Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop are ramping up pressure on Russia to accept responsibility for the downing of MH17 and to compensate victims by supporting a private member’s bill targeting Russian officials ahead of unexpected talks.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed that Canberra was planning talks with Moscow, likely to be held in concert with The Netherlands.
Australian officials were surprised that Russia had agreed to the talks considering how vehemently President Vladimir Putin had rejected Moscow’s involvement.
Mr Abbott voiced his support at a Coalition partyroom meeting for an Australian Magnitsky Act, which would be set up under a private member’s bill introduced by federal Labor MP Michael Danby late last year.
Former foreign minister Julie Bishop, who has not always been on the same page as the former prime minister, also supported the introduction of the private member’s bill.
Scott Morrison is understood to have said he would consider whether the government will back it and whether there will be time in parliament for it to be deliberated.
The bill would bring Australia in line with Magnitsky laws in place such as the US, Britain and Canada in allowing the government to ban individuals involved in breaching international law and their families from travelling to, or investing in, Australia.
The thought is it could apply to Russian military figures.
Military adviser Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov has been named as a person of interest in the downing of MH17.
Australia has an autonomous sanctions regime and so has previously rejected the need for such an act, but supporters believe it could give Australia greater leverage during the talks.
The downing of MH17 killed all 298 people on board, including 38 Australians.