ABC Radio National Drive














WALEED ALY: I’m joined now by Tanya Plibersek who is the acting Labor leader and foreign affairs spokesperson. Thank you very much for joining us.


ALY: How long do you think it will take before an investigation can begin properly and then ultimately find something?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the first and most important thing as we’ve said all along is sadly securing the bodies and making sure that they are repatriated to their countries of origin. Secondly having access to the crash site for a proper investigation done by an international team of experts, something that’s transparent and professional that we hope can begin to occur now. As you know, as your listeners know the site has been in the hands of Russian backed rebels up to now and they have impeded access to the site. It does seem that some things have been removed from the site. But I believe that if you have the proper experts there will still be a great deal of information available from the site about the type of missile that has been involved and other forensic information that experts will be able to find.

ALY: You, I mean your side of politics, the other side of politics, probably really all the leaders of the Western world seem to have articulated in fairly confident terms what they think has happened here and who’s to blame. So what do you think this investigation ultimately adds?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think there has been I suppose a range of people expressing certainty about who is responsible here. I would say that it is critical to firstly be certain that, well I think it’s pretty well established that the missile is responsible for this but what type of missile, who supplied it and how people got their hands on it, all of that will be very important. Getting forensic information about the type of missile is an important first step but I don’t think that that will be sufficient on its own. I expect that there will be security and intelligence analysts looking over all sorts of additional information to try and piece together how this missile came to be in the hands of who ever fired it.

ALY: Well you say who ever fired it, of course Bill Shorten has made it plain who he thinks fired it so what is the official position of, well I suppose I can only ask you about the Labor Party but if you know the Government’s position officially you could put it to me as well, what is the official position of who did it?

PLIBERSEK: Well Waleed, I don’t think this is a matter of official positions. This is an effort to determine the truth of what exactly has happened here and who is responsible so that they might be punished. This is an unspeakable tragedy and it is important that the international community are united in establishing the facts in a way that is transparent so that when this investigation is concluded there may be international confidence in the results of the investigation so that if there are consequences, if there is punishment involved, that the whole international community has had the opportunity of saying yes this is a credible international, transparent, independent investigation. It’s not about having positions.

ALY: What follows from that? If ultimately Russia is held to have had some level of responsibility for this, whatever that level is, is there anything that the world can actually do? Is there any leverage that the world has with respect to Russia on this?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think it’s important not to, you know, not to speculate too much about these things but if you’re asking me is it possible for the international community to put pressure on Russia if they are found to have provided these weapons to the rebels that are assumed to have fired it, yes it is possible to put pressure on. I think most international observers would say that existing sanctions are having some limited effect as they are but certainly increasing sanctions is something that if there is evidence down the track that should be considered by the international community, the effect of the sanctions are already, as I say, starting to be felt to a degree in Russia but there’s certainly room for that pressure to be increased. If there is any sign for example that the Russians aren’t cooperating with the investigation or that they’ve, you know, signed on for the resolution but in practice are not cooperating, all of that needs to be considered down the track.

ALY: And what will the signs of that be? At what point can we make an assessment about whether Russia is walking the talk?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think there’s a very strong indication that the separatists who are in control of that part of Ukraine have had at least weapons, possibly training, perhaps Russian individuals or units fighting with them. If you see a lack of access to the site, if you see any other impediments to the investigation that is something that I believe the international community will look very dimly on.

ALY: Well we’ll keep a close eye on it because of course there has been a lack of access to the site already, whether or not that changes.

PLIBERSEK: Yes, it’s been unforgiveable frankly, I mean the interference, well bodies not being properly cared for is I think completely unforgivable but in addition to that apparent interference with the site I think is something of great concern.

ALY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Waleed.


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