Sky News Afternoon Agenda







SUBJECT/S: MH17; Indonesian Presidential election; Middle East.

DAVID LIPSON: Meanwhile as recriminations fly back and forth over who is responsible for the downing of the aircraft, the Opposition has raised the prospect of Australian action against Russia with Bill Shorten in the United States, the shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek is acting as Labor leader. I spoke to her a short time ago and started by asking about the 100 bodies still unaccounted for.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Shows how important it is to get an international team on to the crash site very promptly. It is a very difficult task finding and securing and then transporting all of the bodies and it's not a job that should be left to amateurs. It's critical – we’ve got a Dutch team on the ground now, there are other international people there who could assist. The rebels need to allow access to that international team to recover any other remains over the crash site.

LIPSON: Tony Abbott has outlined several priorities. Firstly the proper treatment and ultimately repatriation of the bodies. Also an investigation. Now they are comparatively easy to achieve compared to his third goal, which is to bring those responsible to justice. There are all sorts of complexities in actually carrying out a punishment. First and foremost the mechanism for doing so.

PLIBERSEK: Look, I think they are the right priorities in the right order. We of course need to return Australian citizens and permanent residents to their loved ones. We need to get an independent transparent international investigation started straight away and that third priority of bringing people to account I think that will be demanded by the international community. Yes it's tough, but almost 300 people have lost their lives. It is not beyond us. Particularly if there is unimpeded access to the site and to any evidence that's available to find out first of all what happened to confirm what type of missile it was, and then after that to confirm who fired it and how they got it in the first place.

LIPSON: Bill Shorten says the Opposition would be open to supporting the Government if it wanted to impose sanctions against Russia. Should Russia choose not to cooperate to an adequate level. At what point is it appropriate to start seriously pushing for sanctions on Russia?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it is, first of all to be recognised that Russia felt enough international pressure to agree to the security council resolution to - that has led to this investigation. I think the next step is for Russia to clearly show that it's not all talk, that it is actually prepared to use its influence with Russian backed separatists in the area in question to allow this investigation to take place. If there is any suggestion that Russia is not cooperating appropriately, that it's interfering with the investigation, that it's not using its influence with the rebels then that's a time to start talking about sanctions. If it's found - as has been speculated - that this weapon has been provided by Russia, if there has been any training of the people who have fired it, if indeed there has been a Russian team associated with it, because there has been movement of troops back and forth across the border, then that brings us to another degree of - well another degree of culpability and again,

LIPSON: Even US intelligence says that Russia may have created the conditions that enabled the that Russia may have created the conditions that enabled the rebels to shoot down the plane, but nothing suggested beyond that at this point..

PLIBERSEK: No. What we have heard overnight from US intelligence sources is the suggestion that this is most likely Russian separatists who have fired on this plane. They have mistaken it for Ukrainian troop transport or some other military aircraft. But I think there are two questions here. The first question that we need to establish is who fired the missile and where did they get it. There is a degree of culpability there.  There is a second question about the - what you have described as the conditions for this missile being fired and there is also a degree of responsibility and potentially culpability around that too.

LIPSON: What sanctions would be appropriate should they be required against Russia? Because there are already sanctions against Russia that are really having little or no effect.

PLIBERSEK: Well, I wouldn't agree that the sanctions are having little or no effect. In fact I think because the sanctions disproportionately affect Vladimir Putin's friends and allies, the oligarchs of Russia, I think you can assume that they are being felt. We know that Russia –

LIPSON: Isn't the fact the conflict continues proof that the sanctions are not having the desired effect?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think ideally the sanctions would have already encouraged Russia to withdraw its support from the rebels that it's armed and trained and funded. But, so I guess to a degree you could question the effectiveness. What we hear though are that there is a level of discomfort being felt by the Russian oligarchs whose depend on financial services, and minerals exports and of course most importantly gas exports, for their income. The difficulty for Europe of course in engaging in sanctions is that European countries rely on that gas. So there is a complex set of circumstances to be worked through. Australia of course has to be thinking about if we are calling for sanctions what we can do to assist Europe to cope with the effects on European countries, of those sanctions, because the effects obviously are felt on both sides. If you're not selling gas you're not making a profit. But if you are not receiving gas and winter approaches you get a little bit nervous about how your domestic economy and most particularly the people that live in your country are going to cope with that –

LIPSON: If Australia imposes any sanctions here as well would local industry be a consideration for that? Because for example we export something like $160 million worth of beef to Russia, there is also butter and live animals as well.

PLIBERSEK: No, frankly I wouldn't - I mean I would obviously prioritise the international response to show unequivocally how important it is to hold the perpetrators of this horrendous crime to account. That would be our first and most important responsibility. But I do think it's, as I said earlier, important to go through these steps methodically. We need to have a very clear idea of where this missile came from. Who is responsible for shooting it, where they got it from. The next discussion, the discussion that you have engaged in, what kind of sanctions might be appropriate, that is a discussion for some time in the future.

LIPSON: Moving on to the Indonesia election. Joko Widodo has emerged the victor as the President elect in Indonesia. You have welcomed his election. He is more moderate than the vanquished former general Prabowo Subianto, will Jokowi do you think be easier for Australia to deal with.

PLIBERSEK: I think it is important to say up front that Australia would never express a view about the Indonesian presidential election in favour of one candidate versus the other. We have certainly welcomed the election I think the clear win of Jokowi. We admire incredibly Indonesia's democracy. More than 133 million people voted out of around 190 million eligible to vote. That's an impressive achievement all of its own. Making sure that the results of the election are adhered to will be an important next step of course in Indonesia. But yes we are very happy to see the election of Jokowi.  We would have been happy with either candidate. But my congratulations to Jokowi, and my congratulations more importantly I suppose to the people of Indonesia for the amazing journey they have made to democracy with 133 million people voting in around half a million polling booths.

LIPSON: Just to Gaza quickly. And there are been a number of airlines in the United States and Europe that have stopped flying into Tel Aviv because of the latest violence that's been raging for about three weeks now. What's your view on this round of violence?

PLIBERSEK: Well, the first and most important thing to say is there should be an immediate ceasefire. We have seen the loss of more than 600 lives already, around 100 of those have been children. There must be an immediate ceasefire. Of course Hamas must agree to stop firing rockets into Israel but equally the response now with more than 600 dead, the toll is unspeakable. And I'm pleased to see that both Ban Ki-Moon and John Kerry in Egypt obviously, and Ban Ki-moon has been in Israel, with putting their full efforts into securing a ceasefire. It is critical that the violence stops now. The cost has been much too great already.

LIPSON: Bob Carr wants Labor to adopt a more pro-Palestinian stance. Is that under active consideration in the Labor Party?

PLIBERSEK: Well I don’t really know what that means. I mean Australia has consistently under both sides of politics, Liberal and Labor, advocated a two state solution that allows Israel to live behind secure internationally recognised borders but also meets the absolutely justified aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own. I don't think that it makes a lot of sense to talk in terms of being closer to one side or the other. Our aspiration is for peace. A two state solution, where two nations live side-by-side in peace and security and I think that the most important thing we can be saying –

LIPSON: You reject Bob Carr on that?

PLIBERSEK: I think the most important thing we can be saying when 600 people have already lost their lives is that there needs to be an immediate ceasefire and that we need to proceed to a two state solution. This conflict has cost too much, too many lives, too much hurt already. And the only solution is a two state solution - the only solution that can last.

LIPSON: Tanya Plibersek thanks so much for your time today.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you David.


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