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Transcript - 23650

Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Alicia Loxley, Today, Nine Network

Photo of Abbott, Tony

Abbott, Tony

Period of Service: 18/09/2013 to 15/09/2015

More information about Abbott, Tony on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 18/07/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23650

Subject(s): Malaysia Airlines tragedy

KARL STEFANOVIC:

The Prime Minister is there for us now live from Canberra. PM, this is a dark day.

PRIME MINISTER:

It's a grim morning Karl, a grim morning indeed. It seems that there were at least 23 Australians on that flight. Our hearts go out to the friends and the family and the loved ones of all of those people. Our deepest, deepest condolences to everyone connected with people on that flight but particularly to the families of the Australian victims.

ALICIA LOXLEY:

Prime Minister, we heard from Amsterdam airport officials saying the number was 27 Australians. Have you heard that the figure is different to that? I think you said 23?

PRIME MINISTER:

All the Department of Foreign Affairs can confirm at the moment is 23 but obviously there could be more. 23 Australians have been confirmed on that flight. We are working with the Dutch to confirm identities. Obviously, once that has happened we will be in contact with families with next of kin. We will do everything we possibly can to assist and I believe you have already been giving people the number 1300 555 135 which is the number for people who have concerns to call.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Just in relation to also support, I know it's early days and there's a lot to be done, but in relation to support for those families, Dutch authorities are talking about flying relatives to the area. And again I know it's early days but is there a level of support that you're getting in place now for those families to deal with this horrible situation?

PRIME MINISTER:

Karl, we are preparing to send a Department of Foreign Affairs team to Kiev. Obviously, we want to offer every support to people who have been closely impacted by this terrible tragedy in terms of counseling, in terms of assistance, in terms of the repatriation of bodies and so on. This is a terrible, terrible, terrible time for those people and we want to be as supportive as we humanly can.

ALICIA LOXLEY:

Prime Minister, we're hearing from US intelligence this morning they have confirmed it was a surface-to-air missile used to shoot down this plane. What information do you have?

PRIME MINISTER:

Just at this point, I have access to reports but they're only reports of claims and counterclaims. It does seem that there is some quite strong evidence that this plane was brought down by a surface-to-air missile. If that is the case, I stress if that is the case this would be an unspeakable crime – an absolutely unspeakable crime. If a surface-to-air missile is involved, it's not an accident, it's a crime. And the perpetrators must be brought swiftly to justice.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

PM, there is going to be unspeakable anger, I would have thought, as a result of this. It does, as Alicia points out, look like a surface-to-air missile was used. This is an act of war and as you say a crime. For these families, not only to deal with the tragedy itself but then to know it was an act of war, I mean, how do you move forward with that? How does anyone deal with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think the first thing to do Karl is to establish the facts with a lot more certainty than we can possibly at this time. We've got to find out exactly what the facts are as far as we humanly can before we start overreacting. Look, if it has been brought down by a missile, that is an unspeakable crime and we should be filled with revulsion against anything that would do something horrible to innocent people. What we should never do though is to make a bad situation worse and that's the responsibility of Government, to ensure that we don't make a bad situation worse while responding appropriately and very firmly to anything that is a crime, particularly an unspeakable one if that's what this turns out to be.

ALICIA LOXLEY:

It poses a challenge, though, doesn't it, establishing the facts in an area of conflict like this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, that's right, and the area where the plane came down is apparently in dispute between the Ukrainian Government and Russian backed rebels, and anyone who did something like this in an attempt to promote their own cause, even with a degree of inadvertence obviously there's a heavy, heavy burden of guilt and shame.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Indeed, there is. And just further to that, we understand that the US President Barack Obama was informed about this by Vladimir Putin and they were in fact discussing at the time the sanctions that were being directed towards Russia as a result of their continued involvement with these rebels. We also know, PM, as you would know, that Russia has been supplying weapons to these rebels and they may well and I know that we don't know for certain, it may well have been one of those weapons. Again regardless of the intent, there's got to be more pressure brought to bear, doesn't there, diplomatically, on what may be happening between the two - the separatists and Russia?

PRIME MINISTER:

That's a fair point Karl. It is a firm principle of Australian diplomacy, it's a firm principle of this Government that big countries should not bully small countries, big countries should not take things simply because they can. I suppose if there is any evidence of Russian involvement in this, that would simply reinforce the need for Russia to be told in no uncertain terms that what is happening in the Ukraine is wrong. Whatever disputes there may be within the Ukraine between its own citizens, they should not be inflamed by outsiders. They should not be used by a big country in an attempt to destabilise a small one.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Prime Minister we will let you go. Just one final question if you will. We've spoken about this already, but the 27 Australians, the number of families, the number of connections, our heart goes out to them this morning on the news that they are waking up to. What message to them, if any, anything further that you can add to those families and what they are dealing with this morning?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, all I can say is that this would be the grimmest of grim mornings for the families and the loved ones of Australians on that plane. Our heart goes out to them. Our prayers are with them and whatever assistance we humanly can offer we will, because Australians stick by each other in times of trouble.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Prime Minister, thank you for your time this morning and I know that the Government will be trying everything they can to aid those poor families and the friends of those families as well would be after any information they can get. We'll let you go this morning. Thank you for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you, Karl.

[ends]

Transcript - 23650