The families of Australians killed in the Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster could be forced to wait for weeks for the return of their loved ones' remains, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says, as Australia steps up efforts to secure the crash site.
Flanked by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who will be dispatched to New York Saturday night to lead Australia’s campaign to secure a binding UN Security Council resolution guaranteeing an independent investigation of the tragedy, Mr Abbott dismissed suggestions from Russia that his comments about the tragedy to date have been unacceptable.
The Prime Minister said Russia “had to play its part in the international community”.
Earlier on Saturday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten backed Mr Abbott’s tough line with Moscow, suggesting Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to the G20 summit in Brisbane in November be revoked if his country did not fully co-operate with an international investigation.
Mr Abbott said it was “clear that all the evidence at this stage suggests that this aircraft was shot down from territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels”.
“My purpose today is to get justice for Australia, in particular to get justice for the dead and for the living…the only way we will get justice for the dead and closure for the living is if there is a full, comprehensive, impartial, international investigation starting more or less immediately,’’ Mr Abbott said.
“Every day that we delay, the site is contaminated, quite possibly there are attempts in place to sanitise the site. The site needs to be secured. The investigation needs to take place. And, frankly, anyone who tries to obstruct this is no friend of justice, is no friend of peace."
Mr Abbott said arrangements are in place to help repatriate bodies that "is likely to be weeks" rather than days.
A monitoring team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe had gained temporary access to the site but were then driven off by gunfire, Mr Abbott said, “presumably from the Russian-backed rebels”.
Mr Abbott declined to say whether Mr Putin’s invitation to the G20 in Brisbane in November would be withdrawn.
“But I can give you this assurance, Australia is a self-respecting country. We are a self-respecting country and obviously we want to ensure that visitors to this country have good will to this country,’’ he said.
It was not satisfactory for Russia to blame others, he added.
“The plane was brought down over territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels, almost certainly by a missile launched by Russian-backed rebels, most likely by a missile supplied by Russia.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia’s first priority was to secure the site and ensure the investigation commenced.
Ukraine had promised unimpeded access to the site, she said.
“I have attempted to contact the Russian Foreign Minister, I have not yet been able to do so but I will continue my efforts to speak with the Russian government.”
“After all, as the PM indicated, Russia's first response is to say that Ukraine is responsible for this, therefore Russia should welcome an open, transparent, international, impartial investigation.”
Mr Shorten said on Saturday that if Russia did not co-operate with the investigation into "this senseless act of murder" the government should consider not inviting Mr Putin to Australia.
“I don't believe Australians would want him here in those circumstances," Mr Shorten said.
The opposition leader said if a nation had supplied rebels with the weapons system used to shoot down the plane it was "incredibly irresponsible'' and a "very, very reckless and stupid act."
“I also have to say the loss of so many children from this aeroplane is indeed sickening to me as a parent and a human being. All of us who have taken children on aeroplanes believe, rightly, we can safely do so. This is a loss of innocence which will never be repaired."
Mr Abbott spoke with President Obama on Saturday morning. The pair agreed on the need for a “prompt, full, unimpeded and transparent international investigation” according to a statement issued by the White House. The pair also “stressed the need for immediate access by international investigators to the crash site”.
He will speak to the Russian Trade Minister later on Saturday.