ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government has sent more than 100
Australian officials to Europe for the slow and painful task of identifying and
repatriating those killed in the Malaysian airlines crash.
The Governor-General, Peter Cosgrove, will be in the Netherlands when the first of the bodies arrive there this evening.
Dutch forensic officials say that fewer remains than the Ukrainians indicated have so far been recovered from the site.
And Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has again stressed that securing the site so that a proper investigation can begin is the top priority.
From Canberra, Naomi Woodley reports.
NAOMI WOODLEY: The Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has spent another day in New York following up the passage of Australia's resolution through the UN Security Council with talks to ensure the international investigation it called for can begin.
Ms Bishop has told Sky News that she's been working in close consultation with her Dutch counterpart on the next steps.
JULIE BISHOP: That includes securing the site so that the people working on the site are also safe, that there is a ceasefire to enable the investigative work to be carried on, and that the evidence be maintained on the site.
We've seen five days of tampering with evidence, contaminating the site, the removal of bodies, the looting of personal belongings.
Now we need to ensure that the site is treated as it should have been from the outset - as an airline crash site, and a criminal investigation site.
NAOMI WOODLEY: She says the best way to provide that security is still being worked out.
JULIE BISHOP: We have been having discussions throughout today, in New York and in Kiev.
And I know the Prime Minister has a number of conversations that he'll be holding in the course of this morning, and he'll make an announcement in due course.
But we're looking at a range of options.
NAOMI WOODLEY: The Prime Minister's envoy, the former defence force chief Angus Houston, is now in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, and told AM he's been talking to European monitors to arrange access to the site in eastern Ukraine to view the wreckage himself.
ANGUS HOUSTON: I think we're moving pretty quickly.
There has obviously been a marked change of late; things seem to have settled down a little bit in the vicinity of the crash site.
But I would emphasise that there is still extensive fighting in eastern Ukraine and the environment is very fluid.
NAOMI WOODLEY: Disaster identification specialists are now among the more than 100 Australian officials now involved in the investigation and operation to bring home the Australian victims.
The Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, is also on his way to Europe to be there when the first remains are flown to the Netherlands tonight.
The bodies of some victims have been sent on to Kharkiv by train, but Dutch officials say there are fewer corpses than first thought.
The Russian backed separatists who still control the crash site said they'd recovered 282 bodies.
But Jan Tuinder from the Dutch National Forensic Team says they believe they only have 200.
JAN TUINDER: Which will not mean that we didn't find more remains.
There were more people on the plane; there were more remains to be found.
And we are not in the position, at this moment, to put all the remains to persons. What we are sure of are 200.
There are more remains, and the investigation will point out which remains will fit to which person, and that is what we are going to do in Holland with all the help of the Ukraine government.
NAOMI WOODLEY: European monitors have also reported more changes at the crash site itself, with some wreckage being moved, some body parts still clearly visible, and minimal security.
The Australian Government says access to the site is improving, but it's increasingly clear that it hasn't been treated like a crime scene.
The Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told Channel Nine that won't deter efforts to find and hold to account those who are responsible for shooting down the plane.
JULIE BISHOP: We have been of the view for some time that, we know how this occurred, there will be more evidence to back that conclusion, but we need to determine who is responsible, and that's why the investigation is so important.
There is evidence other than the kind of evidence that will be on the site that will prove who did it.
NAOMI WOODLEY: Reports from the United States say intelligence agencies there are firming in their view that the plane was mistakenly shot down by Russian-backed separatists.
The US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told CNN, they're still trying to establish if there was any direct involvement from Russia itself.
BEN RHODES: What we do know is it's not easy to operate one of these SA-11 systems.
It tends to take at least several days, if not more, of training.
So we do think president Putin and the Russian government bears responsibility for the support that they've provided to these separatists, the arms they've provided to these separatists, the training that they've provided as well, and the general unstable environment in Eastern Ukraine.
ELEANOR HALL: That's the US deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, ending that report from Naomi Woodley.