first_imgFormer Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is disappointed the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been called off.Abbott tweeted his opinion as Australia’s Transport Minister, Darren Chester, sought to defend the decision to ignore the advice of international experts and end the current search.“Disappointed that the search for MH370 has been called off,’’ the former PM said. “Especially if some experts think there are better places to look.’’The Australian-led search was suspended Wednesday after the governments of Australia, Malaysia and China ignored the recommendations of international experts and refused to extend it into a new 25,000 sq, km search area. The search of the initial 120,000 sq.km search area cost about  $200m, with Australia kicking in about $60m, China about $20m and Malaysia providing the rest.Experts meeting in Canberra last year identified the new search area as a potential site for the aircraft debris after reviewing critical new ocean drift data made possible by the discovery of wreckage from the plane. They recommended the search continue to exhaust the remaining high probability crash site options.But Ministers from the three countries decided the information was not precise enough to warrant extending the search, despite calls from victims’ families and international commentators to do so.Asked on the ABC’s AM program, why he wasn’t following the advice of the experts, Mr Chester said: “I would suggest, Kim, this is one of those situations where there is not going to be a perfect answer and, in fact, probably  I’m damned if I do and damned  I don’t.“If I continue the search effort and came to you today and said I’ve reached an agreement with Malaysia and China to find another $20,$30, $40 or $50 million, you’d be saying to me: ‘Well, why are you spending taxpayers’ money in this way.’.“But by coming to you and saying we agreed in July last year that in absence of any credible new evidence leading to the specific location the aircraft we intend to extend the search, you’re now asking why won’t you extend it to a new area. I don’t think there’s a perfect answer.’’On the question of what defined credible new evidence, Chester was vague.“I think that is the critical question,’’ he said. “And I don’t want to sound dismissive when I say this to you but we will know that when we see it.“When the experts come to us with evidence that leads us to a more specific location than they’ve been able to provide at this stage, then that will be a question of the Malaysian, Chinese and Malaysian governments to then decide whether we go back out with the underwater search effort..’’Chester said work was still underway at the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which led the search, on debris drift modelling as well as analysis of satellite imagery from that time.“We’re not in a position to tell you whether there will be a technological breakthrough in the future where we’ll be able to search in a different way,’’ he said.He noted the search area was 2500km off the coast of Western Australia and in depths of more than 4 to 5 kilometres deep with waves sometimes reaching 15 to 20 metres.“The fact that during that time they’ve been able to locate shipwrecks from the late 1890s and the early 1900s indicates technological breakthroughs obviously from this generation have been able to solve mysteries from many generations ago,” he said. “I hope we don’t have to wait that long to solve this extraordinary aviation mystery.’’At a later Press conference, The Australian Minister did not rule out a resumption of the underwater search but said this was primarily Malaysia’s call.“if you have credible new information that leads to a specific location, it will be a matter for the Malaysian government primarily,” he said. “But certainly given the close relationship we’ve had during this process, I would expect some further conversations would occur between Australia and Malaysia and China at the time.’’Chester said cost was not the deciding factor in the decision, arguing that the governments did not want to be providing false hope to the families and friends.He also rejected a suggestion the experts behind the original 120,000 sq, km search area had got it wrong, saying people needed to understand the limited amount of data they were dealing with.“With technology that’s been used, we have very high confidence that aircraft is not located in that search area but they had very little data to work with and they’ve done an extraordinary job,’’ he said.The decision to suspend the search has been attacked as irresponsible and a betrayal by a support group for families of victims of the tragedy but Chester said those family members he had spoken to in the past 24 hours had been understanding .Speaking at the same Press conference, ATSB boss Greg Hood said it was anticipated the work on the drift and satellite imagery analyses would conclude by the end of February.“The ATSB will support any further requests by Malaysia including the examination of any further debris that may come ashore in months to come,’’ he said.Hood paid tribute to his team at the ATSB, who had “lived and breathed nothing but professionalism, dedication, compassion and optimism that we would locate the aircraft and those on board’’.“The suspension of the search after more than two and half years will be felt very deeply by all of us,’’ he said.Malaysia Airlines said in a brief statement it would be “guided” by the governments’ decision to end the search.“MAS remains hopeful that in the near future, new and significant information will come to light and the aircraft would eventually be located,”the airline said.last_img

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