THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 25 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: MH 17; Australian Federal Police deployment; Scott Morrison back-flip.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well thanks for coming out this evening. There’s no one better to search for Australians on this crash site than Australian Federal Police and if necessary, Australian defence personnel. Labor has supported from the beginning every effort to ensure that our police have access to this 50 square kilometre crash site. We are determined to see every Australian brought home and the sooner we have access to the site and the broader that access, is the better. Labor has supported from the beginning the sending of Australian Federal Police to Europe. We received a briefing yesterday from the Prime Minister’s office and the Federal Police and this extra deployment wasn’t mentioned but of course we support Australian Federal Police as the best people to search in this site for remains and for any evidence of what exactly has happened to MH17.
JOURNALIST: Does the Prime Minister have to spell out what the troops will be doing and how many will be going?
PLIBERSEK: My understanding is so far the Australian defence personnel that have been sent have for example been providing personal security to Angus Houston. This is a very dangerous area of Ukraine, there are heavily armed rebels on the site. They have been haphazard about allowing access to the site, its plain that not all of the rebel groups are cohesive, that there are different units operating that don’t follow a clear command structure. So, making sure that Angus Houston, that our police, Federal Police who are on the site, making sure that any consular officials who are on the site are safe. If that takes Australian defence personnel then of course we support that.
JOURNALIST: I guess the question was, does the Prime Minister have to spell out what they’ll be doing?
PLIBERSEK: Well look, so far the Prime Minister has said that there’s a small number of defence personnel and they’re there for reasons of providing security. I think that that’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. I think it’s important that Australians are aware that Australian Federal Police and Australian defence personnel in some instances, are there to support our efforts, our share of the efforts, of recovering the remains of people who have lost their lives in this terrible crash. I think it’s important that when they cleared that as part of the Dutch lead investigation, Australia is very, very keen to have its own people on the ground. We rate our people highly, we know that they are highly experienced. We know that some of these police for example have had experience in working through the rubble after the tsunami in Japan. They are highly experienced people and they can contribute to this operation and so we support the fact that they’ve been sent there. There are defence personnel providing security on the ground, that’s a good thing.
JOURNALIST: You’ve talked about the lawlessness in the region. Are you concerned about the safety of Australians troops or police in the region? Do you trust President Putin’s assurances that they will be safe?
PLIBERSEK: Well I am concerned about any Australians in the area, as I am concerned about the Dutch personnel, who are leading this investigation, as I am concerned about anyone who is working on this investigative and recovery effort. It is clear that these rebels have the backing of Russia. We hope that the Russian President is able to use his influence firstly to ensure access to the site, secondly to ensure that access is safe, and thirdly to ensure that we can have a big enough force on the ground to actually make an effort of collecting evidence across a very large site, to undertake that very large and difficult task appropriately. President Putin, I hope, is able to use his influence to ensure the safety of Australians. But I wouldn’t want to take any risks with Australian Federal Police. I wouldn’t want to take any risks with foreign affairs staff or consular staff who are on the ground. So it is important to have backup there in case it’s needed.
JOURNALIST: Just on another topic, on the issue of asylum seekers. Has the High Court challenge forced the Government [inaudible] deal with India, and bring 157 to Australia?
PLIBERSEK: Well I think the announcement today shows that the last few weeks have been all about Scott Morrison’s ego, and nothing about making sensible decisions in the interests of Australia and certainly not in the interests of the people on board this vessel, including the children who have been detained for several weeks on this vessel. Labor said many weeks ago that as the vessel was close to Christmas Island it made sense to process people on Christmas Island, it’s only been Scott Morrison’s ego that’s prevented that.
JOURNALIST: What do you know about their legal rights once they do enter Australia? There is some conjecture that they are going to be sent to Curtin in the end. Obviously if they are sent to Curtin then that’s in the migration zone, so will they have legal rights to fight for asylum?
PLIBERSEK: Look I’m afraid I can’t answer that question; we’ve only read what you’ve read in the papers. We haven’t received any special information from Scott Morrison or from the Government, so it’s up to him to answer those questions, if you can get him to a press conference. Thanks.