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Transcript of interview with Stuart Bocking: 2UE Mornings, Sydney:17 July 2015

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2UE Mornings, Sydney - interview with Stuart Bocking

Subject: MH17 anniversary

Transcript, E&OE

17 July 2015


Minister, good morning.


Good morning Stuart.


Thank you for your time. How would you describe your feelings personally, as much as

anything else about this tragedy now, one year on?


Well today we are going to remember each and every person who was killed aboard that flight,

all 298 innocent lives lost and we continue to grieve with the families and friends. It is incalculable to imagine their

loss, their grief is overwhelming and I think the suffering inflicted on all families is beyond comprehension. As you

say, it was a commercial airplane, in commercial air space flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and through a

cruel twist of fate it was shot down over Eastern Ukraine.

I remember the moment when I was told very clearly, as if it were yesterday, but today we continue to grieve with

the families and friends of those lost aboard that flight.


When you first heard news of this was it via Twitter, the media, do you a special line in

foreign affairs? Where did the news first come from?


I was called by my media adviser very early in the morning of the 18th of July, so that was the

17th of July in Europe. But it was 2am, 3am I can’t recall but we immediately sprang into action because of course

our Embassy in the Netherlands and our Embassy in Kuala Lumpur had been alerted and our consular staff were

on to the case immediately trying to ascertain whether any Australians were on board. By the time they rang me

they were able to confirm that all 298 passengers and crew had been killed and they believed a number of

Australians were among that number and as the day unfolded the news became even more grim as we learned

the full extent of this tragedy.


It was hard to believe the circumstances given that earlier in the year Malaysian Airlines had

lost MH370, and that to this day remains a mystery, then of course MH17. From your viewpoint, involved with

foreign affairs, given how many Australians travel you must be always fearful when things occur overseas that

Australians may be among the victims.


We have a very experienced and dedicated consular staff who are constantly busy looking after

Australian’s interests overseas. Australians are great travellers. We are adventurous, we conduct business

around the world, our students travel around the world, so Australians use airplanes I’d say as much as any other

comparable country. And we have to travel long distances around the world so airline travel is just part of our way

of life.

That’s why this incident was so tragic because it had an impact on people’s perceptions of civil aviation and the

safety and security around it. And that’s why Australia has worked so hard, and will continue to work hard to find

out precisely how this happened, why it happened and who is responsible and then hold them to account.


What is the process in terms of doing that? I know again the Prime Minister has been out

this morning talking about the missile having come from Russia but both you and he were very forthright early on,

there was some terrific work done at the United Nations. But how do we move this forward now to try and bring

those responsible to account for what they did?


You will recall that about 12 months ago, on the 21st of July, about four days after the shooting

down of the plane, we were able to secure a unanimous UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire

of the conflict in Ukraine, called for an independent investigator to be allowed onto the site, and those

investigations have been taking place. We expect the final report of the investigations to be released in October

and I’m expecting that to identify how it happened, why it happened and who is responsible.

So we have called on the UN Security Council to establish an independent, International Criminal Tribunal to try

those responsible for crimes connected to the downing that occurred with MH17 and we are in the process of

working through each member country of the Security Council, the permanent five, as well as the temporary

members to get their support for the setting up of an ad hoc criminal tribunal. This happened in the past in relation

to other crimes and atrocities - Rwanda, former Yugoslavia. So we are working very hard to secure support for

the establishment of such a tribunal. It is the least we could do for the families who are still grieving the loss.


I would imagine, this video which has been released by News Corp this morning, I’ll just

play a little part of what they have unveiled:

[Audio clip of video]

As they are combing through wreckage not long after the plane is brought down you hear them identifying

nationalities, that one is Australia. I’m assuming that sort of video evidence could be critical. I know they’ve done

their best to try and hide their faces, but that sort of information could be very useful in putting a case together.


Well Stuart, I can’t verify the authenticity of that video footage. It is sickening to watch. I felt quite

revolted this morning viewing it but I’m assuming that footage is forming part of the independent investigation and

that that will be part of the evidence that the investigators have drawn upon in compiling this report. But as I say, I

don’t know the authenticity of it, or the providence of it, but it is most certainly consistent with all that we were told

12 months ago about how this crash occurred.


It is one thing to imagine things can go wrong from time to time with air travel. It seems to

me though for many of the families of the victims it’s the circumstances here of how this happened that just make

it even more gut-wrenching than it otherwise would be.


That’s right, the circumstances of this crash and the consequential suffering inflicted on all

families is beyond comprehension. I’ve been in contact with my Foreign Minister counterparts in the Netherlands,

Malaysia and other countries over the last few weeks as we seek to have the Security Council agree to establish

this tribunal. And the grief and the suffering in countries where citizens were lost is continuing, particularly in the

Netherlands where almost 200 citizens were killed. I was in the Netherlands again this year and it is such an issue

of raw emotion in that country. Indeed here in Canberra today, where I believe about 200 family members and

friends will be here for this national memorial service I’m sure the grief will be palpable.


You are doing a reading as I understand today and there is also the unveiling of a plaque.


That’s right. There will be the unveiling of a plaque by the Prime Minister with the names of all

those aboard that flight who called Australia home, that is the citizens and residents of Australia and that will

happen in the formal gardens of Parliament House and then there will be a service in the Great Hall. The

Governor General, the Prime Minister and others will be present and there will be some short speeches and then

we will meet with the families and friends who have gathered here afterward and I’m sure it will be a very

emotional day.


We know hundreds were killed but it seems from an Australian viewpoint the faces of those

victims, very much the three Maslin siblings - Mo, Evie and Otis - there is a foundation now in their honour. We

know they’d been travelling back with their grandfather Nick Norris on board that fateful flight. You’ve had a lot to

do with the family. They were from Western Australia, as you are. The parents Maz and Rin, how are they holding

up? Are they attending the service today?


No, Maz and Rin won’t be there today but they have asked me to read some words to the

gathering and I will do that in the hope the gathering finds comfort in those words. I’ve remained in contact with

Maz and Rin, as you say, they were from Perth, they are actually in my constituency, their three children went to

school within my electorate. I don’t think anybody will forget the faces of Mo and Evie and Otis and their grandad

Nick. And for a family to lose four members, including three beautiful young children, is almost unbearable to think

about. But they have been incredibly strong and resilient and brave and courageous from the moment they first

learned of it. I remember speaking to them when I was heading to New York 12 months ago and that was one of

the first phone calls I made to the families affected and I’ll never forget that phone call. It was just heartbreaking to

speak to them at that time but they are very strong people and I think the love they have for their children and their

father will endure.


I wonder how you even start a phone call like that Minister?


You just have to do it. It is part of the job I had and we had to reassure all of the Australian

families that the Government would do whatever we could do to bring the bodies and remains of their family

members home and we made a promise to them all that we would do whatever we could to bring the family’s

home and we did that.

There are still two bodies to be identified but they are from the Netherlands, so all Australians on board that flight

have been identified and their bodies and remains have been bought home. So we fulfilled one aspect of it but

there is still so much more to do and we owe it to the families to seek justice for them for the loss that they’ve



Well I’m sure they take a great deal of comfort knowing people like you are in their corner

and you will continue to work through the United Nations with the Dutch and many other countries to try and bring

these creeps to justice because clearly there have been attempts in the aftermath to cover up for what was some

sort of mistake, whether they did think they were targeting some sort of military craft or not who knows, but they

got things horribly wrong.


Well that’s right. According to the advice we had at the time, and I’ve not seen anything that

contradicts this, the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from within Eastern Ukraine in territory held

by pro-Russian separatists and the video footage that has been released today, assuming that it is authentic,

certainly paints a very grisly seen and people must be held to account for these actions.


Well I appreciate your time this morning and it will be a very moving tribute too, with the

unveiling of the plaque and the service. Appreciate your time and wish you well this morning.


Thank you Stuart.


All the best to you.

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