PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript - 23724

Interview with Michael Brissenden, ABC AM

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: 11/08/2014

Release Type: Transcript

Transcript ID: 23724

Subject(s): Operation Bring Them Home

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Prime Minister, welcome to AM. You’ve just arrived in the Netherlands, what are you hoping to achieve?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, obviously I’m hoping to thank the Dutch for the marvellous leadership they provided to the operation to recover remains and belongings from Eastern Ukraine. I’m also hoping to say thank you to the almost 500 Australian personnel, police, and military who were part of Operation Bring Them Home. So it’s a bittersweet mission. Sad because the Dutch lost almost 200 of their citizens in the atrocity and I guess professionally pleasing because obviously the Australian personnel have done a magnificent job.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

The international investigation force – including the AFP – have decided it’s too dangerous to continue the operation in the area. Does that mean that that part of the operation is now over?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well it’s officially suspended, Michael. As we discovered about a week ago, the risks were getting greater and the rewards were getting fewer and that’s why we decided to suspend the operation. But if, at a later time, the fighting in the area subsides, if we think that there are more remains to be recovered, obviously we’ll go back. But at the moment, we think that we have got everything which is readily available at the moment, that is readily findable at the moment, and so I suppose that means that this phase of Operation Bring Them Home is over. But we’ve still got a very long and painstaking task of victim identification going on here in the Netherlands and I’ll have the opportunity to say thank you to the Australian teams involved in that as well tomorrow.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Now last week you foreshadowed tougher sanctions against – possible tougher sanctions – against Russia. Julie Bishop suggested uranium may be on the table for instance – is that possible?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well everything’s on the table, Michael. This is an atrocity. It’s an absolute atrocity. 298 innocent people were murdered, 38 who called Australia home were murdered. Obviously there’s that and then there’s the problem of Russia’s behaviour in Ukraine generally. So we certainly are looking at tougher sanctions. I think the world is looking at tougher sanctions, but we certainly would anticipate tougher sanctions against Russia in the weeks ahead.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

What about the G20? Will President Putin be welcome?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the G20 is still more than three months away. Let’s wait and see. The G20 as I’ve said before, Michael, is an economic gathering, it’s not a security gathering. But I accept that you can’t entirely divorce one from the other. My hope is that even at this late stage, Russia will wake up to itself, it will realise that what’s being done in the Eastern Ukraine is destabilising a country which should be free to determine its own place in the world, that Russian-backed separatists are wreaking havoc in Eastern Ukraine. So my hope is that cooler heads will prevail and Russia will get on with being Russia and leave Ukraine to the Ukraine – that’s my hope and let’s wait and see how it all transpires.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Ok, now you’re moving on from the Netherlands to London to talk about Iraq after 24 hours in the Netherlands or so. Are we on the path to becoming embroiled in another protracted conflict in Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER:

Australia will gladly join the humanitarian airlifts to the people stranded on Mount Sinjar. This is a potential humanitarian catastrophe. President Obama has said it’s a potential genocide and Australia – as you know, Michael – has a long and fine tradition of decency in circumstances like this. We do have some Hercules C-130 aircraft in the Middle East. We have a C-17 that’s bringing humanitarian supplies from Australia in the next day or so and we’d expect to join that humanitarian airlift – should it be needed – sometime later in the week.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

And have you spoken to President Obama recently about this?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I haven’t spoken to President Obama in the last few days, but you might remember that I was in Washington not so long ago and the discussion that I had with the President and other senior American leaders very much focused on the situation inside Iraq and inside Syria. What we’ve got to appreciate Michael is that Islamic State – as they’re now calling themselves – it’s not just a terrorist group, it’s a terrorist army and they’re seeking not just a terrorist enclave but effectively a terrorist state, a terrorist nation. And this does pose extraordinary problems – extraordinary problems, not just for the people of the Middle East, but for the wider world and we see more and more evidence of just how barbaric this particular entity is. I believe there are more photographs in newspapers in Australia today of the kind of hideous atrocities that this group is capable of.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Ok, Prime Minister, thank you very much for your time, we’ll have to leave it there.

[ends]

Transcript - 23724