John Menadue. MH17 – At last a thank-you to Malaysia may be on the cards.

In ten days’ time, Tony Abbott will be visiting Malaysia and India.

The visit to Kuala Lumpur will at last be an opportunity for him to thank on our behalf the Malaysian Government’s significant contribution to ‘Operation Bring them Home’.

Without fanfare the Malaysian Prime Minister secured two key outcomes that have been of great benefit to Australia and others who suffered losses as a result of the shooting down of MH17. The first major outcome was the release from rebel territory of the refrigerated trains that carried over 200 bodies out of rebel territory. The second major outcome that the Malaysian prime Minister secured was the handover by the rebels to the Malaysian Government of the black boxes.

Efforts of other parties particularly the Dutch Government and our own Australian Federal Police were helpful but the substantial breakthrough was organised by the Malaysian Government.

Yet in his overseas travels to the ‘Anglosphere’ Tony Abbot has been almost everywhere except visiting the one country that has been of the greatest help to us. For all our talk about the importance of Asia out focus is almost always Europe. That has occurred also on the Russia/Ukraine confrontation which is overwhelmingly a European issue.

Media headlines don’t necessarily make for a good foreign policy and particularly relations with countries in our region. And by the way, in that other diversion from the budget, nothing has yet been found of MH370 although Tony Abbott told us in April that he was confident that we had found the black boxes.

In addition to acknowledging Malaysia’s major role in ‘bringing them home’, thanking the Malaysian Government will also be a useful way to put more ballast in the relationship with the Malaysian Government particularly after the intemperate remarks that Tony Abbott made about Malaysia’s human rights record.

Justifying his opposition to the agreement with Malaysia over asylum seekers, Tony Abbott said in June 2011 in Parliament ‘Why would the Prime Minister send illegal arrivals to Malaysia where they could be detained and tagged, when she can’t guarantee the standard and accessibility of medical care and when she can’t guarantee the access to school for the children‘. Tony Abbott then went on ‘The one thing that is absolutely certain about this deal is that this Prime Minister, this Minister and this Government cannot be sure that boat people sent to Malaysia will be treated humanely.

A gracious and earlier thank you to Malaysia over MH17 would have been most appropriate and helpful in many ways. But better late than never.


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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1 Response to John Menadue. MH17 – At last a thank-you to Malaysia may be on the cards.

  1. Avatar Edward Fido says:

    Well said, John Menadue. As a former Ambassador to Japan you would know that the rightly proud Asian nations, particularly the former colonies, do not take anything that sparks of the old 150s-60s White Australia bulldust talk from us. I think Julie Bishop is much more au fait with this. Tony Abbott would need to be very careful here. I think he was one of those boys, who, at their GPS establishment, were groomed for great things. He certainly has the air. He learnt with President Yudhoyono, but SBY is a good friend to Australia and the Javanese, if they like you, have a subtle way of correcting your yobbo manifestations. Abbott desperately needs Anti-Yobbo treatment. With the Indians, who we really quite rightly upset by the Hanif debacle, ineptly presided over politically by Kevin Andrews, IMHO long past his political “use by” date, Abbott will need to tread “softly, softly”. The Malaysians are lovely people, very kind and forgiving, if you make an effort. Perhaps TA needs to do that? Malaysia is a medium power in a strategically vital region to us. There are so many Malaysian ex-Australian university and school alumni that we are very well known and liked. We need to make a continuous effort there.

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