Bill Shorten: Condolence statement on MH17

- Parliament House, Canberra, 18 July 2014.

Madam Speaker

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 and, in a time when international events require one to put aside partisan issues,  I greatly appreciate it.  

I acknowledge too the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and my colleague Tanya Plibersek, who have also been working on this.

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.

Madam Speaker

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, Madam Speaker, 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.

ENDS

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