PAUL KENNEDY The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joins us now from Adelaide to talk about the Air Asia emergency.
Foreign Minister, thanks very much for your time this morning. What is the latest information that you've received and I know you've been personally in contact with the Indonesian Government.
JULIE BISHOP Good morning Paul. I understand that the search and rescue operation will commence again this morning. The Indonesian authorities are still looking for the plane that disappeared between Indonesia and Singapore. Prime Minister Abbott has spoken to President Widodo and offered Australia's support. Likewise, I have spoken to Foreign Minister Marsudi and informed her that Australia stood ready to provide assistance for an international search and rescue operation, should that be required. I understand that a number of other countries have also provided support and offered assistance including Singapore and Malaysia, India and other countries in the region.
At this stage, I can confirm that there are no Australians on board. We are waiting for details of the manifest to determine whether there are any other linkages to Australia - permanent residents or likewise dual nationals and we don’t have any such details at present.
PAUL KENNEDY And the offer that's been made for help - is that one aircraft from the RAAF?
JULIE BISHOP Yes, we have offered an RAAF P3 Orion, that offer has not been taken up. I understand that Singapore, as the nation where the plane was destined to land, has provided support in the form of search and rescue resources and that offer has been taken up. But Australia stands ready to support Indonesia, should that be required.
I was talking to Foreign Minister Marsudi about Malaysia Airlines MH17 because she was Indonesia's Ambassador to the Netherlands during the MH17 tragedy. And Indonesia lost 12 citizens on that flight. So we were discussing how sad it was that so often when we speak it's in relation to an emergency or a tragedy involving an airline.
PAUL KENNEDY That is right. This year has been a terrible year with those incidents, Malaysian airlines and now with this one gone missing. What assurances or what information are you most keen to find out in relation to this one?
JULIE BISHOP Obviously the location of the plane is the fundamental issue because once the plane is located we can determine what happened to it, what caused this incident. Of course our thoughts and prayers and hopes are with the passengers and the crew and our thoughts are most certainly with their families and relatives but it's coming up 24 hours since the plane lost contact with air traffic control in Jakarta. So whilst we hope for the best, as time goes on, I'm afraid our fears may well be confirmed.
PAUL KENNEDY We had an aviation expert on a short time ago, saying with the information available now it seems likely, to him at least, that this was caused by the weather and the plane not being able to handle that rough weather. What are your experts telling you about a likely cause, from the information we know?
JULIE BISHOP That is certainly the theory at present - the fact that the pilot did contact air traffic control in relation to weather and wanting to take another path, but until the plane is actually located it's really speculation. So we are waiting for details once the plane can be located which is why we have offered support. Other countries have offered support but at this point it seems Indonesia and Singapore are carrying out the search and rescue operations.
PAUL KENNEDY I understand at this early time speculation may not be helpful. But I am also interested in finding out and asking you this morning about this particular airline - will you be asking questions along the lines of why was this plane flying in those conditions, these types of things, because there are other planes in the airline that are flying in the region?.
JULIE BISHOP AirAsia is a well-known airline, I've flown AirAsia between Bali and Perth, it's got a good safety record. The pilot sounded experienced, the plane apparently is relatively new. But these are the sorts of issues that will be determined once the plane has been located. So our focus at this point must be on locating the plane and then no doubt there will be a full investigation and inquiry into the causes of the incident. But at this stage we are just hoping and praying that some passengers and the crew can be rescued, but as I say, as time goes on, and the search and rescue operation has been under way for some time, it was stopped overnight because of weather, so obviously the weather in the region is having an impact.
PAUL KENNEDY Now further abroad there's another rescue operation going on at the moment involving an Italian ferry. Has your department been making any checks to see whether any Australians are on board that ship?
JULIE BISHOP Yes, our consular officials were on to that straight away and at this stage we have no information to indicate that any Australians were on board that ferry, but our consular officials are standing by in Europe ready to assist should that be required. Likewise, if people have queries they should contact our consular hotline to make any inquiries if they have concerns.
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