Capital Hill with Lyndal Curtis

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

CAPITAL HILL WITH LYNDAL CURTIS

TUESDAY, 22 JULY 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: MH17.

LYNDAL CURTIS, PRESENTER: Joining me now from Sydney is Labor’s Foreign Affairs Spokeswoman and Acting Opposition Leader as Bill Shorten is in the US, Tanya Plibersek welcome to Capital Hill.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi Lyndal.

CURTIS: What should be done now, immediately following the unanimous support that the UN resolution got?

PLIBERSEK: Well, this first step of unanimous support for this resolution is very important. It shows that Russia is keen to be seen to cooperate with the Security Council. I think the next step is clearly getting those teams that are, I believe, already in place in Kiev on to the crash site as quickly as possible. There will be a large amount of forensic investigation required now to establish exactly what type of missile has been fired and from that there's a possibility of making an assessment about where it's likely to have come from. Of course the other thing that authorities will be doing at the moment is re-examining - examining and re-examining other security and intelligence data to see whether there is other evidence to point to who fired the missile and, most importantly as well, of course, how they obtained that in the first place.

CURTIS: It is important, isn't it, that there be a ceasefire in this area of eastern Ukraine to allow not only unimpeded but safe access for those crash investigators?

PLIBERSEK: Look, there has to be an immediate ceasefire. I mean, the first task, as I've said over the last few days, of course, is to properly remove the bodies from the crash scene. It does seem that those bodies have been removed into refrigerated railway cars now and are being transported. The information around this is quite unclear but the suggestion is to a town that is held by Ukrainian authorities that obviously will make it easier to properly care for and of course eventually transport home those bodies. Very important first step. Very difficult to continue that work when the site's not safe. And then the second task, that task of gathering the forensic information that I was talking about earlier, the quite tiny in some cases fragments of the missile, if indeed it was a missile, that task also has to be done where investigators are safe to go about their work. This will be a long and involved evidence-gathering process and they must be safe to go about their work unimpeded.

CURTIS: Now Russia has supported the UN resolution which we assume means it will play its part in getting access to the site, both the Prime Minister and yourself have given quite strong words to Russia if that cooperation does not happen. Is there anything that the UN can do to enforce its resolution?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it's important to say that it is a good thing that Russia has backed this Security Council resolution. There was some doubt at the beginning of the process that they would do it. That's a good first step but it's not enough on its own. Certainly not enough on its own. What has to happen now is for Russia to use its influence with the rebels that they are backing to ensure continued access to the site and, more particularly, to make very clear that any lack of cooperation from those rebels will be - that they'll be on their own. There is a lot of evidence that these rebels have received a great deal of support, including weapons and training from Russia in the past. It's not credible to believe that the Russians don't have significant influence. They have to use that influence to ensure access to the site, to ensure that the site is held safely and, frankly, to reduce the hostilities that have, it seems, led to this terrible tragedy.

CURTIS: Does the Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister do they deserve an enormous amount of credit for this, not only getting a UN resolution through in only a matter of days but also taking a very strong stand very early on this matter?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it shows that organisations like the Security Council can, when they're operating well, be very effective. I think it's very important that this resolution has been supported unanimously. It is important that Australia has taken a leadership role in doing that because of course we have had a significant number of citizens and permanent residents affected.

CURTIS: Tanya Plibersek we will have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Lyndal.

ENDS

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Melbourne Press Conference

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

PRESS CONFERENCE

MONDAY, 21 JULY 2014     

MELBOURNE

 

Subject/s: MH17; Middle East.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Australia is still in mourning today as we discover more details about the passengers who are on MH17. Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents, people of many nations who’ve lost their lives. I’m here in Melbourne today to attend the World AIDS Conference and I’ve already met with a number of senior researchers and activists this morning talking about some of the people who have been lost in this terrible tragedy. People who have spent their lives working for the benefit of others, tragically losing their lives in this terrible plane crash.

I think it’s very important to say that Australians are shocked and appalled, not only at the shocking loss of life, but the added difficulties that pro-Russian separatists are providing when it comes to retrieving bodies. The friends and family of those who have been killed, of course, immediately want to see those remains brought back to the home countries of the people who have lost their lives. It is completely unacceptable that access to the site for retrieval of bodies is being impeded. There are reports today that bodies have been removed from the site but it’s not clear where those bodies will be kept or that they will be properly secured and looked after. It is absolutely critical that we get that information straight away and that the remains of Australians can be returned home as quickly as possible. In addition to removal of bodies from the site it appears that the wreckage is being tampered with, whether this is for the reason of covering up the cause of the crash, whether it is to hide for example the type of missile that has been used to bring down this plane, or whether indeed there is looting going on, is also not clear.

This shows again how absolutely critical it is that there is a full, international, independent investigation allowed to commence immediately. There are people in Ukraine right now, in Kiev, who could begin this investigation. They must be allowed to begin their work straight away. In addition to that pro-Russian separatists must allow proper access to the site for the removal of bodies. It is unacceptable that there are these delays around the removal of bodies. It is clear that the international community supports the Security Council recommendation that there should be a full international, independent investigation. Countries in our region, our ASEAN neighbours have made clear that they support such an investigation. European countries have made clear that they support such an investigation. Latin American countries, the United States obviously. Around the world there is agreement that there must be a full, international, independent investigation that begins immediately. It would be of course completely unacceptable for Russia to refuse to support such a Security Council recommendation.

But Russia has another responsibility. As well as supporting the Security Council recommendation for this investigation, Russia must also use its influence with the rebels that are in the eastern part of Ukraine, in this region, to allow access to the site. To allow unimpeded access for this investigation and for the securing and retrieval of bodies. There is very strong evidence that these separatists are in frequent close contact with Russia. Russia should use its influence to ensure that the site is secured and the investigators and retrieval teams can go about their business.

Once this investigation establishes who exactly is responsible for this crime, it is critical that there is a strong international response. It’s clear with loss of life on such a scale that someone must be held accountable for that loss of life and I’m pleased to note that the UN Security Council resolution which is proposed, proposes not only an international investigation but that strong measures should flow from that investigation when we are certain about what exactly has happened here.

There’s very credible evidence though that it’s a surface-to-air missile. There are suggestions about the type of missile. There are strong suggestions about who might have fired that missile. But we need to take a methodical approach to establishing who fired the missile and where they got it in the first place and when we know that take very strong international measures against the perpetrators of this terrible crime.

I want to say that Labor supports the sending of Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston as Australia’s envoy in the Ukraine. Angus Houston is a distinguished Australian who has served Australia in some very difficult tasks in the past. This is a very difficult task and all our thoughts all our support go with him. We hope that he is able to oversee the return of Australian bodies, citizens and permanent residents, as quickly as possible to their families here. Are there any questions about this issue?

JOURNALIST: How much longer do you think these people should be there before something is done about securing the site?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t think a single minute should go – there should not be a single minute between when this site is secured, when bodies are removed and properly cared for so they can be transported back to their countries of origin. This has gone on too long already. There is absolutely no excuse for the interference that we’ve seen from Russian backed separatists in preventing proper access to the site and proper retrieval of bodies. It’s already gone on too long, so I don’t think it should go on any longer, it’s already gone on too long. The important thing is to get a team in there that can remove and properly transport bodies.

JOURNALIST: Should Vladimir Putin be banned from Australia if he doesn’t support an independent investigation?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s absolutely critical that Vladimir Putin supports the UN Security Council resolution and I would be amazed if he doesn’t. It would be a grave misjudgement for Russia not to support this UN Security Council resolution or indeed to veto it. What I would add to that though is it’s not just supporting the words of the resolution that will be the test for Russia. We know that Russia does have influence with the separatists rebels that are in control of this part of Ukraine. Russia must not just sign on the dotted line for the resolution, Russia must use every bit of its influence with these rebels to ensure proper access to the site, proper treatment of bodies, the ability to gather evidence unimpeded and this will be the test for Russia. Their willingness to support an international, independent investigation, not only in word, but also in deed.

JOURNALIST: Tony Abbott came out against very strongly Russia very early. Do you support how he’s handled the response to this on behalf of Australia?

PLIBERSEK: I think emotions have run very high. We know now that at least 37 Australians, citizens and permanent residents, have lost their lives. It’s a very emotional time for our country. It is important that we establish a proper investigation now so that those who are responsible can face the consequences of their actions.

JOURNALIST: On another matter, how concerned is the Labor Party about Israel’s attacks on Gaza?

PLIBERSEK: We are extremely concerned about events in Gaza now. It appears that over 400 civilians have lost their lives. At last count 73 children had lost their lives. One report suggests that more children have lost their lives than militants. We understand that with Hamas firing rockets at Israel it was inevitable that Israel would seek to protect itself. Hamas rockets fired against Israel must stop. Equally however with so many civilian lives being lost now it is absolutely imperative that there is an immediate ceasefire. The consequences of this activity in Gaza are taking an extremely high toll on the civilian population there and we would urge an immediate ceasefire.

ENDS

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Television Interview, Today on Saturday

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

TODAY ON SATURDAY

SATURDAY, 19 JULY 2014

 

SUBJECT/S: MH 17

DEBORAH KNIGHT, PRESENTER: And as Australia does come to grip with the MH17 disaster we’re joined this morning by Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek. Minister good morning. It is a terrible tragedy for Australia and the world, something that we’re all really grappling to comprehend.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Deb it is shocking. You don't ever expect to see such news, a civilian passenger plane shot down like this, almost 300 lives lost. We know today a little more about the Australians that have lost their lives. Very ordinary people, mums, dads, kids, teachers, grandparents, people who were doing something that they should have been absolutely perfectly safe to do, boarding a passenger plane, flying home, many of them to Australia. We also know, sadly, that many of the people from other nations were on their way to Melbourne for the International AIDS Conference. It seems that up to a third of the passengers may have been en route to this, the 20th International AIDS Conference. So you've got people there who are researchers, people who have been working in developing countries trying to get medicines to people who are dying of AIDS around the world, and the loss of people who have spent their lives, dedicated their lives to serving others, I think alongside these terrible tragedies of Australian lives lost I think we give special thought to those people too.

KNIGHT: Indeed a large pall hanging over the conference as it gets underway in Melbourne tomorrow. What sort of action do you think should be taken against Vladimir Putin and against Russia? It really is an act of murder against innocent civilians.

PLIBERSEK: Certainly this is an act of murder, but the first thing that we have to do is establish exactly what's happened. The Security Council will call on an independent, transparent, international investigation. Investigators must be at the site as quickly as possible. Unfortunately it looks, from the footage and the photographs we have seen, that civilians and indeed possibly military personnel or rebels are wandering all over the site, interfering with the site, that's completely unacceptable. It is vital that we get an international aircraft investigation team there straight away. The black box of the plane needs to be secured and evidence of exactly what has happened needs to be secured. It is very important that Russia, as a good international citizen, supports the UN Security Council resolution to have that investigation team on to the site as quickly as possible.

KNIGHT: If Russia is implicated as a result of this investigation what should the global community do to act? Australia, for example, should we consider imposing trade sanctions against Russia? What should be done?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it is - we're a step ahead of ourselves. Today is a day of mourning, we need to be thinking about the friends and family of those who have lost their lives. The next step is determining exactly what has happened, so pressure needs to be brought to bear to ensure that Ukraine cooperates and Russia cooperates with an international team of air crash investigators going into the site as quickly as possible, with all of the evidence being secured as quickly as possible. The next step, it looks very likely that this is a surface to air missile. People have speculated about the type of missile it is. The next step, once that is proved, is to find out who fired the missile and where they got it from. So let's take this step by step now.

KNIGHT: The families of the 28 Australians who have been killed are grappling with been their loss. Compensation funds have been set up in the past for previous terror attacks for the Bali and London bombings. Should that be extended in this case too?

PLIBERSEK: Well if the Government does that I'll be very supportive of that. I would think that would be appropriate in such circumstances.

KNIGHT: All right Tanya Plibersek we thank you for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Deb.

ENDS

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ABC News Radio

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC NEWS RADIO

MONDAY, 21 JULY 2014     

 

SUBJECT/S: MH17; GAZA CONFLICT; CLIMATE CHANGE.            

 

MARIUS BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good morning Marius.

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.

ENDS

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ABC Radio National Breakfast

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC RADIO NATIONAL BREAKFAST

MONDAY, 21 JULY 2014     

 

SUBJECT/S: MH17.            

 

ALISON CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, thanks for your time.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi Alison.

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, it’s taken several days but Vladimir Putin has finally taken Tony Abbott’s telephone call. Could this signal Russia is prepared to be more cooperative?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think it was extraordinary that it’s taken this long for Vladimir Putin to answer the phone to Tony Abbott, considering the very high toll that this terrible tragedy has taken on Australian lives, Australian citizens and permanent residents. I can’t interpret whether this is a good sign or not, but it would be extraordinary if Russia didn’t support the Security Council resolution calling for a full, transparent, international investigation, for investigators to be allowed unimpeded onto the crash site immediately. It would be extraordinary if they did not support that.

CARABINE: But the Prime Minister has expressed concerns that the Russians may give all the right assurances, say the right things, but then will interfere with the site, interfere with that full and independent international investigation. From what we’ve seen so far on the ground in Eastern Ukraine, do you share those fears? Are those fears well-founded, that the Russians won’t cooperate?

PLIBERSEK: I think the first thing to ensure is that they support the formal resolution. The second thing that is required of the Russians is that they use all of the influence that they have with the separatist rebels to ensure that there is proper access to the site, that there is no threat of interference or violence towards investigators. I think the international community would generally have a view that Russia would have a strong potential influence on these separatists. They should use that influence.

CARABINE: But the Kremlin has indicated that it will support an independent investigation, but the bottom line: can Vladimir Putin be trusted?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think I’m the appropriate person to ask that question, and I don’t think it would be appropriate to offer a view.

CARABINE: Now, right from the start the Prime Minister has used very forthright language. He is no doubt that Russia is implicated in the missile attack on MH17. Is the Opposition of the same view that Russia can’t wash its hands of this one?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think we need to take this step by step. The first thing we need to do is secure the bodies, to make sure they are held in appropriate conditions and returned to Australia, returned to their countries of origin as quickly as possible. The second thing that we need to do is ensure the site is accessible to an international team of investigators. There are already people in Kiev who could be going to the site now, who could be securing the site and gathering evidence, that’s the next most important thing to do. That investigation has to run its course, but when we know who is responsible, I think the international community would demand a very strong response. The loss of almost 300 lives is an absolutely unacceptable tragedy and we need to establish clearly who’s responsible, and hold whoever is responsible to account.

CARABINE: So does Labor hold Russia responsible for the downing of MH17? Is it implicated to some extent?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t think it’s appropriate to speculate in that way. What I would say is that there is strong evidence that the missile was fired from territory held by Russian-backed rebels, there is credible evidence of the type of missile that was used. If that is indeed found to be the case, the type of missile is identified as something that could have been or is likely to have been provided to rebel separatists by Russians, then of course there is a degree of responsibility. But I have to stress that it is important that this goes through a step by step process. This site covers many square kilometres, there will be debris from the type of missile - that has been used that has to be gathered and carefully examined to ensure that it’s the type of missile that people believe that it is. Then the next step is to establish through other means how this missile – who fired it, and how it came to be in the hands of whoever fired it.

CARABINE: And those others means, of course, is the United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a full independent, international investigation. Julie Bishop expects Russia will support that resolution, do you believe that will be the case?

PLIBERSEK: I think it would be extraordinary if Russia didn’t support this resolution, I think it would be extraordinary. But supporting the resolution is one thing, using its influence with separatists to ensure proper investigation to the site, to ensure that debris is not removed, to ensure that sadly the bodies are able to be dealt with properly. They need to use their influence with the rebels to ensure that as well, it’s not just a matter of signing on the dotted line, but of using everything at their disposal to aid and support a proper investigation.

CARABINE: But if the Russians continue to be uncooperative and it doesn’t use its influence with the pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine, what is next? Is there anything really that Australia or the rest of the world community can do, or will we effectively be stymied?

PLIBERSEK: Well no, of course there are consequences to a lack of cooperation, but I don’t think it’s the right time now to start talking about those potential consequences. I think we need to take this step by step, at getting an investigative team in there right now and demanding the cooperation of separatists are the two most critical things to do right now. There are potential consequences, the European community has been very badly affected by this, there were - as you know - in particular many Dutch nationals on this plane. I’m sure that there is a strong degree of expectation amongst all of the nations that have had citizens affected by this, for the perpetrators to be found and to be punished.

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, you’ve been briefed by agencies on the latest situation in Ukraine. We’ve all seen the vision of bodies being removed and placed on a train, the black box also being taken away, belongings being looted. Is it now too late for the site to be secured in any shape or form?

PLIBERSEK: I think every minute that passes is – it’s a shame that any time would continue to elapse before investigators are allowed to do their work properly. But this is a very forensic task, they’ll be looking for very small pieces of missile, for example, in amongst the wreckage. And I think that the very highly skilled investigators that we have would still be able to find evidence at the site. It is just completely against any of the rules of humanity that investigators would be prevented from accessing the site, but more particularly that bodies would be not properly handled, not properly and respectfully handled at the moment. So any time elapsing is a problem, but I think it’s still important to get a team in there as quickly as quickly as we can.

 

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, just finally, there is still the question of Vladimir Putin’s attendance at the G20 is Brisbane in November. The Prime Minister is suggesting he will only be invited if there is full cooperation and an apology, and full regret and remorse are expressed. Would that be good enough for the Opposition or is Vladimir Putin not welcome in this country regardless of what happens next?

PLIBERSEK: I think, as I’ve said, it’s important to establish step by step who is responsible here. If the suggestions that Russian-backed rebels have fired this missile and it was supplied by the Russians, then there is a degree of culpability and we would expect consequences to that culpability. But it is very important to establish this in a methodical way beyond doubt.

CARABINE: Tanya Plibersek, thank you for your time this morning.

PLIBERSEK: Thanks Alison.

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Press Conference, 20 July 2014

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&EO TRANSCRIPT
PRESS CONFERENCE

SUNDAY, 20 JULY 2014
SYDNEY

SUBJECT/S: MH17, United Nation’s Security Council; Saint Mary’s service for victims of MH17; International AIDS Conference; Russia and the G20; Repatriation of victims to Australia.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks for coming out this afternoon. The first thing to say of course is that the Prime Minister, his wife, the leader of the opposition Bill Shorten and I, the Governor-General, his wife, the New South Wales Governor, the Premier Mike Baird and a number of others attended a service this morning at Saint Mary’s cathedral to commemorate the shocking loss of life from MH 17 today. The service was a great opportunity to remind ourselves that in Australia the whole community is shocked by this act of extraordinary violence and the loss of human life that has come from it. We now know that at least 36 Australian citizens and permanent residents have lost their lives. Children, parents, grandparents, teachers, a whole range of people right across the Australian community, from all parts of our community there are many, many families grieving today and many communities grieving the loss of a community member. The service today was an opportunity to show that all Australians are united in their grief, and united in their support for the families who’ve lost a loved one, for the communities who’ve lost a member of their community.

Very shortly, Australian will be engaged with the UN Security Council in debating a resolution about granting full access to the site of this terrible crash. It is absolutely critical that Security Council members unanimously support the call for an investigation that is transparent, that is made up of investigators from a number of countries, so a credible, transparent,international investigation. Access to the site must be granted immediately and it must be unimpeded. I think every Australian would be outraged at the suggestions that there are paramilitary personnel on the site at the moment that are interfering with investigations, preventing investigation and it seems perhaps preventing the removal and retrieval of bodies. This is completely unacceptable. There is no explanation, no excuse for anything other than for authorities to have full access to the site to retrieve and remove bodies and also of course, to ensure that the site is not tampered with, that any investigation is thorough and is credible.
The third thing to say is that tomorrow I’ll be travelling to Melbourne to go to the International AIDS Conference. As well as the Australian citizens and permanent residents that were mourning for, we understand the grief of other nations, particularly the Netherlands who’ve lost so many of their citizens. We also understand the terrible grief being suffered by those attending the International AIDS Conference to have lost so many colleagues in this shocking tragedy. The people who are travelling to the conference in Melbourne are people who have spent their lives, dedicated their careers to helping others. We’ve got health campaigners, doctors, researchers, scientists, people who have made a huge contribution to saving literally millions of lives by ensuring better access to medicines in countries where the epidemic is most fierce. So as well as the terrible individual tragedies of these lives lost, as we think of the families and friends and colleagues of all of those on board, we also think of the cost to humanity of losing so many fine researchers and health activists at one time.

I want to just, before we move into questions, mention another tragedy that’s happening today. We now know that the death toll in Gaza is over 300. We need to find a peaceful resolution immediately to the military conflict that’s occurring in Gaza. Of course the rockets must stop, Hamas must agree to a ceasefire and I also urge Israel to ensure that any response to that rocket fire is proportionate and spares the lives of civilians. We are hearing of a lot of civilian casualties at the moment and I am full of concern for those people also.

JOURNALIST: On MH17, the Prime Minister this morning said on television that Russia can’t wash its hand of the situation. What are your thoughts on the way that Russia and President Putin are handling this so far?

PLIBERSEK: The priority for Australia has to be getting on to the crash site and retrieving Australians from that crash site. The second most important thing to do is ensure an international investigation into exactly what’s happened here. I am extremely concerned, however, about reports that Russian backed separatists are engaged in preventing access to the site and preventing the investigation that must happen. We need to establish what type of rocket this was, who fired it and where they got it from, but that’s the next step for us.

JOURNALIST: I suppose for a lot of the families, of let’s say the Australian victims, they’d be wondering whether or not President Putin should be allowed into Australian for the G20 Summit, or should attend the G20 Summit. Can you understand some of these families and more broadly the Australian community believing that he shouldn’t be here in person?

PLIBERSEK: I absolutely support [inaudible] concerned about the, what President Putin has said. Certainly his first response in seeking to blame Ukraine for this terrible tragedy is completely unacceptable.  He has the opportunity now, in the Security Council, to back the full international investigation and he also has the opportunity to send a very strong message to Russian backed separatists in Ukraine that they must cooperate with an international investigation. They must cooperate in allowing bodies to be removed from the site and repatriated, taken home, brought home to Australia and to all of those nations that are sharing in this tragedy with us. President Putin has the opportunity of showing leadership on this by backing that investigation and ensuring that Russian backed separatists allow the international team investigating and removing and repatriating bodies to do their work in [inaudible].

JOURNALIST: But about him coming to the G20?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think that that’s something that we need to consider when it becomes clear what type of rocket this was, where it came from and who fired it.

JOURNALIST: And the Sister Tiernan, she was from your electorate?

PLIBERSEK: No, she was from a neighbouring electorate I believe, but I was able to meet this morning at Saint Mary’s with a number of her fellow Sisters of the Sacred Heart and a number of other Orders were also represented there. There were a number of young women from Kincoppal who were at the service this morning and I know that they are feeling a great deal of grief at this time. We were able to offer our condolences to those other nuns, but of course it’s a tragic time for them as it is for all of the families, friends and colleagues of those Australian citizens and permanent residents.

JOURNALIST: Just back on to Russia, do you think that the broader international community and countries like Germany and Britain also need to do their bit to try and encourage Russia or force Russia into supporting an independent and international inquiry?

PLIBERSEK: Absolutely. I think any nation, any world leader that is in contact with Vladimir Putin with any nation that has any influence with Russia should be using that influence right now to ensure that Russia supports a UN Security Council resolution to allow a credible, independent, international investigation. And that, also on top of that, that Vladimir Putin urges Russian separatists very clearly to ensure that the site is accessible, that there is no tampering with the site.

JOURNALIST: But are you concerned that Germany and Britain might be tempering their comments because there’s an economic imperative for both countries?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think, no I couldn’t say that now, I don’t see any evidence of that.

JOURNALIST: Okay, and also Julie Bishop has been finding it difficult to get on to her Russian counterpart and Tony Abbott still hasn’t been able to speak to Vladimir Putin. What do you think that this sort of stuff signals?

PLIBERSEK: I think it is extraordinary that the Russian foreign minister apparently is on holidays and not contactable and that President Putin, at a time like this of international shock and horror, is not available.

JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns that the MH17 incident could inflame tensions here regarding the Ukraine/Russia conflict?

PLIBERSEK: No, I don’t share those concerns. I believe the Russian community and Ukrainian community here in Australia are both shocked and appalled at the loss of life from MH17 going down, and I’m sure that as good Australian citizens they will be as shocked and as horrified as any other Australian citizen at this loss of life.

Thanks everyone.

ENDS

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ABC News Radio with Steve Chase

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

RADIO INTERVIEW

ABC NEWS RADIO WITH STEVE CHASE

FRIDAY, 18 JULY 2014                 

 

SUBJECT/S: MH17; Middle East

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: I think it’s very important that we establish exactly what’s happened here.  It seems beyond doubt that there’s been a missile involved.  But it’s very important that we get a crash scene investigation team, an independent international team to the site as quickly as possible, so that the exact circumstances of this tragedy can be established.

STEVE CHASE, PRESENTER: You’re being kept up to date I understand it by the Foreign Affairs minister, as is the Opposition Leader about developments?

PLIBERSEK: Indeed, the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has been speaking with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, I’ve been speaking to my counterpart Julie Bishop.  We are very eager, as the Opposition Leader and the Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesperson, to offer every support to the Australian Government.  Twenty-eight Australians at least have been killed in this terrible tragedy, and we are as eager as the Government to ensure that there is very quickly an independent international investigation into the circumstances.  We also, of course, at the very front of our minds are the families and friends of those Australians and all of the passengers on board, and of course also those people who are coming to Melbourne for the 20th international AIDS conference – that was particularly tragic to have people who’ve spent their lives seeking to help others, killed in this senseless way.

CHASE: It is your understanding that things may get a little bit clearer this weekend, when the United Nations look in detail and indeed press Russia on what has actually gone on here?

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think it’s extremely important that when the UN Security Council meets, that there is a unanimous and binding resolution from the United National Security Council members and that should include Russia urging and confirming that there will be an independent international investigation into this tragedy.  I think it’s very important that we get a crash scene investigation team into there straight away.  There are reports that there are people picking over the wreckage, it’s very important to secure the site, and to make sure that it can be examined forensically for any evidence of who is responsible.  When it’s establish who’s responsible I think there’ll be a very strong international response to whoever is responsible for this horrendous crime.

CHASE: And in tandem with that, once the perpetrators have been identified, obviously moves to settle what’s been going on for a long time now between Russia and Ukraine should be settled?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think this is the most tragic illustration we could possibly have, that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia will benefit no one – it’s a tragedy for the people of Ukraine, but it’s a tragedy for the people of the world.  It is so important that peace is brought to the region, that there is a diplomatic resolution to any conflict that exists between Ukraine and Russia, and that we see an end immediately to the violence.  It has gone on long enough, it has cost way too much.

CHASE: I imagine too, that as far as your portfolio responsibility is concerned, you’d also be keeping a close eye this weekend on what’s happening in Gaza?

PLIBERSEK: I’m extremely concerned about what’s happening in Gaza. I think again, this shows that it is so important that we resolve differences by negotiation and peaceful means.  There are well over 200 people who’ve lost their lives already in Gaza.  It is absolutely vital that Hamas stops firing rockets, and Israel, it is absolutely critical that the Israeli response is measured and seeks to protect civilian lives.

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Sky News Interview with Celina Edmunds

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

  

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

SKY NEWS WITH CELINA EDMUNDS

FRIDAY, 18 JULY 2014                 

 

SUBJECT/S: MH17

CELINA EDMUNDS, PRESENTERTanya Plibersek thanks for your time. It’s hard to digest 298 lives lost among them 28 Australians it’s very, very hard to find the words with such a tragedy.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: It is indeed a shocking tragedy and our first thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of this shocking tragedy. The 28 Australians obviously but those of all nations who’ve been affected and those of course who were on their way to Australia for the AIDS conference in Melbourne. People who have devoted their lives to helping others killed in this senseless tragedy.

EDMUNDSOf course our attention turns to what happened and particularly this meeting the Russian ambassador and the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop this afternoon. The Prime Minister has described the response from the Russian ambassador blaming the Ukraine as deeply, deeply unsatisfactory.

PLIBERSEK: Well indeed, if the Russian Government is blaming Ukraine or if the Russian ambassador is blaming Ukraine that would be completely unacceptable. The next stage is for there to be a full, international, independent investigation and Australia will use its role on the Security Council to insist on that. Julie Bishop has assured me that she will. It is vitally important that there is an international investigation, because any investigation done by just one country would not have the same strong credibility that an international investigation, including Australian investigators would have. We have a concern in this, we’ve lost 28 Australians and it is important that we have the opportunity of contributing our expertise to finding exactly what’s happened here.

EDMUNDSBill Shorten indicated this morning that he appreciated the level of bi-partisanship that the Prime Minister was offering and the briefings he was receiving. Are you likewise receiving similar responses from the Foreign Minister?

PLIBERSEK: Indeed, I’ve spoken to the Foreign Minister this morning and I expect I’ll speak to her again over the next few days. I’ve offered to her, as Bill Shorten has to the Prime Minister, full support and cooperation and we are very concerned to know exactly what’s happened here and support the efforts of Australia on the Security Council to demand a full, international, independent, transparent investigation. It is critically important that we find the black box and any other evidence that can tell us exactly what’s happened. Securing the site will be very difficult. It is in rebel-held territory at the moment. And it is extremely important that Russia uses its influence with these pro-Russian separatists to allow an international team in to investigate the site.

EDMUNDSHow appropriate would it be that the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, was welcomed to Australia for the G20 in November?

PLIBERSEK: Well let’s just see what this investigation determines. I think it’s pretty clear that the surface-to-air missile has been fired off by pro-Russian separatists. That seems to be the consensus internationally, but the next step of determining how and where they received such a sophisticated weapon is something that needs to be investigated.

EDMUNDSIf it is and that weapon has come from Russia what action should Australia take?

PLIBERSEK: Well I’m not going to speculate on that now, but I would say this is an excellent opportunity for Vladimir Putin to use any influence he has with these rebels to allow an international team into the crash site. And more particularly to use any influence he has with these rebels to ensure peace in Ukraine. This conflict has gone on too long and it has cost too much.

EDMUNDSTanya Plibersek, at times of conflict it is very hard to find out the truth isn’t it?

PLIBERSEK: It’s extremely difficult to find out the truth in a situation like this because the area is held by pro-separatist rebels. I have spoken to our honorary consulate in Kiev, so I have had some first-hand descriptions of the difficulties of emergency and rescue teams trying to get into the area. They have had some success in approaching the site but they have not been able to get from these reports I’ve had from Kiev to the, I guess you’d call it epicentre of the crash site up till now. It is extremely important that there is access, that the black box is recovered and that the site is undisturbed until investigators are able to make it onto the scene.

EDMUNDSAnd yet the pictures would indicate that people trampling over the site, that pieces of the wreckage have indeed been moved. It’s hard to see how if investigators are allowed in there and there is some type of transparent investigation just what they are going to find.

PLIBERSEKIndeed, and that’s why it’s so important that Australia, now with a position on the Security Council, uses all of our influence to ensure that there is a transparent, international investigation. It would certainly be completely inappropriate for Russia to suggest anything else and I hope that the outcome of this emergency meeting of the Security Council sees a resolution from all of the Security Council members to support such an investigation.

EDMUNDS: The Prime Minister just in that news conference a short time ago said it was hard to have confidence in a transparent investigation involving Russia.

PLIBERSEKWell I think involving Russia is one thing, I think run by Russia is another. That’s why it’s important that it is an international investigation. Australia has very skilled experts who certainly could offer help. The Australian Government has offered that help. For our own interest in this I think it would be appropriate for Australians to be involved in the investigation. But certainly it needs to be an international team beyond either Ukraine or Russia involving experts from several other countries. Either because of their expertise or because of the interest they have because they’ve lost citizens.

EDMUNDSYes it would be appropriate wouldn’t it that Ukraine and Russia were removed entirely from this investigation but unfortunately that wouldn’t be likely would it?

PLIBERSEK: I don’t have a view on whether they should be removed entirely but this needs to be an international investigation to give all parties confidence.

EDMUNDSWe spoke about the bipartisanship on this disaster and the response to the tragedy of MH17. What do you think it’s important people remember as we try to come to terms with the number of lives lost around the world, the 28
Australians who have been lost and as this investigation unfolds and the response from the likes of Russia and the Ukraine?

PLIBERSEKWell I think the first and most important thing for us to bear in mind is the grief and suffering of the family and friends who are affected. Secondly, we need to remember the ongoing suffering of the people of Ukraine who are experiencing this conflict now for much too long. Our attention has been captured in this most tragic way today by this plane being shot out of the sky but we need to remember too dozens of Ukrainians have lost their lives in recent times. It is important there is immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and immediate peace and trust building in Ukraine. And I think the third thing perhaps to keep in mind as an international community is, and Australia with our position on the Security Council at the moment, it is important that as an international community that we repudiate the use of force. That we support negotiation, the rule of law and international norms to settle territorial disputes.

EDMUNDSAnd just finally before we let you go you mentioned you will be speaking again with the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop today.

PLIBERSEK: The Foreign Minister has told me that she’ll keep me up to date I will wait for her to contact me to give me further updates. This is something that is demanding her attention, but she has called me once today and I expect she’ll keep me up to date as further news becomes available.

EDMUNDSTanya Plibersek I do thank you very much for your time on Sky News.

 

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG


THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

STATEMENT

MALAYSIA AIRLINES FLIGHT 17

 FRIDAY, 18 JULY 2014

This tragedy is devastating news.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of all those on board, including at least 23 Australians.

We are advised the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has established a 24 hour hotline. Anyone with concerns about loved ones should call 1300 555 135.

The Labor Opposition will do all it can to support the Government at this terrible time.

 

 

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Abbott Government Must Rule Out More Cuts to Overseas Aid and Australia’s Diplomatic Service

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
 

 

THE HON MATT THISTLETHWAITE MP

SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR IMMIGRATION

MEMBER FOR KINGSFORD SMITH

 

MEDIA RELEASE

ABBOTT GOVERNMENT MUST RULE OUT MORE CUTS TO OVERSEAS AID AND AUSTRALIA’S DIPLOMATIC SERVICE

 

16 JULY 2014

CANBERRA

 

I call on the Abbott Government to immediately rule out more cuts to overseas aid and Australia’s diplomatic service following the Treasurer’s announcement that he is looking for further cuts to rescue his unfair, chaotic Budget.

The $7.6 billion cut to aid was the single biggest in the Abbott Government’s first Budget.

The Abbott Government’s cut to aid has already hit some of the world’s poorest nations hard, including countries in Australia’s own backyard.

Our aid program helps to enhance global prosperity, and Australia's own security. The Abbott Government's cuts put both at risk.

Mr Abbott’s $400 million cut to our diplomatic service seriously jeopardises Australia’s influence on the international stage.

Labor will continue to fight this unfair, chaotic Budget.

Now, if the Senate chooses to block savings initiatives, then we need to look at other savings initiatives that may not require legislation and I would ask the Greens and the Labor Party who between them hold 35 votes on the floor of the Senate - to understand that there are alternatives for a Government.

JOE HOCKEY – AM PROGRAM – 16 JULY 2014

 

 

 

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