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Perth Live with Oliver Peterson – 6PR

Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash


Subjects: Russia, Netherlands, Ukraine, MH17, International Civil Aviation Organisation, legal proceedings

OLIVER PETERSON: Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash. Good afternoon.

MINISTER CASH: Good afternoon, Oly and good afternoon to your listeners. 

OLIVER PETERSON: What legal action has the Australian Government launched?

MINISTER CASH: Well, as you know, the Foreign Minister and I have just announced, in conjunction with the Netherlands, that we have initiated legal proceedings against the Russian Federation in the International Civil Aviation Organisation, otherwise known as ICAO, for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. This marks a major step forward in what we have all been wanting, it's the fight for truth, justice and accountability for the tragedy, including for the 298 victims, as you have pointed out, 38, of whom called Australia home.  This is the next step in proceedings. The Australian Government had always said we would not exclude any legal options in the pursuit of justice and accountability. And now we have formally initiated those legal proceedings under the Chicago Convention in the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

OLIVER PETERSON: Why now Attorney-General?

MINISTER CASH: As I said, we have pursued in good faith, both the Australian Government and the Netherlands, trilateral negotiations with Russia on state responsibility for the downing of Flight MH17. And this occurred since informing, that is Australia informed the Russian Federation in 2018, that we held it responsible for its role in the downing. It was unfortunately Russia's unilateral decision to withdraw from these negotiations in October 2020. It is our opinion and the opinion of the Netherlands that is completely unacceptable that Russia has refused to return to negotiations, despite repeated requests, including requests from Prime Minister Morrison, to do so. And as I said, throughout the ensuing years, the government has always said we will not exclude any legal options in the pursuit of justice and accountability. And as such, we've joined with the Netherlands today and we've formally initiated the dispute settlement proceedings against Russia, in the International Civil Aviation Organisation, as we consider negotiations with Russia have disappointingly and unacceptably failed.

OLIVER PETERSON: But right now, in the middle of the war with Ukraine, the invasion of the Russian forces into the country of Ukraine, is this designed both by Australia and the Netherlands, to ramp up any available opportunities to try and put extra pressure on Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government to end that invasion of Ukraine?

MINISTER CASH: This is all about truth, justice and accountability for the 298 victims, 38 of whom call Australia home in terms of our ongoing efforts to hold Russia to account for its role in the downing of Flight MH17. I think though you are right. This has been reinforced by Russia's unprovoked, unjustified and unacceptable aggression against Ukraine in the recent weeks. But our objective in launching these legal proceedings is to seek truth, justice and accountability, as we have always said, for the downing of Flight MH17 and to pursue every avenue to ensure such horrific events do not ever happen again.

OLIVER PETERSON: Those four individuals who are charged over the crash, they refused to attend court in the Hague. What's to say anything will change now with these announcements made today by our government?

MINISTER CASH: Well, what we're asking the ICAO to do in the first instance is based on the evidence to decide and declare that by its conduct, resulting in the downing of flight MH17, the Russian Federation has breached Article 3bis of the Chicago Convention. That is a very important step on the international stage for achieving the truth, the justice and the accountability. We're also asking them to order that the parties immediately enter into yet again, the good faith negotiations to resolve expeditiously the matters. But what we are also asking is this, that the Assembly recognise that the Russian Federation has been found in default under the Chicago Convention, and as such the voting power of the Russian Federation in the ICAO Assembly of the Council is therefore suspended under Article 88 of the Chicago convention, but also that that suspension should continue until such time as the ICAO Council said to the Assembly negotiations have reached a satisfactory outcome. So truth justice and accountability for those 298 victims, 38 of whom called Australia, home is what we are seeking.

OLIVER PETERSON: Appreciate your time Michaelia Cash, thank you very much.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you Oly. Thank you.