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Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Tony Abbott defends decision to go public with news of satellite images

Tony Abbott has strongly defended his decision to announce a potential breakthrough in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane MH370, saying he owed it to the relatives and friends of the passengers and crew to reveal details at the first opportunity.

The Prime Minister was asked at a press conference in Papua New Guinea on Friday afternoon whether he had "jumped the gun" by telling Parliament on Thursday that Australian investigators had satellite images potentially showing debris from the missing plane 2500 kilometres south-west of Perth.

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MH370: 'We owe it to the families'

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended his MH370 search announcement, saying the families deserve nothing less.

''Now, it could just be a container that has fallen off a ship," Mr Abbott told reporters in Port Moresby.

"We just don't know, but we owe it to the families and the friends and the loved ones of the almost 240 people on flight MH370 to do everything we can to try to resolve what is as yet an extraordinary riddle.

"Because of the understandable state of anxiety and apprehension that they're in we also owe it to them to give them information as soon as it's to hand.

"I think I was doing that yesterday in the Parliament."


Mr Abbott said he had spoken to the leader of the country with the most passengers on board, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was "devastated" by the mystery.

''This has been a gut-wrenching business for so many people, not least those who are charged with the responsibility of keeping their citizens safe.''

He said Australia had thrown ''everything we've got'' to establish visual contact of the debris.

Mr Abbott said aircraft and ships had been diverted to the search area in the southern Indian Ocean based on credible information but stressed that objects spotted on satellite images might not be the missing plane.

He said five aircraft, including three royal Australian air force Orions were at the site and an Australian naval ship was ''steaming as fast as it can to the area''.

''It is an extremely remote part of the southern Indian ocean,'' he said.

''It's about the most inaccessible spot that you would imagine on the face of the earth.

''But if there is anything down there we will find it.

''We owe it to the families of those people to do no less.''

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