News World Houston best man to search for plane: PM

Houston best man to search for plane: PM

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there is no one better than former Defence force chief Angus Houston to co-ordinate the international search effort for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

Retired Air Chief Marshal Houston will lead a new joint agency co-ordination centre in Perth to open lines of communication with all international search partners, government agencies and the families of those on the missing flight 370.

Mr Abbott said Air Chief Marshal Houston, an experienced and respected former military officer, was the best man for the job.

“Should our responsibilities increase as time goes by, there is no one better placed than Angus to co-ordinate and liaise given the quite significant number of countries that have a stake in this search,” he told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

Malaysia continues to hold primary responsibility for the recovery and investigation.

Mr Abbott said there will be an intensifying search effort on Sunday with 10 aircraft and eight ships deployed to the updated search area, 1850km off Perth.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft was the first aircraft to leave Perth at 9am (AEDT) on Sunday.

A US Poseidon and South Korean Orion followed at 11am, with Australian, Malaysian and Japanese aircraft to be deployed hourly thereafter until 4pm.

An Australian navy ship has been fitted with a black box detector and an autonomous underwater vehicle is due to leave Perth on Sunday night.

Saturday’s search for the first time led to recovery of objects which have not yet been confirmed to have belonged to the plane, which disappeared more than three weeks ago with 239 passengers and crew aboard.

Mr Abbott said the government will “spend what it needs to spend” on the search to resolve the mystery.

“This government won’t rest to give those families and the wider community of the world a little more peace and insight into exactly what happened,” he said.

Flight 370 disappeared on March 8 after veering sharply off course while heading from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.