As the details emerged on Friday and over the weekend of the casualties of downed flight MH17, it was impossible not to feel grief at both the overall magnitude of the loss of life and what seemed to be a constantly rising death toll of Australians. Seeing the faces of the victims and imagining the circumstances in which they perished can only induce despair and deep anger at the perpetrators.

While Tony Abbott was his usual forthright self from the outset in relation to this horror, in this instance it has been entirely justified. He has struck the right note in balancing anger at this act with the need to ensure that some semblance of independent investigation is conducted at what is left of the crash scene and that the bodies of Australian victims are expeditiously returned. He continued to strike the right note in a media conference late this morning, in which he tempered his remarks about Russian involvement.

All prime ministers must, at some point, take on the mantle not just of our political leader but of our national leader — charged with helping the nation navigate through grief, anger and dismay as it mourns the loss of its own. Abbott has put on that mantle, and so far it has become him.