Bill's Transcripts

Television Interview: Sky News

FRIDAY, 18 JULY 2014



DAVID SPEERS: Bill Shorten, thank you for your time. You’ve been speaking today to a number of ambassadors and others who do have a connection with this tragedy. What more can you tell us about the Australians on board?


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: First of all, this is just beyond shocking, this event, it’s bewildering. We’re parents, we imagine when we take our little children who we love beyond belief, in those big aluminium tubes, in an aeroplane, that it’s safe. No parent would ever put their children in harm’s way, and now little kids have been killed, murdered six miles in the air. I spoke to the Dutch Ambassador this morning to express my condolences for the 154 Dutch nationals, and she explained to me that this Malaysian Airlines flight is a regular flight, she’s been on it, and it carries – it’s one of the main alternatives, so if you were to go to a travel agent and fly to Amsterdam or back –


SPEERS: This would be the flight.


SHORTEN: This would be it. So there’s families in Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane, no doubt, who would’ve gone to the airport tomorrow night, and they’ve got this tragedy to deal with. I have a friend who’s aunt was on the plane. It’s just – it’s beyond comprehension.


SPEERS: It’s awful. You said in the Parliament the missile here could not possibly have been made by the rebels who’ve fired it, who then supplied this missile?


SHORTEN: Well, I think we’ll eventually find out. Most Australians, wouldn’t, I think be aware of the conflict or where the Eastern Ukraine is, or this tiny village called Grabove, which is three kilometres from the blast zone. And it’s controlled by separatist terrorists who periodically have been funded by the Russian Federation. Now we don’t know who’s put this missile there, we don’t know the full circumstances, but there’s no doubt that some great power has supplied surface-to-air technology to send a missile six miles into the air to cause this terrible, tyrannical, wild act.


SPEERS: You’re not willing to say it’s Russia? That’s clearly the suspicion.


SHORTEN: I can’t say it beyond reasonable doubt. I cannot say it beyond reasonable doubt, it would be negligent as a leader of a political party to say it. But I do know that this is an act of murder, we do know that the plane has crashed over this contested territory, we do know that Ukraine called for a ceasefire two weeks ago, President Poroshenko. We do know that hundreds of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers have been killed in this terrible conflict, and now this terrible conflict has reached Australia. So it does require strong action.


SPEERS: Well, the first step in establishing what’s happened here is an inquiry. Australia and others on UN Security Council want an independent international inquiry. Russia wants more time to mull that proposal before they vote?


SHORTEN: I’m only one voice in many, and I’m conscious that today there could be people watching us who are still trying to find out if they’re loved ones are alive or have perished. So I’m concerned about getting ahead of myself when people are grieving. But what I do believe is that site should be maintained as it is -  international experts, not the combatants, should be allowed to see what has happened. They’ll work out how this plane has been taken out of the air, they can work out what missile, they can work out the nature of what firing system has done this. And I think anyone who resists independent international observation is aiding the cause of the murderers, not trying to get to the justice.


SPEERS: What should be the consequences, if it is proven to be Russian-backed rebels using Russian weaponry?


SHORTEN: There’s two hypotheticals there, and I should also say I’m conscious that the Prime Minister has got a lot of issues to work through here. So I will answer that, but I want to say first and again put on the record as I did in the Parliament, Labor respects the need to have a temperate, calm process to make decisions. These decisions have to be strong, and I believe that there will be a lot of people with a lot of real emotion, visceral upset, because Australians have been murdered, citizens of the world have been murdered.


But we need to make sure they get the facts right. Having said that, the response will have to be strong. I’ve indicated to the Prime Minister that if he chooses to take diplomatic action, including through the G20, Labor will work with the Government. This will not be a source of political conflict. Australians have been killed, and we all owe it to make sure this is resolved and this is sorted out and we find out who’s done what. But again, today people are grieving. I mean we’ve got the world’s AIDS experts, AIDS researchers – I’m upset about the children, but also think about what cures will be delayed or lost because of this act of wanton, beyond the realm of civilisation murder.


SPEERS: Can I also ask you about the situation in Israel? It has begun a ground offensive now into Gaza, after 10 days of aerial and naval bombardment. Is this justified on Israel’s part, to stop the rockets that are still beign lobbed into its territory?


SHORTEN: I believe that the Egyptian ceasefire represented – the Egyptians have proposed a ceasefire, I believe that should be taken up. Again, I look at these conflicts, be it in the Ukraine, where a ceasefire was proposed. There are always points where nations need to say that we can restrain, but I can understand also the desire of Israel to protect its borders from its neighbours who are lobbing missiles into them. But I look in particular at this escalating situation in Ukraine as well. The problem when nations don’t take ceasefires, is that it just – there is more bloodshed, and more bloodshed, and more bloodshed.


SPEERS: So Israel should cease this operation?


SHORTEN: I think a ceasefire is what is required, a ceasefire. Look at what’s happened in Ukraine, President Poroshenko, the head of Ukraine, offered a ceasefire two weeks ago to these separatist terrorists, the people causing the grief, they two hours later shot down a Ukrainian helicopter using their technology.


SPEERS: It doesn’t seem like the time to talk about the carbon tax and the mining tax, so we might leave that for another occasion. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, thank you for joining us today.


SHORTEN: Alright, thank you.