were involved. I’m sure that everybody is supporting them with their thoughts, with their prayers and giving them whatever support we can.
NEIL MITCHELL Thank you so much for your time.
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