Australia's PM expresses sorrow over MH17 tragedy | Asia Pacific

Australia's PM expresses sorrow over MH17 tragedy

Australia's PM expresses sorrow over MH17 tragedy

Updated 18 July 2014, 13:11 AEST

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he's very concerned about initial reports about what happened to the plane, and if a missile did bring it down it would be an "unspeakable crime".

Mr Abbott says there'll be a meeting of the National Security Committee of Cabinet today, and he's hopes to be in contact with Malaysia's prime minister later in the day.

Interviewer: Chris Uhlmann

Speakers: Tony Abbott, Australia's Prime Minister

TONY ABBOTT: This is just a very, very sad time made worse by reports that it might be a crime rather than an accident.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, certainly the Ukrainian president thinks it's a crime. He says it's an act of terrorism. Is there any confirmation that this flight was shot down?

TONY ABBOTT: Look, we just have all sorts of reports and claims flying around. That's all we have at the moment - reports and claims. I'm very conscious of the fact that the Ukrainian president has made that statement. I believe they've been other statements from people in authority in Ukraine but we just can't say.

If it does turn out that this aircraft was brought down by a surface to air missile, there is no doubt that this would be, under those circumstances, an unspeakable crime and the perpetrators should swiftly be brought to justice.

CHRIS UHLMANN: And there is only one place where a weapon system that can bring a plane down travelling at 10,000 metres which is where it was would come from and that's Russia.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, yes, that's a fair point Chris, but let's not leap to conclusions until we have harder facts than we do at the moment.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Alright but if we look at the way that Russia has behaved in eastern Ukraine for some time now, the president is coming here for the G20 in November, really is Australia going to open its arms to the president of Russia if it turns out that some of its citizens died with the use of a Russian weapon?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, that's a fair question Chris. Let's just wait and see exactly what turns out to have happened here. Let's wait until we've got all the facts in before we come to hard and fast conclusions. But obviously it is the clear and settled position of the Australian Government that larger countries should not bully smaller ones, that countries should not aid people who are in rebellion against their own government and that international disputes should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Let's set aside this terrible crash at the moment from what's been happening in the eastern Ukrainian area. President Vladamir Putin appears to be quite determined to change circumstances on the ground and let the rest of the world catch up. Is that the way that a country should behave in the 21st century?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, plainly it's not Chris. Plainly, disputes between nations should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law; that's the settled position of the Australian Government.

We want to avoid any situation where big countries are bullying small countries. We deplore any situation where countries do things just because they can. There should be peace, but there should be justice as well and this is the position that the Australian Government brings constantly to all of the councils of the world.

But to get back to the, to the, to the G20. The G20 is an economic gathering, it's not a security gathering. That doesn't mean that security issues are never discussed, but the principal purpose of the G20 is to try to ensure that the world's largest and most representatives economies are working constructively and, where possible, cooperatively for the benefit of all the world's citizens and the aim of the G20 is to individually and collectively take steps to boost economic growth because that's going to be good for everyone, and I would like, if at all possible, the G20 to remain focused on economic growth rather than be sidelined, if you like, or hijacked by some of these other issues.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Certainly, but I guess if president Putin believes there are no real consequences for actions like this, then nothing changes.

TONY ABBOTT: That's a very fair point and obviously in other forums such as the Security Council, such as the United Nations, matters such as this can and should be dealt with.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Prime Minister, are any Australian investigators likely to be sent to the site of this accident?

TONY ABBOTT: Um, look, there are normal protocols that are followed in these sorts of situations and those protocols will be followed in this situation as well, Chris.

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