Prime Minister Tony Abbott has raised hopes the missing Malaysia Airlines plane will be found after an Australian aircraft spotted small pieces of debris in the southern Indian Ocean.
But he says it is still too early to be sure the unidentified debris is from the missing jet.
Mr Abbott gave an update on the international search for Flight MH370 before leaving Papua New Guinea for Australia on Sunday.
“It’s still too early to be definite, but obviously we have now had a number of very credible leads and there is increasing hope – no more than hope – that we might be on the road to discovering what did happen to this ill-fated aircraft,” he told reporters.
China has released a grainy satellite image of an object measuring 22.5 metres by 13 metres, taken on March 18, just 120km from two possible objects detected by satellite on March 16, about 2500km southwest of Perth.
Mr Abbott said it suggested at least one large object.
“Yesterday, one of our civilian search aircraft got visuals of a number of objects in a fairly small area in the overall Australian search zone,” he said.
A wooden pallet was among the items, but Mr Abbott said it would need to be recovered for identification.
Flight MH370, carrying 239 people including six Australians and two New Zealanders, dropped off civilian radar on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
Two weeks later, Malaysian investigators still believe it was “deliberately diverted” by someone on board.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said several small objects were identified by a civil aircraft in Saturday’s search and further examination would continue on Sunday to determine if the objects were related to the missing plane.
A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion aircraft with specialist electro-optic observation equipment was diverted to the location on Saturday, arriving after the first aircraft left, but only found clumps of seaweed.
It dropped a marker buoy to track the movement of the material.
AMSA says the civil aircraft involved are two Bombardier Global Express planes, a Gulfstream 5 and an Airbus 319.
A US Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft is also searching, along with HMAS Success.
Two Chinese military Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft have arrived at RAAF Base Pearce and will be ready to deploy on Monday, AMSA says.