Transcript of Interview: Bolt Report
20 July 2014
MH017, Stafford by-election (Queensland)
Andrew Bolt: We want to know who shot down that Malaysian plane. Who supplied the missiles that could bring down a jet flying at 10,000 metres? We want to know who killed nearly 300 innocent people. Who killed 33 Australians? But when the first European investigators arrived at the crash site they were stopped from searching by Russian-backed rebels.
Translation: I warn you once, you have security here, whoever crosses the line and does not comply with my order will face the consequences.
Andrew Bolt: Ukraine has also released video it claims shows a BUK missile system, like the one believed to have brought down the jet, being transported back into Russia with at least one of its missiles missing. Joining me is the Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, who today addresses an AIDS conference in Melbourne—a conference which six of the dead were flying here to join. Thank you for your time.
Warren Truss: You're welcome.
Andrew Bolt: First some questions about Russian—the Russian cover-up. What do we know about the missile launcher Ukraine claims it saw being towed back into Russia with one of its missiles missing?
Warren Truss: Well, obviously this is another piece of evidence that's concerning the world. Now we don't, if we don't—in the absence of a proper investigation, it's difficult to confirm whether this was the piece of weaponry that actually fired the missile, but it's a demonstration that this kind of equipment was in the area. It's also obvious that a piece of equipment with this level of sophistication could not have been operated by amateur local rebels. It obviously had at least advice from people with greater skills, probably was supplied by a country with much greater military powers, and certainly serviced by someone who had sophisticated knowledge of how those sort of weapons work. And, of course, the finger of blame is rightly, I think, pointed towards Russia.
Andrew Bolt: Can I also ask—where is the back box?
Warren Truss: Well, I think that's another important element. While ever there's no open capacity for an international and fair investigation and access to the site, there will be concerns about how the evidence that's critical to any kind of investigation is being dealt with; where are the black boxes? Where are—?
Andrew Bolt: Do you think they're in Russian hands?
Warren Truss: Well, that's a possibility. But, of course, until somebody can get on to the site, we don't know. But if, in fact, there's any kind of tampering with the evidence, that would be an appalling, appalling insult to families and—and countries that are already deeply disturbed and very angry about what has happened. It's important that the Russians cooperate immediately with an open and free investigation; that there's access to the site for professional investigators so that we can find out absolutely what has happened, and, of course, with the ultimate objective of making sure that something like this never happens again.
Andrew Bolt: Have you seen any sign of serious cooperation from Russia with any investigation?
Warren Truss: Well, there hasn't been—there haven't many positive signs.
Andrew Bolt: Any?
Warren Truss: Well, there's –
Andrew Bolt: Pick one.
Warren Truss: Just—just occasionally there's been a suggestion that the Russians, for instance, in the United Nations indicated support for an international investigation. That's encouraging, but they do need to take positive steps that everyone can see that they're going to cooperate with this and get to the bottom of what's happened.
Andrew Bolt: But you can't actually point to any sign on the ground of cooperation?
Warren Truss: Well, there doesn't—there was one brief period when there was international access but then that was quickly closed off. We need to have international teams on the ground, and we need to have them quickly, and Russia is clearly able to exercise sufficient influence to enable that to happen. The world are assembling experts ready to move in, we have from Australia a team already there, we have offered additional assistance wherever we possibly can, we want a solution and we want to know what's happened and that's important for closure for the families who were affected.
Andrew Bolt: You mentioned getting access to the site for investigation. Can you confirm that one Australian proposal—idea, maybe, is to get Ukraine permission to—Ukraine's permission to go into the rebel-held area with sufficient force protection and just move in, regardless of what the rebels say?
Warren Truss: Well, we want to have international United Nations support for that. That's why the binding resolution is so important. But, yes, those who move into the site may need to have some kind of protection to ensure that their work can be done safely. It's important that the site be not interfered with.
Andrew Bolt: True.
Warren Truss: It's disturbing to see evidence being moved around. Now that is critical when it comes to actually an investigation, precisely where each piece—piece of the aeroplane lies can be a tell-tale sign that gives the investigators a greater evidence about what's actually happened. So these sites, in a normal situation, are locked off immediately. If it is made obviously to recover the bodies and to map the site, that hasn't happened in this case. And I think it's important firstly that the bodies are taken away and so they can be treated respectfully and repatriated to their home country, but then we want to know what's happened.
Andrew Bolt: Do you think there's a cover-up?
Warren Truss: Well, at this stage we've got no one on the site, so you can't make that judgement. But in reality –
Andrew Bolt: What's your suspicion?
Warren Truss: There should be—there needs to be people on the site immediately, we need—they need to be international observers, so everybody can be satisfied that it's safe. And Russia must indicate that it's going to cooperate and provide full support for these independent investigations. And that has not happened.
Andrew Bolt: You dodged—you dodged the question. I don't know whether—maybe you don't want to answer it. But, do you suspect a cover-up by Russia?
Warren Truss: Well, I think it's too early to make that judgement, but certainly they aren't being as open and free as they should be.
Andrew Bolt: So, when you say it's too early to make that judgement, it seems to me it's possible they are.
Warren Truss: Well, I think there should have been investigators on the site immediately and Russia, with its skills and expertise, ought to have been a part of that positive response to this crisis rather than finding reasons why things shouldn't be done.
Andrew Bolt: Where are the bodies of the Australians?
Warren Truss: Well, they're lying over the fields of—of Ukraine, and that's something that's unacceptable to us.
Andrew Bolt: For three days.
Warren Truss: For a number of days, and—and there's no end in sight. This is the appalling part of it.
Andrew Bolt: That's disgraceful, don't you find?
Warren Truss: That is disgraceful, and that is—just unacceptable according to international law, the laws of decency, and indeed the goodwill of any country that's trying to resolve these issues.
Andrew Bolt: Let me sum up so far what you've suggested: Russian-supplied missiles; Russian-backed militia; Russian cover-up, possibly; disrespect to our dead. How the hell can Australia welcome Vladimir Putin to Australia for the November G20 meeting?
Warren Truss: Well, it would be difficult to welcome him to Australia now. There'll be some time before that meeting and we hope that Russia will have taken positive steps by then to demonstrate that it is not only being cooperative with an international investigation but it's showing appropriate remorse and prepared to actually deal with the issues that they've clearly been—have their fingernails—fingerprints all over.
Andrew Bolt: Doesn't show any remorse at the moment.
Warren Truss: I think that's a fair comment, and in reality we're looking for positive signs from President Putin and the Russian Government immediately.
Andrew Bolt: America's response to Russian aggression in the Ukraine, which created this—this war zone, has been weak, and was weak even when Russia first took over the Crimea this year. Europe has been even weaker. Do those governments need to step up and is that part of our diplomatic effort, to make them step up and confront Russia?
Warren Truss: Well, one thing that President Putin said that's correct is that this wouldn't have happened if there wasn't effectively war going on in Ukraine. Now he can do a fair bit to stop that war. And I think it is important that people respect the boundaries of the Ukraine, and that, in fact, there is a real international effort to ensure that there can be peace in this part of the world. That's a fundamental to actually resolving the long-term issues which have led to this crisis.
Andrew Bolt: Now, you're also our Transport Minister. Now, Russia—he has apparently given some rag-tag militia weapons capable of knocking out an airliner at high altitude. How much longer do you think before other terrorist groups get access to that kind of capability? How much longer before we won't dare fly over Afghanistan, Pakistan, maybe parts of Iran, parts of Iraq, parts of Africa?
Warren Truss: Well, there are already areas where we don't fly. Qantas hasn't been flying over the Ukraine now for four months, and international airlines make choices to go around those zones. But the point is valid, of course, that we've been worried as a globe for a long time about the capacity of some of the terrorist group to get access to sophisticated weaponry. You know, even the people talking about there may be capacity to one day access nuclear weapons and the like. Now, that is a serious threat, obviously, to global peace, but now also to the safety of people travelling in airlines around the world. Now, we do need to make sure that we do everything possible to keep our aircrafts safe. This was an aircraft innocently flying in space which was outside of the declared war zone. Other airlines had flown in that area, it's a question for investigation as to whether or not that was the—others should have taken the decision that Qantas had to avoid the area. I think this will be a lesson to airlines, to make sure that they do what they can to avoid these areas, but we also need to make sure that sophisticated weaponry doesn't get into the hands of people who can't be relied upon to use it responsibly.
Andrew Bolt: Just very quickly—Queensland had a by-election in the seat of Stafford, a swing of nearly 18%. Goodbye Campbell Newman?
Warren Truss: Well, I think that it's very hard for governments ever to win by-elections.
Andrew Bolt: 18% Warren.
Warren Truss: It's a big swing, although there had been a 14% swing to Campbell Newman in the election. It is a safe Labor seat. Obviously Campbell Newman will be responding. His Government has had a really tough task to get on top of the debt and the legacy of issues left behind, and I'm confident that they have a plan for the—to put to the Queensland people that will be endorsed in a year's time.
Andrew Bolt: Very diplomatic. Thank you very much for your time.
Warren Truss: You're welcome.