Bill's Transcripts

Television Interview: ABC24

ABC 24
FRIDAY, 18 JULY 2014


Bill Shorten, welcome to ABC News 24. This is a terrible tragedy, at least 27 Australians have been killed, there may be more, we don't know. But there are also people coming to Australia. This was a flight that connected to Australia. There will be many others affected by this, won't there?


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: This is bewildering. It is beyond shocking. It's a debilitating, bewildering event. These are bewildering losses. I spoke to a friend of mine, and his aunt was on the plane. They are trying to talk to relatives. So even as we talk and are searching for answers, let's first of all think, there were hundreds of people are going to meet tomorrow at Tullamarine to collect people off the connecting flight. There is 154 Dutch nationals. I spoke to the Dutch Ambassador, and she informed me this this is one of the main ways, if you want to go directly between Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane, and Amsterdam, you go via Kuala Lumpur. It's terrible.


CURTIS: So it's not just the family of those Australian nationals who have been killed, it's those people who are looking forward to seeing people at the AIDS conference, those people who were looking forward to perhaps meeting friends and relatives who had come from the Netherlands.


SHORTEN: It's all terrible. I spoke to the Malaysian High Commissioner. I mean, as he said, this is a tragic day and a tragic year for Malaysia. There were 15 Malaysian cabin crew and pilots, world experts, world researchers in AIDS. Imagine what cures might take longer to find because of this murderous act of barbarism. The thing which I suppose in what is terrible that upsets me most is, as a parent, when you take your children on the plane, there is a contract of trust that you just think you would never put your child in jeopardy and so the idea that little children have been killed, it's sick-making.


CURTIS: You've been speaking to the Prime Minister both before your addresses to the Parliament and you had a conversation on the floor of Parliament afterwards. You called it during your address, you called it murder. You've said in this interview it's murderous. What have you been told about what happened and who might be responsible for it?


SHORTEN: First of all, I should say that I rang the Prime Minister this morning. He was very courteous. He provided me the information which he had. We don't precisely know the cause of this disaster. But I believe, if you look at the weight of world media reporting, that it is a surface-to-air missile and this plane has crashed just north of a little town in a contested part of East Ukraine. Ukraine's a big country, it's got a separatist argument going on with terrorism and violence, hundreds of Ukrainians have been killed and the plane's crash in the middle of this territory.


CURTIS: If it is proved it was an act by Russian-backed separatists, is Russia complicit?


SHORTEN: Today is a day where we have got people grieving. There will be people watching this perhaps who don't even know if a relative from theirs or a friend coming from Amsterdam was on this flight. So I'm conscious that we are all trying to make sense of something which cannot be made sense of. So I really just want to acknowledge that there are people here first. When we go to the issue of who has done it and why and what and the consequences, I did say in the Parliament that these separatist terrorists don't build their own surface-to-air missiles. This plane was probably six miles above the earth's surface. The Ukrainian Chargés d'Affaires, the senior Ukrainian Government representative of Australia is absolutely convinced it's a BUK surface-to-air missile. I don't know. If it is being supplied by a great power to these separatist terrorists, and if these separatists thought that there was a Ukrainian military - I don't know, and you are always smart to wait until you have all the facts, but if the scenario is as you are putting, a great power cannot absolve itself of responsibility if it's provided these weapons of murder to people and then they have killed innocent people.


CURTIS: You have said in the Parliament you will fully back whatever decisions the Government takes. What should Australia be doing?


SHORTEN: I'm conscious that the Prime Minister should get the support of the Opposition at a time like this. That's my role, I believe. I have indicated to him in the Parliament that I get that there will be a lot of people having a very visceral reaction, which is completely legitimate. The strongest response that Australia can do is to first of all think through its responses. We don't serve the people by being quick off the handle, but I also said that if there was a diplomatic response which was involved with the G20, Labor would support the Government.


CURTIS: That might include not inviting Vladimir Putin?


SHORTEN: I don't know what the diplomatic options might be about the G20, but I say this here as well as I said in Parliament - we will give the Government the room it needs to move. We obviously want to be in the loop, but the Government deserves - this is the worst terrorist act since Bali.


CURTIS: Bill Shorten, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time.


SHORTEN: Thanks, Lyndal.