Sky News Interview with Celina Edmunds









FRIDAY, 18 JULY 2014                 



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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