ABC News Radio










MONDAY, 21 JULY 2014     




MARIUS BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.


BENSON: The Foreign Minister we just heard there speaking in Washington, she’s now going to New York where an Australian drafted resolution will be put to the United Nations Security Council. That resolution demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account, and that all States co-operate fully with efforts to establish accountability, and we’ve also learned just in the last few minutes that the Prime Minister overnight has spoken with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Do you think the Australian Government is doing everything it should do in the aftermath of MH17?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think certainly our selection on the Security Council at the moment does give us an opportunity to take a leadership role in international efforts to ensure that there is an independent investigation, an independent international investigation into exactly what’s occurred with MH17.

BENSON: Do you think the Security Council will be effective? Because Russia obviously can veto anything, China often votes with Russia, so they can stall any action by the Security Council.

PLIBERSEK: Well look, I think it would be extremely unlikely for Russia to vote against a resolution calling for an international investigation. I think it would look absolutely terrible if they did that, I don’t think that that’s likely at this stage. How much co-operation Russia then gives in asking the pro-Russian separatists to allow access to the site is another matter. So there’s the formal agreement to the resolution, and then there’s the practical help that Russia can be, using their influence with these fighters that have been backed by Russia, to allow access to the site there’s really two things that are required here.

BENSON: Is there anything else the world should be doing, or Australia should be doing or can do, effectively beyond the Security Council action?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the Security Council resolution is the first step. Retrieving bodies unfortunately is the greatest task before us at the moment, making sure that those bodies are kept and transported properly so that they can be returned to their families, their countries of origin, that’s the first and most important thing. Full access to the site for investigation is the next critical stage. That has to be an international team, it has to be a team that can identify, for example, missile fragments amongst the wreckage to ensure that we know exactly what has happened, what type of missile it was and so on. The third thing then is to establish who is responsible for firing this missile, and that will be a longer process. It will require the co-operation of Ukrainian authorities and the pro-Russian separatists who currently control access to the site. They will have to allow international investigators full and unimpeded access for some time.

BENSON: Should Vladimir Putin come to the G20 in Brisbane in November?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think that we’re at the stage of having that discussion yet. I think it’s very important to focus step by step on retrieving bodies, investigating the site, being able to tell what type of rocket it was and so on. The next discussion is the discussion about who is held responsible and what the consequences of being held responsible are. I think it’s important that the Security Council resolution does have a clause in there that says the international community is determined to establish who is responsible. I think measures around the G20 are one possibility, further sanctions in Europe are another possibility but we really need to take this step by step.

BENSON: The world’s attention has been divided between MH17 and the action by Israel in Gaza, now 425 Palestinian’s dead and 18 Israeli soldiers have been killed. What should the world, what should Australia do in relation to Gaza?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s very important that we continue strongly to say to HAMAS that the rocket fire must stop, but it’s also important to say to Israel now that the death toll, the civilian death toll at over four hundred is extremely high, and there are serious concerns now about the civilian death toll. It is important to have an immediate ceasefire. Right now, the cost of this conflict has been extremely high and the only solution right now is an immediate ceasefire.

BENSON: Could I just quickly ask you a about a domestic issue. The carbon tax was repealed last week, a poll was conducted over the weekend, no improvements in the Government’s fortunes. Is that surprising?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think Australian’s understand that we need to take action on dangerous climate change. I think Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader did a very good job of frightening people about the effects of carbon pricing. Most Australian’s have not noticed a dramatic difference in their life because of it, and I don’t think anybody is going to notice a dramatic difference over the next few weeks because it’s been repealed. On top of that, I think many Australians understand that it is necessary to take action to reduce air pollution unlimited- the production of dangerous greenhouse gases that trap heat close to our planet, and are consequently changing our climate and changing our environment will have not just an environmental effect but an economic effect on generations of Australians to come, and most people I believe understand that we need to do something about that.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Marius.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek is the Shadow Foreign Minister, and she is also the acting Opposition Leader in the absence of Bill Shorten who is in the United States at the moment.


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