Parliament gathered this morning to speak about the news that MH17 had been shot down over Ukraine.
The Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Melbourne MP Adam Bandt and the Speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, all spoke about the tragedy. Here’s what the two political leaders had to say.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott
This is a grim day for our country and it’s a grim day for our world.
Malaysia Airlines MH17 has been shot down over the Eastern Ukraine it seems by Russian backed rebels. 298 people have been killed. At least 27 Australians have been killed.
Our hearts go out to the families of all the dead. Our thoughts and prayers especially are with the families of the Australian dead.
We can’t restore them to life but we can and will do everything to support them in this sad and bitter time because that is the Australian way – we help in times of trouble.
A Department of Foreign Affairs team is preparing to leave for Kiev. Next of kin and families will be notified as soon as possible. They’ll be offered counselling and assistance and bodies will be repatriated to Australia as quickly as possible.
Madam Speaker, we owe it as well to the families of the dead to find out exactly what has happened and exactly who is responsible.
As things stand, this looks less like an accident than a crime. I want to repeat this: as things stand, this looks less like an accident than a crime. If so, the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
So I can inform the House that as quickly as possible Australia will be working at the United Nations Security Council for a binding resolution calling for a full and impartial investigation with full access to the site, with full access to the debris, with full access to the black box and with full access to all individuals who might be in a position to shed light on this terrible event.
I can also inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs will shortly summons the Russian Ambassador to seek a categoric assurance from the Ambassador that the Russian government will fully cooperate in this investigation.
We owe it to the dead and their families, we owe it to the peace and stability of the wider world to establish the facts and we will do all we humanly can to bring that about.
Let me conclude with this: the bullying of small countries by big ones, the trampling of justice and decency in the pursuit of national aggrandisement and reckless indifference to human life should have no place in our world.
ALP leader Bill Shorten
I rise to support the words of the Prime Minister – and I thank him for the conversations that we have had this morning.
This news that we woke up to this morning is worse than shocking; it is debilitating, bewildering, with bewildering losses. Travelling at six miles height, this is unimaginable. This is a violation of the rules of civilisation. It is a tyrannical, wild act.
And I appreciate that when I rang the Prime Minister this morning, he has been most forthcoming. I greatly appreciate it.
As this Parliament convenes, right now and throughout today there will be anxious families having their worst fears confirmed. 3 kilometres from the town of Grabove, near the Russian-Ukranian border, on a patch of disputed ground currently controlled by separatist terrorists, lies the scattered ruin of MH17. 298 innocent people have lost their lives in sudden, unspeakable circumstances.
When I spoke to the Ukrainian Charge d’Affaires to Australia, he believes a surface-to-air missile has shot down the plane.
But most tragically amongst this terrible news, there are at least 27 Australians who have been murdered. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbours, colleagues, classmates and teammates.
There are Australians who would have planned to be at the airport tomorrow night to collect friends and family. Amongst them, some of the world’s leading AIDS experts. The cost of this will be felt in many parts of the world.
We grieve for all of them – and it does reach beyond Australian shores. I spoke this morning with the Ambassador from the Netherlands and conveyed my sympathies for her country’s terrible losses.
154 Dutch nationals were on board this flight – including, as I mentioned, world-renowned researchers and the former President of the International AIDS society, Dr Joep Lange. This flight is one of the most popular flights between Amsterdam, and Melbourne and Sydney, via Kuala Lumpur. Undoubtedly, many of the Dutch nationals on this plane were coming to visit friends, and possibly Australian family, in Australia.
In Afghanistan, Australia and the Netherlands stood united in courage in the service of peace. Today, our countries are embraced in our shared grief.
I’ve also spoken to the Malaysian High Commissioner, whose country is reeling from this sudden blow.
It is truly a tragic day, in a tragic year for Malaysia.
For the people of Ukraine, this is another terrible chapter in a conflict that has already come at a most terrible human cost. In Australia, we are immune and protected from much of the conflict in the world, and for that we should be thankful. But on recent estimates, more than 500 people have already died, civilians and Ukrainian soldiers, in the conflict in the Donbass region in the last weeks and months.
This horrific situation can seem far removed from our daily lives – but there is no question that the conflict in this disputed part of the Ukraine has now reached Australia.
The missile that brought down MH17 – and the missiles that have claimed numerous other Ukrainian aircraft could not possibly be made by the people who possibly fired them.
These separatist terrorists are obtaining these instruments of murder from elsewhere. This must be investigated – and it must be stopped.
The Ukrainian Charge d’Affairs informed me this morning that they will be inviting experts from around the world to assist with investigating this matter – and Labor mostly certainly supports the comments of the Prime Minister with regard to the United Nations Security Council.
And Labor supports the chorus internationally calling for a full, independent, international investigation of this tragedy.
This is a time for national unity.
As the Prime Minister discussed with me this morning, it is a time for temperate responses, for cool heads and measured action. That is indeed the strongest possible response that Australians expect from us.
But it is also demands, as I believe the Prime Minister was saying, strong resolve.
I say this to the Prime Minister today – Labor understands the complexity and difficulty of the decisions you will face. We understand that as people are working through the pain and grief, there will be many understandable calls for all sorts of action.
I say that Labor is prepared to support the Government, and co-operate with the Prime Minister and the Government on what is the right next step that is to be taken in this most bewildering and shocking of events.
Whether or not that involves anything to do with the G20, we say to the Government – we will work with your measured approach.
More generally, in relation to the situation in Ukraine, Russia carries a significant and central responsibility in helping manage this crisis and resolving the dispute peacefully.
We will support the Government in vigorously pursuing and asserting this position in, our position at the United Nations Security Council and in representations to the Russian government.
Today the Parliament mourns the loss of all aboard MH17, we pay tribute to their memory. We are conscious that there are members of our Australian community who do not yet know what has happened to people they love.
And we renew our commitment to a safer, more peaceful world.
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