Transcript of Doorstop, Parliament House

Interview

WTC008/2014

25 March 2014

Search for MH370

Journalist: Minister Truss, can we get an update on Malaysia Airline's search situation? Overnight, the Malaysian Prime Minister held a news conference saying that the search is pretty much over or things have been settled.

Warren Truss: Well, certainly the announcement by the Prime Minister that Malaysia believes that the airport—that the aircraft is lost and that there will be no survivors does move the search to a new phase. It moves it to a stage where we are now investigating an accident, a loss of an aircraft, and some new decisions will be have to be taken now about the direction of future operations.

Malaysia needs to take control under the Chicago Convention of those investigations. Australia stands ready to assist. The search will continue, although unfortunately the weather today is so poor that no aircraft are likely to be able to be engaged. We are concerned about the weather also over the next couple of days, so it may be some time before we can get aircraft back into the search.

I might also add that the sightings yesterday of material that is thought may have some relevance to the search, HMAS Success is in that area but hasn't been able to sight or recover any of those items. So not a lot of progress has been made overnight and unfortunately there will be little capacity to search today and perhaps even into tomorrow.

So essentially it'll be a matter now for the Malaysian Government to request what assistance they may need to undertake the investigation. It is our expectation that a large number of countries will want to be involved in the investigation and that will include Malaysia itself, those countries that had passengers on board the aircraft, particularly the United States, because the aircraft was built in the US, and possibly Britain and other nations that have a particular interest in that part of the search and now also the investigation.

If, in fact, it's determined that there was some kind of intervention, well, then there may also need to be a criminal investigation, and then that would result in activity by the law enforcement officers.

So we're looking now and we'd expect some direction and requests from the Malaysian Government in due course about what action they want to be taken from now on.

Journalist: So what contribution could Australia usefully [audio cuts out]…

Warren Truss:…territorial waters, but within our search and rescue area. So that's why we've had responsibility for the search, but the investigation is the responsibility of the country where the aircraft is flagged.

Journalist: So are you expecting Australia to scale back some of the resources that it's putting into this search?

Warren Truss: Well, not in the short term. Obviously recovery of any kind of debris that may be related to the aircraft will be important for the investigative stage. So it's still important for us to try and find as much of the aircraft as possible. The ideal would be, obviously, to locate as much of the wreckage as possible. Now, that will require sophisticated equipment, some of which we do not have in Australia.

Now, it is also a priority to recover the flight box recorder on the aircraft. Again, we don't believe we will have the technology to be able to work at those depths and to recover the equipment. So we'll need assistance from countries like the US to be able to actually undertake that kind of an operation.

Journalist: How about the families of the Australian victims? Has the Australian Government been keeping in touch with them, or is that something that you've been leaving up to the Malaysians?

Warren Truss: No. There's been, obviously, contact with the Australian families, but certainly there will be a large number of families now that will be keenly interested in further developments, whether the aircraft can be sighted and then whether there are bodies or whether there are personal effects that may be of interest to families.

But look, we are a long way away from that yet. We haven't even recovered a single piece that might be associated with the aircraft. The Malaysian announcement is purely based on the satellite imagery that's available, the calculations about fuel and capacity of the aircraft to stay in the air, so it's really a long, long way away before much can be done by way of physical examination. We've got to recover enough parts or enough pieces of the aircraft or identify where it's resting before much constructive can happen.

Journalist: But this is the most definitive announcement from the Malaysians on this issue.

Warren Truss: Well, the announcement is, indeed, a very significant one. It's not the news that the families will have wanted to hear and our real sympathies are with the families of those who've lost loved ones on board. This is an announcement by the Malaysians who have ultimate responsibility in this matter that they no longer believe that it's likely that there will be any survivors and that the aircraft has been lost in the Southern Ocean.

Journalist: Alright. Thanks, Minister.