TRANSCRIPT: Television Interview, Wednesday 14 October 2015





ABC JOURNALIST, GREG JENNETT: Labor's Tanya Plibersek has also been absorbing news of the Dutch investigation into MH17. We spoke to her about the tragedy, about Syria and the disputed territorial waters of Asia. Tanya Plibersek , the Dutch investigation into MH17 has told us what happened, do you think we'll ever know by whom?

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well this investigation was designed to be conclusive about what actually happened to the plane and I think the evidence is overwhelming that the MH17 was tragically shot down by a BUK missile system. It’s identified around 320 square kilometers from which the missile was fired. This investigation wasn’t designed to determine who fired the missile, that will continue to be the subject of an international criminal investigation and I think that’s completely appropriate. This investigation should continue until the people who fired the missile are held to account.

JENNETT: Is it plausible the Russian explanation that the particular type of BUK missile is an older type, not one that the Russian military currently has and that it may well have been operated by Ukrainian authorities

PLIBERSEK: Well I think the Russian position on this report that it’s not a credible report, that it has been politically motivated is not right. I think this is very clearly a credible report conducted by the international community, led by the Dutch and it’s disappointing to see Moscow trying to undermine the value of the report.

JENNETT: Well still on Russia we have the AUSMIN  talks happening in Boston, the question of Syria has obviously come up there and our military mission. Do you think Russia’s airstrikes in Syria, should in any way cause Australia to rethink its role in the Middle East and specifically in Syria?

PLIBERSEK: Well the first thing to say of course is that a monstrously complex situation has just become even more complex. The Russian interest in Syria is I think one that we should be concerned about, certainly any support for the Assad regime that has killed more than 200,000 of its own citizens is deeply concerning, there are credible reports that the Russians are not just attacking IS but also attacking moderate forces that are opponents of the Assad regime. So yes of course the situation as it becomes more complex needs to be reevaluated.

JENNETT: [inaudible]  Australia possibly pulling back because the Russians are operating militarily in those skies now?

PLIBERSEK: Well I think we need to take their involvement, the Russian involvement, into account when we're making operational decisions and I'm confident that our defence personnel can do that. I think it's also very important to be clear with Russia that any attack on moderate forces opposed to the Government, the Assad Government is not something that we can support or tolerate.

JENNETT: Now let’s go closer to our own region again off the AUSMIN talks in Boston, there seems to be an agreement for expanded naval cooperation with the US and with Australia, what message would that send to China?

PLIBERSEK: Our message to China has always been that we don't take positions on territorial disputes in the South China Sea or indeed the East China Sea, but that any difficulties should be resolved in accordance with international laws and norms. That said, I think our region is looking on with some consternation at the rate of building, the artificial islands, expansion of tiny specks of rocks in the ocean to become more substantial land masses. And indeed it seems some military type construction on some of these islands. So, while we don't take any position on territorial disputes we would certainly urge a halt to the building and land reclamation activities that we've seen not just from China but from a number of other countries as well.

JENNETT: But if the implication coming from the AUSMIN talks are that more Australian naval ships and that maybe more US naval ships are going to be moving in the South China Sea, are you saying that's OK, that's just us exercising our rights?

PLIBERSEK: Let’s see what the specific proposal is, of course Australian ships and US ships and the ships of any other nation have the right to traverse international waters in accordance with the usual the laws and norms, let's just see what the specific proposal  is before we start commenting.

JENNETT: And the US navy pulling into port more often in Australia, possibly having some more fixed facilities in Australian ports too? What would be the attitude to that on Labor's side?

PLIBERSEK: Again, we don't deal with hypotheticals when talking about issues of such importance, we have a long, strong and close relationship with the United States, one of our most important allies but I'm not going to deal in hypotheticals  

JENNETT: And just finally on China still,  is the ALP open to the idea of rejecting the China free trade agreement if its three suggested amendments can't be negotiated or agreed to by the Government?

PLIBERSEK: Well I certainly hope it doesn't come to that, we are great supporters of increasing our trading relationship with China, indeed we were negotiating this free trade agreement with China when we were in Government. We would like to see a good quality agreement that delivers jobs for Australians, we'd ask for some very sensible reassurances that Australians will benefit from the jobs created, that the pay and conditions of the workers will be appropriate and the skills and training of the workers will be appropriate, they're not unreasonable conditions.

JENNETT: Alright Tanya Plibersek, thank you.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Greg.