Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared that the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has moved into a recovery and investigation operation based on mounting evidence the plane crashed in the southern Indian Ocean.
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MH370: from search to recovery
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says with the plane now officially lost, the operation moves into its next phase.
Addressing the Federal Parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Abbott also announced the government would waive visa fees for families of the plane's passengers should they want to come to Australia.
And he called on the Parliament to consider a condolence motion on Wednesday.
"Based on the accumulation of evidence, late last night, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia declared that the plane must be declared lost in the southern Indian Ocean," Mr Abbott said.
"That means ... that what up until now has been a search moves into a recovery and investigation phase."
Mr Abbott said he spoke to Mr Razak on Tuesday morning and offered "every assistance and co-operation".
Mr Abbott said many relatives of the 239 passengers and crew on board the plane would likely want to come to Australia in the coming days.
"I want them all to know ... that they will be in the arms of a decent country. The government has decided to waive visa fees for any relatives wishing to come to Australia."
Malaysia takes over probe
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the Malaysian government would take over the investigation for the lost flight as bad weather hampered efforts to recover any wreckage.
He said on Tuesday morning confirmation by Prime Minister Razak that the plane had crashed killing all on board moved the investigation into a new phase, with Malaysia taking control under the Chicago Convention on international civil aviation.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said on Tuesday that HMAS Success had left the search area because of rough seas.
It will head south until the seas - with waves up to two metres and a swell up to four metres - abate. The search area is also forecast to experience strong gale force winds of up to 80km/h, periods of heavy rain, and low cloud with a ceiling between 200 and 500 feet, AMSA said.
"AMSA has undertaken a risk assessment and determined that the current weather conditions would make any air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew," it said.
"Therefore, AMSA has suspended all sea and air search operations for today due to these weather conditions."
AMSA said it consulted with the Bureau of Meteorology and weather conditions are expected to improve in the search area in the evening and over the next few days.
"Search operations are expected to resume tomorrow, if weather conditions permit," AMSA said.
Mr Truss said Australia stood ready to assist, but sophisticated underwater equipment would most likely have to be supplied by the United States.
He said a criminal investigation still had not been ruled out.
"The announcement by the Prime Minster that Malaysia believes that the aircraft is lost and that there will be no survivors does move the search to a new phase," he said.
"It moves it to a stage where we are now investigating an accident, a loss of an aircraft and some new decisions will have to be taken now about the direction of future operations.
"Malaysia needs to take control under the Chicago Convention of those investigations."
'We’ll need assistance from countries like the US'
Mr Truss said the HMAS Success had been in the area of ocean where sightings potentially related to MH370 had been made but officers had not recovered a single piece that might be associated with the aircraft.
He said the Malaysian government's announcement was based purely on the satellite imagery and calculations available "so it’s really a long, long way away before much can be done by way of physical examination".
"It’s still important for us to try and find as much of the aircraft as possible," he said.
"The ideal would obviously be to locate as much of the wreckage as possible.
"That will require sophisticated equipment, some of which we do not have in Australia.
"It is also a priority to recover the flight box recorder on the aircraft.
"Again, we don’t believe we will have the technology to be able to work at those depths and to be able to recover the equipment, so we’ll need assistance from countries like the US to actually be able to undertake that kind of an operation."
The Deputy Prime Minister said he expected several countries would want to be involved in the investigation, including the US, which built the Boeing 777 plane.
He said if it was determined that there had been some kind of deliberate intervention on the plane there would need to be a criminal investigation.
Families of the 239 people on board were informed on Monday night of the Malaysian government's confirmation the plane had crashed.
Mr Truss said there had been contact with the Australian families of passengers on board.
"It’s not the news that the families will have wanted to hear and our real sympathies are with the families of those who’ve lost loved ones on board," he said.
'Everything is obviously speculation'
In Perth on Tuesday Defence Minister David Johnston highlighted the many difficulties facing the search, while visiting the Pearce RAAF Base, where the search is being conducted from.
Mr Johnston described the search as a "massive logistical exercise" and will later meet with the crews involved in the search.
Earlier in the day, bad weather put a stop to the search of the area more than 2000 kilometres from the West Australian coast.
Mr Johnston said while it was understood the plane had gone down in the area, "unless we recover and positively identify a piece of debris, everything is obviously speculation."
He said the search was taking place in "probably one of the most remote parts of the planet", where the ocean was about 3500 metres deep.
Mr Johnston said another aircraft from Korea would join the international team to scour the southern Indian Ocean for debris on Tuesday afternoon.
This will bring the number of aircraft involved in the search to 11, with planes from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Japan and China also involved.
with Aleisha Orr and AAP