The downing of MH17 is not an accident, it’s a crime.
There were 298 men, women and children on this aircraft – and their deaths offend our sense of justice.
We grieve for all, but particularly for the 28 Australians who have lost their lives. Many others were travelling to Australia on MH17, including AIDS researchers and health workers who work every day for a better world. Our hearts go out to all their families
We know that Flight MH17 was shot down. It was shot down over Russian-backed rebel territory, likely by Russian-backed rebels, quite possibly with a Russian-supplied weapon.
That’s why it’s so important that Russia now fully cooperate with an immediate investigation to identify precisely what happened.
Australia has been responding on a range of fronts.
On Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre took over 900 calls from people concerned about the fate of family members or loved ones.
A consular officer has been assigned the family of each Australian victim. These officials will help them through the difficult time ahead. They are being offered counselling and assistance.
The Government has also deployed a team of officials and investigators to the Ukraine. It won’t be easy work, as it’s not an easy part of the world. We will do our best to ensure that the task of repatriating those who were lost will occur as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, though, along with our partners at the UN Security Council, we have demanded unimpeded access to the crash site so that bodies can be treated with respect and an impartial investigation can begin uninterrupted by hostile force.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is on her way to New York as part of our efforts to ensure a binding resolution of the UN Security Council requiring a thorough international investigation. The investigation must have full access to the site, to the debris, to the black box recorder and to any persons who may be able to assist with that investigation.
Australia expects to play a leading role in that investigation. Our 28 dead deserve to be represented. There is ample precedent for this in previous investigations of incidents involving airlines
This is not an accident scene, it’s a crime scene. The investigation must not be interfered with. Any interference is designed to hide the truth and protect the guilty. On this, there can be no negotiation.
The victims of the MH17 were from around the world. They include citizens from Malaysia, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada, as well as Australia. Holland has borne the heaviest loss with 154 dead. I have spoken with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and conveyed our shared sadness.
There is extensive diplomatic work underway. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and I have been speaking with our counterparts from around the world including US President Obama, UK Prime Minister Cameron, Ukraine President Poroshenko and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib. This has been a terrible year for Malaysia.
The world knows there are problems in Ukraine but we also know who is stirring them up. The argument from Russia that none of this has anything to do with them because it happened in Ukrainian airspace does not withstand serious scrutiny.
In any event, MH17 was a civilian plane carrying 298 people who were not part of any dispute and who were innocently going about their lives.
Russia needs to reflect on this lest its whole standing in the world be put at risk. There can be no excuses. No buck-passing. No blame shifting. There has to be absolute full cooperation with an impartial international inquiry.
Our country is united in grief and in its determination to ensure that justice is done. I appreciate the support of the Leader of the Opposition. Flags have been lowered. Today, the Governor-General and I will attend a church service along with Mr Shorten as we stand together as a nation. Later, there will be a National Commemorative Service for those lost and for those they have left behind.
Our grief is matched by a determination to provide support and comfort. The nation’s thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost loved ones. We don’t just grieve for them, though. Australia will do all we can to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.
20 July 2014
Source: News Corp publications