Transcript of Press Conference, 3 April 2014
Angus Houston: Good Morning and welcome to RAAF Base Pearce. It's my great pleasure to welcome our Prime Minister, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and the Malaysian Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Dato' Sri Najib Bin Razak. Prime Minister Najib, we thank you for being here today. On a personal note, I'm delighted to see you. I have very good memories of when we worked together on the Five Power Defence Arrangement many years ago. As you are aware I was recently appointed by the Prime Minister to lead a Joint Agency Coordination Centre in relation to the loss of MH370.
I'd like to personally extend my personal condolences to the people of Malaysia; our deepest sympathies go out to them and also to all the other families who have been affected by this terrible tragedy. This is one of the most demanding and challenging search and rescue operations, or search and recovery operations, that I have ever seen and I think probably one of the most complex operations of this nature that the world has seen.
I want to assure you that Australia is doing everything it can to assist Malaysia to find MH370 and recover what we can from the Indian Ocean. Yesterday, ten aircraft and nine ships searched an area about 237,000 square kilometres, about 1700 kilometres west-north-west of Perth. Today, up to eight aircraft and nine ships will assist in the search. This includes the E-7 Wedgetail aircraft that will provide some level of control to de-conflict aircraft that are in the search area. We also expect the Malaysian frigate Lekiu to depart later today to go to the search area, the Australian defence vessel Ocean Shield is enroute to the search area and of course, as of yesterday, two British vessels HMAS Echo an oceanographic vessel and the submarine HMS Tireless joined the search.
Weather in the search area is expected to be fair with visibility of about 10 kilometres with a few showers in the southern part of the search area. The ATSB, that's the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, continues to refine the area where the aircraft might have entered the water, based on continuing ground breaking and multi-disciplinary technical analysis of satellite communications and aircraft performance, passed from the international air crash investigative team comprising analysts from Malaysia, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Australia.
Based on that continuing flow of information, the search area is being continually adjusted and today it will be adjusted to move the search a little bit further to the north. The role of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre is to effect coordination at the international, the State level here in Australia, and also down to lower levels where we have a lot of other agencies who are involved in supporting the effort to ensure that we have a seamless approach to this support of this terrible situation that we have. And my job is to effect that coordination, and provide a point of contact for the media.
Importantly, we're very focused on the families of those who were aboard MH370. And I'm pleased to say that yesterday I had meetings with the West Australian Premier and he's very enthusiastic to ensure that when the families come to Australia that they will be well supported in an appropriate way here in West Australia.
My team includes about 20 people and we are very well established. We're still shaking out the centre, but we're almost there and our objective is to ensure that the search being coordinated by AMSA and ATSB is being reinforced by strong liaison at all levels. Prime Minister Najib, today you will see in action the remarkable cooperation occurring between the military crews from across our region and indeed the world who are contributing to the search effort. They're working seamlessly and effectively with our civilian agencies, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. It is a truly international effort and the search I think is a powerful example of international cooperation at its very best.
The task, as I've already said, is being approached with the constant support of ground-breaking worldwide expertise and I want you to know that Australia will continue to provide Malaysia with all necessary assistance in the search and recovery of the missing aircraft. I think that's only right and proper. Our nations are long-standing friends who've worked very well together and, to use the Australian term, we're good mates. So again, a very warm welcome and I now invite Martin Dolan to say a few words.