Australia has spent almost five times more than Malaysia on the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The airline’s home country has spent $9.3 million on the search so far, compared with Australia’s spend of $43 million.
Despite the current disparity, Malaysian officials have told Fairfax Media the country intends to split the ongoing costs of the search “50-50”.
A further sum of $89.9 million was set aside in last month’s Federal Budget to cover the ongoing costs of the search, which is taking place in the Indian Ocean off Australia’s West coast.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said the Federal Government would not shy away from its “responsibility” to help find the plane.
“It is understood that the plane went down in waters that are our responsibility,” he said.
“We accept responsibility and will pay for it. We’re not a country that begs others for money to do our job.”
In an interview with the ABC on Tuesday, search coordinator Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said the circumstances surrounding the plane’s disappearance would make finding the aircraft extremely challenging.
“We’re dealing with a much more challenging set of circumstances where the last known position was at the northern entrance to the Malacca Straights, north of the equator.”
“Sometime in the future we will publicly announce a search area of about 60,000 square kilometres which will be searched by deep water technology, sideways-looking sonar, towed sonar, autonomous underwater vehicles, to try and find MH370.”
In regard to who would pay for the extensive operation, Air Chief Marshal Houston said the final cost-sharing arrangements between countries were yet to be finalised.
“I think about $25m of that [$89.9m] is to go to the Defence Force for the visual search they conducted,” he said.
“There’s another $60 million that’s been allocated for the underwater search. Now, that money’s been allocated but we’re still to negotiate the burden sharing with Malaysia.”
Despite promising early signs in the search, including the detection of underwater signals initially believed to be from the plane’s black box recorder, the search has proved fruitless.
More than three months have passed since the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board – including six Australians.
China, the USA, Indonesia, India, Japan, United Kingdom, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates and other nations have also assisted the search effort with financial and non-financial contributions.
An aerial search was called off in April after coordinators determined the wreckage was likely to have sunk.
The surface search involved:
• More than four-and-a-half million square kilometres of ocean searched.
• 334 search flights conducted at an average of eight a day, for a total of more than 3000 hours.
• Involving 10 civil aircraft with 19 military aircraft from Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.
• 14 ships from Australia, China and the UK.
• A Blue-fin 21 drone has conducted an underwater search of more than 400 square kilometres.
The underwater search continues.
– with AAP