MH17 crash site
Wreckage of Flight MH17

Tony Abbott still “yearns for justice” over the downing of MH17 in Ukraine, killing 38 Australians two years ago yesterday. If he really had the guts to take on the findings of the Dutch Safety Board’s inquiry he’d also be seeking justice for the victims from a airline that ignored the most basic of safety considerations in choosing to use disputed airspace over eastern Ukraine.

The Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER had 298 people on board when they were all murdered by the detonation of a Russian-made BUK missile close to its cockpit.

Just who murdered them is the subject of a Dutch criminal inquiry that is expected to report this year, and perhaps soon. Any reasonable person following the atrocity would lean, very strongly, to the conclusion that it was launched by a Russian unit operating against Ukraine separatists from inside the contested Ukraine claimed territory.

But with a complete disregard for the actual findings of the Dutch Safety Board inquiry into the technical and operational aspects of the disaster, dangerously unsafe decisions about using that airspace made by Malaysia Airlines — and others who should have known better than to cross it on July 17, 2014 — have been almost completely ignored in pursuit of Russian culpability for the missile launch.

There were two things wrong with airlines choosing to fly in Ukraine in skies which the country demonstrably didn’t have control on that fateful day, according to the DSB report.

The first was self evident. The airlines had elected to fly over a war zone in which there had been at least 16 aircraft shot down in the preceding weeks. And they had ignored the consequences of an airliner losing altitude in the event of an engine failure in accepting air traffic control advice not to fly over that area at less than 32,000 feet.

(In such an event the various twin-engined jets that used that airspace on that day would have descended to around 26,000 feet. Had the operational crisis been a cabin depressurisation, they would under the rules have needed to drop to 13,000 feet or less.)

The reason the media overwhelmingly didn’t report these findings was that it relied upon an evasive sound and light show presentation by the DSB that starred the reconstructed forward section of the shattered Boeing 777 and never mentioned matters that were explained in blunt detail in the actual documentation.

It seems that almost none of the media actually read or understood the report that was issued by the DSB. They were suckered, and they suckered their readers or viewers.

That report also said that Malaysia had refused to fully co-operate with the inquiry, specifically in relation to intelligence as to what was going on in the skies of eastern Ukraine and just over the border in Russia.

Abbott famously said he would “shirt front” Russian president Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Brisbane over the attack. He did no such thing. He posed for photos with Putin hugging koalas. He leveraged the sufferings and loss of the victims of MH17 for a baseless political claim that he was going to take on the Russians. It’s a similar humiliation to when he told China, in April 2014, that expert analysis of “pings” by a seemingly non-existent Navy centre for underwater acoustics excellence had located signals from the black boxes of MH370.

With a bit of intestinal fortitude, Abbott and the Australian government might better explore the real possibility that there is a case for criminal negligence to be made about the MH17 atrocity for Malaysia Airlines having put their passengers in harm’s way. The fact that some other airlines were just as willing in this matter is beside the point.

It’s all in the DSB report. It’s something Canberra needs to read and consider most carefully.

*This article was originally published at Plane Talking