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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7987

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (3:51 PM) —Mr Speaker, on indulgence, I would like to update the House on events related to the air crash in Papua New Guinea. Yesterday, Sunday, 16 August, the last of the remains and personal effects were transported from the site of the crash to Port Moresby. What will now occur will be the painstaking and meticulous and complex task of victim identification. The focus will now shift to Port Moresby, where that will occur. This will be a very difficult time for the families, as we cannot put a timetable on that process, which requires coordination between Papua New Guinea authorities and Australian and Japanese officials as well. In the meantime, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade continue to be in constant contact with the families, speaking to them about identification and repatriation matters. Our hearts go out to them as they go through this very difficult time, as they want their loved ones returned to them as quickly as possible. We will continue to be in contact with them obviously.

Finally, for the information of members, the Papua New Guinean Civil Aviation Authority has now commenced its investigation into the crash. This will be conducted by the PNG Civil Aviation Authority. With the agreement of the Papua New Guinean authorities, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the ATSB, will assist and liaise in that investigation. Three officers from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau are at the site and one is in Port Moresby, and that deployment will continue. There continues to be very good cooperation between Australian and Papua New Guinean officials, and we are very grateful for that.

I again commend the good work done by our high commissioner in Papua New Guinea and his officials and officials in Canberra in the consular division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This will continue to be a very difficult time for the families and our hearts go out to them as they go through this agonising period and wait for their loved ones to be returned to them.