TUESDAY, 22 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: MH17; Indonesian Election.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten, Russia has agreed to this independent inquiry into what happened with MH17, is there a concern though that there is going to need to be more pressure on Russia to bring it to task, to make sure it cooperates?
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: There are some positive signs at long last for the families who’ve lost loved ones in the MH17 disaster. Bodies seem to be moving towards the Government controlled part of Ukraine which is excellent news. But in terms of what happens next, the United Nations Security Council did pass a strong resolution condemning the act. Now the acid is upon the Russian Federation to deliver real and meaningful control over their separatist proxies in the Ukraine itself. If there is not cooperation forthcoming, if the Russian Federation washes its hands of matters and says it no ability to influence events, then the Opposition would be open to supporting the Government to put tougher sanctions on the table because it is most important for the families who’ve been caught up in this unspeakable tragedy that the truth comes out.
JOURNALIST: What sort of tougher sanctions are you contemplating there?
SHORTEN: Well first of all, this has to be done by increments. What is most important is that the investigation can be completed in a transparent manner and also, even more importantly, that the bodies are retrieved and families are able to have their grieving process. So they’re the first two tests for Russian Federation assistance and cooperation and of course then the next stage after that those two really important steps occur, is that there is in fact justice, that we get to the bottom of whose committed this atrocity and the people are brought to account.
JOURNALIST: Do you trust Vladimir Putin when he says he wants an open investigation into [inaudible]?
SHORTEN: It’s not the words which I have to trust, it’s the actions which come after the words. For me what matters here in the first instance is that families are able to have some form of closure in this most dreadful, dreadful event. We will know and the world will know if there is genuine, full, transparent, independent investigation. One thing’s for sure, I don’t believe that the Russian Federation can wash its hands of conduct of the separatists in eastern Ukraine and simply say that they can’t exert any control of them in terms of this, getting to the truth of the matter.
JOURNALIST: Longer term, in terms of ending this conflict in eastern Ukraine, should the West consider some level of military support, military assistance for the Ukraine?
SHORTEN: Well like the Prime Minister, what we need to do is to make sure the families are prioritised, that they can have their grieving process, the funerals, this is very tough for them. The second test is making sure there’s a proper investigation so that we can understand how this has happened and who is responsible and thirdly there is of course bringing people to justice. In terms of the responses for the world in this matter, it’s a matter of I think the world declaring to these people in eastern Ukraine and the people who influence them, that this conduct is so beyond the pale and then it will be the cooperation the world receives. In terms of responses, we need to see what happens in a staged way. Sensibly, if the Government wants to look at tougher sanctions the Opposition would certainly recognise why that has to be so. I think that’s where we’ve got to at this stage.
JOURNALIST: You don’t seem to give Vladimir Putin credit that the Prime Minister’s given him over the last 24 hours in agreeing to this resolution, agreeing to access to the site?
SHORTEN: Well it is good that the United Nations Security Council resolution was voted on unanimously. I just try and put myself in the shoes of the families and the people who’ve been harmed by this dreadful tragedy and there is still a way to go in this return of the bodies, in terms of the investigation.
JOURNALIST: Can I ask you about the confirmation that Joko Widodo has been confirmed as the new Indonesian President, do you welcome?
SHORTEN: Yes, I welcome this, the new President of Indonesia being elected. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest democracies; it is fantastic that they’ve had this process so unencumbered from controversy and I believe Australia can have very constructive relations with the new President of Indonesia.
JOURNALIST: Do you think it’s going to mark a new beginning in the relations given the recent troubles between the Government and Indonesia over spying?
SHORTEN: Australian Labor has always seen the relationship with Indoensia to be a first order issue for Australia foreign policy. They’re our nearest neighbour; they’re a very large neighbour. We want to see relations improve with Indonesia; we hope the election of new President will provide a circuit breaker for a better relationship with Indonesia.
JOURNALIST: I was just wondering if I could get your reaction to Scott Morrison’s decision to grant a permanent visa to a 15 year old Ethiopian arrival last year, he’s reversed his decision?
SHORTEN: What I might do is we’ve got a bit of a convention when we travel to leave commentary on domestic matters to the team in Australia but I’ll also off line get you some initial response.
JOURNALIST: Just, I was wondering if I could ask about the Europeans, we’re going back to plane; the Europeans are meeting at the moment to decide whether or not to impose sanctions, do you have an opinion on the level of their current sanctions?
SHORTEN: The European Union has the capacity to exert a significant amount of influence in terms of the conduct of the Russian Federation. It’s easy at one level for people at a great distance to tell the Europeans what they should do and I don’t want to do that. By the same token, Australians, residents in Australia have died in the most horrendous of circumstances. All those who have it within their power to ensure the safe return of the remains of the Australians and indeed all of the passengers and crew on that plane should so. I think that the EU could play a very good role going forward to help push for the outcomes which we want, which is the return of people’s remains; it’s a proper, independent investigation and its bringing people to justice. Thanks everyone.
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