Wednesday, 30 March 2022
Statements on Indulgence
Every Anzac Day I do a publication, and this year's publication is a little bit different than most. This is the12th publication I have produced for Anzac Day, but this publication has always been, as the word suggests on the cover, commemorative. It is a booklet written to generally mark past service and sacrifice while acknowledging the men and women across our country and in missions around the world who are presently wearing an Australian Defence Force uniform and doing us all proud. But this year's booklet also acknowledges what's going on in Ukraine as we speak.
The price of peace is eternal vigilance. It is also—as I acknowledged at the 3 March Ukraine war Wagga Wagga prayer vigil in the Victory Memorial Gardens—eternal compassion. The price of peace is also eternal compassion. Australia is not a warmongering nation. We have played our part in the past to protect and save other peace-abiding nations. To protect ourselves, we will always do what is required and what is asked with our allies to uphold international law and freedom.
Sadly, President Vladimir Putin has directed his Russian army against Ukraine. The 24 February invasion and what has followed has led to so many deaths of soldiers on both sides as well as innocent Ukrainian citizens. Wagga Wagga will play an integral part in any military response taken by our nation, given its unique status as a tri-service training centre. We have all three arms of Defence in Wagga Wagga, and they always stand ready to do what is required. We are assisting Ukraine very much, with $91 million in military assistance, more than 500 sanctions to impose costs on Russia, $65 million in humanitarian aid, more than 5,000 visas issued to Ukrainians and more underway—more than 1,100 Ukrainians have already arrived in Australia—and donating 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal to help keep the lights on, homes heated and factories running in Ukraine. But there's more that we can, more that we must and more that we will do.
As I say, the 3 March community prayer vigil attracted, with very little notice, 200 Wagga Wagga citizens. As I spoke and looked out across the crowd holding the Ukrainian flag, I noticed there were people with tears in their eyes. The night was highlighted by Ukrainians citizen Larissa Burak, who's made Wagga Wagga her home, performing her country's national anthem on an instrument called the bandura. It was stirring, perhaps even haunting, to hear that instrument played so well and to hear her beautiful voice singing her national anthem so proudly and with such conviction. People of all faiths attended the vigil, including Dr Ata u-Rehman of the Muslim Association of Riverina Wagga Wagga. Previous vigils have been held in our city, for the Christchurch terror attacks of 2019 and for the bombings of Sri Lanka in the same year. Wagga Wagga always comes together. We're a very multicultural city. More than 100 nations are represented on Australia Day in our fair city. I want to acknowledge one person in particular, Joan Saboisky of the San Isidore Refugee Committee. She helped arrange this prayer vigil and of course she is urging the government to do what it can for refugees. She's also doing everything she can, as a private citizen and as a member of this organisation, to embrace and put out the welcoming mat for these refugees.
I read only the other day that 4½ million people have been displaced—4½ million people. That is an extraordinary number. I was so moved by the situation in Ukraine, but I was also very moved by the response from Wagga Wagga people. Since 2014 more than 2,000 Yazidis have resettled in New South Wales, of whom more than 800 have made their home in Wagga Wagga. They're now very much part and parcel of our city. Indeed, I even have a Yazidi refugee, who couldn't speak English four years ago, working in my electoral office in Wagga Wagga. Dawlat is an amazing person who always greets constituents with a warm smile and answers the phone beautifully. This is what can be done and this is what should be done when we have refugees fleeing persecution, fleeing violence and fleeing war-torn situations. I'm sure that Wagga Wagga—indeed, communities in the Riverina electorate, from Parkes to West Wyalong and from Yerong Creek to Cowra—would welcome with compassion, as they have done in the past, any refugees from Ukraine who come to our country.
This is the fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War. This is a humanitarian crisis, and Australia will stand ready to do what we can, as we always do. But Moscow needs to act and act now to pull out its troops to stop this bloody invasion that has caused such heartache and terror among Ukraine's citizens. What an amazing response from the leader of Ukraine. He's a former comedian whose solidarity with his people is truly remarkable, I have to say. If he's not Time's Person of the Year then I'll be very, very surprised. We've heard about a number of atrocities that have been reported involving innocent civilians—and, of course, they're all innocent—including the bombing of a school in Mariupol, where a reported 400 civilians were sheltering, and an air strike on a theatre in the same centre. But the bombing of maternity hospitals is just despicable. It breaks the hearts of all fair-minded people to see these sorts of actions being taken.
But I say to the people of Ukraine: Australia stands with you, as does every fair-minded nation on this planet. We are with you, we support you, we feel your pain and we will not abandon you. After the war is over—and I've no doubt that Ukraine will prevail over its invaders—there'll be a massive rebuilding task which will require the help of all the nations on earth. It will require generosity from nations such as Australia, and we will provide that generosity. I'm sure, whatever government takes the treasury bench after the May election, that support will be there, because I know how horrified all members of this parliament are about what is happening in Ukraine at the moment. We wish our friends in Kyiv and elsewhere in that war-torn nation all the very best as they combat evil, as they combat tyranny, as they combat this invasion that should never, ever have occurred. We stand with them, we pray with them and we love them.
Yes, we do stand with the people of Ukraine in the condemnation of Russia's war of aggression. This is an illegal war based on a discredited idea of Russian imperialism in Eastern Europe. Ukraine is its own country with its own history. It has sovereignty. It has the right to territorial independence. It has the right to make its own decisions within its own borders. It has the right to live in peace. This war is an irrational act of brutality. It's bad for the people of Ukraine and it's also bad for ordinary Russians.
Ukraine, led by President Zelenskyy, has shown remarkable bravery in front of the advance of the Russian military. It's incredible, when you look at the ordinary Ukrainians who have taken up arms—teenagers, teachers, bus drivers—people like you and me, saying, 'We will not surrender.' Fighting for your own country is such a powerful motivation, and invaders almost always underestimate the willpower of people fighting for their own country.
I was in Slovenia in 1991 when Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia, which started the process of what was called the 'Ten-Day War'. In Slovenia, a military was stood up almost overnight. You had ordinary people driving their family car onto the highway to try and block the path of the tanks. You had middle-aged people, who hadn't picked up a gun since their military service as an 18-year-old, picking up a gun and going out, prepared to fight and prepared to die. I see that same spirit in the Ukrainian population. People are saying, 'I would rather not live if I have to live under Russian occupation.' It is just phenomenally courageous.
It's been inspirational, but it's an inspiration that has come with so much tragedy and, honestly, so much waste attached to it, so much loss of human life. It's not just the thousands who have lost their lives. It's the four million refugees, with another 50,000 leaving every day. It's the buildings, the cities, that will have to be rebuilt. It's the poverty and the lack of food as transport lines are broken. It's all of the suffering that the people of Ukraine will endure for years to come—even if peace were declared tomorrow—because of this mad decision by Vladimir Putin. The cost of it is so extraordinary.
We've seen so many alarming, disturbing reports of protesting civilians being shot at, of schools and hospitals being bombed, despite having declared that there were only civilians inside. We've seen families who've fled, carrying their few possessions on their shoulders, away from the face of the war. There are millions affected, and the impacts will last for years for the people of Ukraine. But this also really challenges the system that has, by and large, kept the world relatively safe and relatively conflict free since the Second World War. The principle that countries don't invade their neighbours, that all of us obey the international rules based system, has, by and large, meant that we have lived through a relatively peaceful few decades.
I don't want to try and predict the future. If Vladimir Putin gets away with this, who knows what his next target will be? Also, what message would that send to other totalitarian regimes and other large countries that have territorial disputes with their neighbours? That's why it is absolutely critical for Australia to stand with the United States, stand with Europe, stand with NATO and, most particularly of course, stand with the people of Ukraine to say: 'This shall not pass. This shall not happen. We won't let it happen.' As the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres said:
The use of force by one country against another is the repudiation of the principles that every country has committed to uphold.
This applies to the present military offensive.
It is wrong.
It is against the Charter.
It is unacceptable.
But it is not irreversible.
I think this is an important point. We work for peace, but we don't take it for granted.
Australia has traditionally played a role in the international community as a country that is dedicated, at times of conflict, to helping parties come to a resolution. We played an extraordinary role in Cambodia to do that. We played an extraordinary role in supporting the East Timorese independence vote. There are so many examples where Australia has had a role that, perhaps due to the size of our population, you wouldn't necessarily expect. It is important that we not just do whatever we can to help the people of Ukraine in the immediate need that they have but also reiterate and do whatever we can to support an international rules based system. That is the only way countries have of peacefully resolving differences.
It is the responsibility of Vladimir Putin—no-one else—to stop this aggression now. We, Australia, along with other nations, are putting pressure on Vladimir Putin and the people around him with sanctions, including the targeted sanctions that are directly, we hope, impacting on people who might have some influence on President Putin. But I have to say that it is also important that other large nations, including permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, such as China, do whatever they can to put pressure on the Russians to stop this madness. That's why so many of us were alarmed by the no-limits friendship arrangement that has been recently entered into by Russia and China.
I want to finish by just focusing for a moment on the people of Russia. It is obviously 100 per cent the responsibility of Russia to stop this aggression, to withdraw its troops and to accept that this was wrong from the very beginning. I am so impressed by the people of Ukraine and how bravely they have fought this invasion, but I am also impressed by the bravery of those Russians who've stood up to an authoritarian president. We know that there are Russians being arrested in their thousands for saying exactly what I am saying here today—that this war is wrong and that it should be opposed. You can go to jail, and not for a short time, for saying that, in Vladimir Putin's Russia. So all of my thoughts and all of my support are going out of the people of Ukraine today, and also to those brave Russians who are calling out this madness and demanding it stop.
As the member for Sydney quite rightly pointed out, it is madness. In just four weeks, we've seen the war in Ukraine cause the largest refugee movement since the Second World War. Bombs are dropping day and night. There are horrific scenes of hospitals bombed, including a maternity hospital bombed. There have been miraculous recoveries, as well, of people who have escaped from those attacks. But there have been children who have been orphaned as well as deaths.
Of the many stories and pictures, I've plucked out one to share. That was of Alena and her seven-year-old son, Nikodin. There's a picture, and some of you might have seen it, of Nikodin, who's seven, clutching his prized possession—a deflated football—while he was hiding for safety with his mum. There are still a thousand people trapped under the ruins of a theatre in Mariupol. There are countless stories of sadness and suffering everywhere across Ukraine, and of course there's no greater sense of urgency than over the humanitarian catastrophe that's occurring in many cities, but particularly in Mariupol, given the siege that they have been under. There are also stories of bravery and courage, and stories of the Ukrainian people risking their lives to stand up and fight the Russian aggression, refusing to capitulate to Vladimir Putin and the demands of a dictator. Millions of Ukrainians have stayed to fight, or returned to fight, for their country and for their democracy. As we've heard, Putin's invasion of Ukraine is not just an attack on Ukrainian sovereignty. Actually, it is an attack on one of the core principles of the post-World War II era, that:
All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State…
We're all members of a parliament and, I would say, of a great democracy. Australia is one of the oldest continuous democracies in the world, and, in many respects, we have a collective duty to stand up for human rights, for international law and for that liberal rules-based order, and to speak up when those rights are diminished or abused, whether that be here or abroad. That's the least we can do as elected representatives of this great democracy. That is fundamentally why all of us here, as well as our leader, Anthony Albanese, and the shadow foreign minister, Penny Wong, have repeatedly called for Russia to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and condemned Russia's aggression, which violates international law, undermines security in the region and the world, and lacks basic decency. The barbarity of it is there for the whole world to see, despite their disinformation campaigns. We see the truth.
Australia has a responsibility to work with our allies and support Ukraine in any way that we can. The opposition has provided that support to push back against authoritarian regimes trying to interfere in our systems and undermine that liberal rules-based order. This really goes beyond party lines; this is not about partisanship, because we are at an inflection point globally. There is a contest between authoritarian regimes and democracies that is happening around the globe. That is the struggle of our age, and one that we will be grappling with for at least the next couple of decades. We have supported, as an opposition, the commitments that the government has made to provide Ukraine with cybersecurity and military aid—lethal aid and non-lethal aid. We've supported the government's imposition of Magnitsky sanctions under our new laws that have targeted individuals in Russia and their family members.
But we also have a lot of work to do in our own region. As some of the previous speakers have mentioned, the invasion of Ukraine has shone a light on the troubling strategic convergence between Beijing and Moscow. This is something that we are front and centre of, being one of the regional powers in the Indo-Pacific.
On a recent trip to the United States with the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which I attended with the chair, Senator Paterson, we agreed to leave partisanship and shenanigans back here in Canberra. We were working together in a bipartisan fashion and in a diplomatic effort to advance Australia's objectives on that trip. We saw that there was a very bright spot of bipartisanship, as well, in the US Congress, in the Senate and the House, when it came to support for Ukraine. We saw how much the US political system had galvanised around support for Ukrainians and how surprised they were by the resistance, bravery, courage and effectiveness of the fight that had been put up by Ukrainians. There was also a bright spot of bipartisanship that we noted when it came to the Indo-Pacific region as well.
We were also all surprised by how the EU and the European democracies have stood up in support of Ukraine. That is of real importance, because countries like Switzerland, who have been neutral for hundreds of years, have taken a stand. This is beyond partisanship. It's beyond political sides here. We're talking about Greens foreign ministers in Germany stepping up to the plate on defence spending. There is a cognisance, amongst our friends in Europe, of the importance of demonstrating unity and tangible, substantive support for Ukraine in their time of need. That has been something worth seeing, because it gives us some inspiration for the work that we have to do to get over the kind of silly partisan fights that we sometimes have and to see the bigger picture of what needs to be done to protect our way of life. There was, as I said, also a very important discussion around US engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and the importance of an economic framework that can provide an alternative for countries in the region to participate in.
These are the three D's of statecraft: defence, diplomacy and development. This is what it's about. It's the hard work that a middle power like Australia has to do. That's why Labor's shadow foreign minister, Penny Wong, often speaks about the need to put Australian values, such as respect for international human rights, at the centre of our foreign policy. This is not a naive approach. It actually makes a lot of sense. In the world that we live in today, this is more necessary than ever. The standing up for those values actually matters. The unity that we see between other like-minded countries and democracies actually matters.
No matter where we see human rights being abused and diminished around the world, it's our duty as political leaders—in the sense that we are elected members of this parliament—to stand up and speak out against it. It's critically important for us to champion human rights when it comes to Ukraine, when it comes to Myanmar, when it comes to the democracy protesters in Hong Kong, when it comes to so many spots around the world where that contest between authoritarianism and democracy is a frontline battle, where people are actually losing their lives fighting for the freedoms that some might say we take for granted.
That fight for freedom and democracy around the world is one that we should show leadership in, and be part of, in solidarity. But we should also be on the frontline, at the very least, in what we say in this place. The president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, will be addressing this parliament tomorrow, and we need to listen.
Recently, I attended the Ukrainian church in my electorate. It's a small church in Woolloongabba. I attended alongside the state member for Greenslopes, Joe Kelly MP, and Queensland minister Leanne Linard. Senator Anthony Chisholm was with us. Also in attendance was Australia 's Governor-General, who had come to this small church in Woolloongabba in my electorate, as we all did, to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
As we listened to the service, as we stood with them, we wanted to express our strong support for the Ukrainian community of Australia, the diaspora here, but to all people from Ukraine who are facing a really terrible and unjust war being waged upon them. I think it's important to stand up against imperialism, to stand up against oppression. I want to pay tribute to every Ukrainian person who is standing in defiance, whether at home or abroad, against this unjust war.
It was quite remarkable to me. I had not been to a Ukrainian church service before. We were in this small church but it was really full. The service is sung, and there was this beautiful singing ringing out through the church, in defiance of what was happening in their homeland, and in support for one another. Probably the most remarkable part of this service was when Father Stefan gave the homily. The homily was about forgiveness. It was quite remarkable to be with those people and to hear those words. I want to pay tribute to him, Father Stefan, and Father Martin, who were there with the parishioners.
I also want to pay tribute to the Ukrainian Community of Queensland Inc., which is the community group for Ukrainians in my home state. They organised a good attendance at that service and, subsequent to it, organised a really big, well-attended and impeccably conducted—while I was there, at least—rally in King George Square. It was attended by a number of my colleagues as well as representatives from the broader community but was led by the Ukrainian community. At that rally, that we all attended after the church service, we saw a sea of blue and yellow. We saw defiance. We saw resistance. We saw hope. These are a people who believe that they will prevail in this war, that this unjust war will come to an end and that their people will continue and that their nation will continue.
It was an interesting day. It was during the Brisbane floods. It was 6 March, this rally, and the Brisbane floods, as you probably know, had been happening twice a day for several days in the lead-up to that day. People were still cleaning up. It was incredibly humid and there was mud everywhere. But it was really heartening to see that people took time out even of a disaster to come to King George Square, in the centre of Brisbane, and show that solidarity. A number of us did that.
I want to say congratulations to Peter Bongiorni, the president of the UCQ, and his mum, who very clearly played a big part in the organising of the rally, his partner, the immediate past president of the UCQ and all the members of the committee and the organisation, who'd clearly been working tirelessly in the face of a natural disaster—in the face of war at home—to organise this opportunity for the community to come together and to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
More broadly, it's important for all of us in this parliament to express our support for Ukrainians, who are going through a terrifying and difficult time facing this unjust war, to acknowledge their capacity for defiance, to acknowledge their willingness to stand up. I mentioned the floods. I was thinking during the floods about the Ukrainians while I was out putting sandbags in trucks and making sure the community groups had the connections they needed to deliver services. My counterparts from the Ukrainian parliament, in Ukraine, had their Twitter feeds full of members of parliament having to learn how to use a gun and making the decision to stay in the capital to fight. It was quite humbling.
But the story isn't about members of parliament. It isn't even about President Zelenskyy, no matter how brave and no matter how much leadership he and his family have shown. The story is about individual Ukrainians, everyday people living everyday lives, who all of a sudden are being bombed and facing this campaign against them, who are nonetheless standing together and facing it down. I want to pay tribute to them.
Of course, we've heard from other speakers that Labor stands in solidarity with Ukrainians, as does every member of this parliament, I expect, and as does the nation. I'm certainly very pleased to be part of an opposition, an alternative government, that is willing to render any assistance we can practically provide to the people of Ukraine as they face down this threat, this unjust war, this autocratic regime. I'm proud to be part of a democracy; I'm proud of our democracy. As a strong democracy it is incumbent upon us to stand up for democracy, it is incumbent upon us to stand up against unjust wars. I'm proud to be a small part of an international effort to stand up for these principles that we all believe in.
I again say thank you to all members of the Queensland Ukrainian community and all members of the Australian Ukrainian community for the work they are doing to provide opportunities to stand in solidarity. To those who fight, to those who are at home in Ukraine, to those who are trying to care for children or elderly loved ones, to those who are trying to resist or to those who are just trying to survive: we see you and we stand in solidarity with you.
I rise to speak about the war in Ukraine. I want to acknowledge the heartfelt speeches I've just heard from the member for Griffith, the member for Wills and the member for Sydney. It's been 34 days since Russia invaded Ukraine. We've been witnessing the devastating loss of life and attacks on civilians, including attacks on hospitals and healthcare facilities. The World Health Organization has confirmed that there have been more than 70 separate attacks on hospitals, ambulances and doctors in Ukraine, with the number increasing on a daily basis.
Australians have been shocked and saddened to see this—and seeing a maternity hospital attacked was a particularly sickening example. We're seeing families being torn apart as men stay to fight for their country and women try to get the rest of the family to safety. We're seeing little children weeping as they say goodbye to their fathers, for reasons that they have no comprehension of, and adults knowing that they may never see them again.
The UN estimates that close to 1,000 civilians have been killed, although this most likely underestimates the real figure, and it will continue to climb until peace can be restored. We have seen the senseless destruction of cities and infrastructure. We have seen more than 3.5 million Ukrainians fleeing their homes for safety in neighbouring nations, and the United Nations has predicted that the number of refugees from the conflict could reach four million.
With this invasion, Vladimir Putin has attacked the rules based order that has guaranteed peace and prosperity since the end of World War II. He has torn up those rules. This is an illegal and unjust war. Ukraine is fighting for sovereignty, democracy and freedom. Ukrainians have the right to live in peace. The courageous resistance of the Ukrainian people has been inspirational. The leadership of the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will address our parliament tomorrow, has also been inspirational. I very much look forward to that address.
Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine and to those in Australia who have lost or are worried about their loved ones who are caught up in that violence. I also want to acknowledge the Russians who are so bravely protesting against this dictatorship and this war. For us here in Australia it is hard to fathom what that really means—because we live in a democracy, where we have the right to protest and to speak against our government. That is something we must deeply value and continue to stand up for with pride.
I recently had the privilege to speak at a vigil here in Canberra, organised by Amnesty International, at the Nara Peace Park not far from this building. As the member for Canberra, and on behalf of our community and of our parliament, I reiterate to the Canberra Ukrainian community that we stand with you in solidarity and that our hearts are with you in this unthinkable pain that you are in. We had some incredible speakers at the vigil talking about their homeland, their experiences and their families and loved ones who are still there. One of those speakers was Aleksandr Demianenko, who works at the Australian National University. He and his wife and young daughter had just returned from being in Ukraine before this happened. He spoke very passionately about those he knows who have been tragically killed—a school friend was one—about the heartbreak felt by Ukrainians watching the destruction of their homeland and about his condemnation of Mr Putin's aggression. Canberrans really stand with Ukrainians in our condemnation of that, as does this parliament. I've been really pleased to see that Australia has granted more than 5,000 visas to Ukrainians in Ukraine, and hundreds more to Ukrainians elsewhere, and that more than 1,000 of these visa holders have already arrived safely in Australia and will continue to arrive every day.
It is vitally important that Australia plays this role in accepting refugees from Ukraine and from all conflicts around the world. Afghanistan is another example where we have seen so many people's livelihoods and futures destroyed. Many of them are seeking a future here in Australia and we should grant that to more people than we do at the moment. Just today, I heard from a constituent who has managed to get five members of her family here to Canberra. We will be seeking visas for them, and I hope that I will be able to help her with that. They are five female members of her family. The men are remaining there to fight for their country and its sovereignty. That is absolutely heartbreaking. Attacks on global peace and security impact us all, and it is not in anyone 's interest for any country to think that they can threaten sovereignty or change the status quo by force. It's important that we demonstrate that these actions come with a cost, and that's why Australia and the world have a responsibility to join in the defence of Ukraine and the principles of democracy and freedom. Australia has joined in exerting diplomatic pressure, imposing sanctions on Russia and supplying aid to Ukraine.
Labor has, of course, given bipartisan support to these efforts, and Australia should be working in concert with our international partners to continue to ratchet up these costs for Mr Putin and his regime. Labor is also supportive of additional assistance for Ukraine, including coal and humanitarian and military assistance. Strong and comprehensive measures are required to support Ukraine's pushback against Russia's invasion. Again, I just want to say to our Ukrainian community here in Canberra and around Australia, that Australians stand with you and our hearts are with you.
What many of us have learnt over the last few weeks is that there are many people in our communities who have always had a place in their hearts for Ukraine—people who've moved to Australia from Ukraine and people who've had long associations. What we've discovered in Australia over the last month is that Ukraine has grown a little place in all of our hearts. Unfortunately, that has happened because of the shameful invasion that Russia has initiated. The actions that we take in this place, and the actions the government must continue to take, must protect Ukraine's future. As many have already said, this attack is wholly unprovoked and has absolutely no justification. Again, we must be very clear that Russia is the aggressor and is responsible for the bloodshed and lives that have been taken in this violence.
We stand with the people of Ukraine and we stand with those that seek to defend their nation, a nation that had been living peacefully until just a few weeks ago. I want to note in particular the families and civilians killed in this aggression. At the start of this week the best records available—and we know this is probably an underestimation—noted that 1,151 civilians had been killed, of whom 103 were children. That is why it is important for this parliament to discuss this issue and that we continue to state very clearly that this federal parliament—not one side or the other, but this entire federal parliament—stands with the people of Ukraine. We stand with them in our communities, we stand with them in our electorates, we stand with them in the important forums of United Nations and we'll stand with them wherever the Australian hand of friendship is needed.
How do we do so? We do so with our tougher sanctions. We do so by acting with our allies wherever we can cooperate to prevent further lives from being lost. We do so by sending humanitarian aid and, indeed, by sending lethal aid. It's not something that Australia ever does lightly, but we do so because it is the right thing to do. We also do so by standing with our communities in peaceful protest. The opposition have very clearly said that we will continue to give bipartisan support to the Australian government for the provision of the economic and military assistance necessary for Ukraine. We'll support the sanctions against Russia, provide where necessary a safe haven for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict and provide support for Ukrainian Australian associations. I want to put on record my thanks to the DFAT officials who have been helping my constituents. I don't want to go into the details of those matters other than to say I'm very grateful for the work of DFAT and the work of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and her office in assisting a number of my constituents in some incredibly difficult circumstances to both protect lives and to reunite families. As the member for Perth, I'm very grateful for that work.
It has also been necessary for many of us to stand with our communities. I've stood with the Perth community in two separate vigils, including a 'Stop the War' rally held in the Supreme Court gardens on the banks of the Swan River, where the gardens and the parkland were covered in blue and gold. Normally, when we cover things in blue and gold in Western Australia, it's for the West Coast Eagles, but this was much more important. This was so that we could show the support of the people of Western Australia for the people of Ukraine. I commend the Lord Mayor of the City of Perth and the state government for lighting up a number of buildings and monuments across the state in blue and gold, including Council House. I want to thank everyone who attended the rally on 5 March, when they marched through the streets of Perth to show their support for peace. Then, at Saint Mary's Cathedral, which was built in 1865 and stands proudly in the heart of the Perth electorate, we gathered again in a vigil to show support for the people of Ukraine. That had a roll call of a range of consuls-general and a range of political leaders. I particularly note the attendance and the very heartfelt and strong speeches of Dr Tony Buti, the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Interests; Senator Smith; the member for Stirling; Senator Cox; Senator Steele-John; and, indeed, Caroline Perks, who is the Greens's candidate for Perth. It was good to see the cross-partisan support shown very strongly in the heart of the Perth electorate.
We must continue to stand with Ukraine however we can and not let this slip off the agenda. This is not just an attack on one country but an attack on democracy the world over. This is an attack on the rules that keep all nations and all citizens, wherever they live, safe. It is an attack on our values and an attack on friends and people that are dear to our communities. While we can oppose this, we need to work in whichever ways we can to ensure this conflict does come to an end, and that that happens soon. I'll continue to campaign for peace in the Perth electorate until it does, and I look forward to hearing from President Zelenskyy tomorrow, when he addresses the parliament, about how Australia can further assist in the cause of peace. He is an inspiring leader, but we don't need inspiration. We simply need a path to peace. And we need it now.
It's been an extraordinary month, one of the most dangerous months since World War II. Russian aggression has moved into Ukraine, unjustified and unprovoked. It's completely unacceptable. There have been attacks near and around nuclear energy stations, attacks on civilian areas and attacks on the people of Ukraine—for no reason.
When Vladimir Putin started invading Ukraine, emphatic statements were made in Australia that there is no justification for this war. That remains as true today as it was at the start of this conflict. There is no justification for this war. There is no justification for Russia to be in Ukraine at this moment. We would, again, urge Russia to withdraw their troops from Ukraine and stop the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas.
In McNamara, my electorate, we have one of the largest Ukrainian expat populations in Australia. Many of those who came from Ukraine did so at the fall of the Soviet empire, and did so late in their adult lives. They did so fleeing persecution from the Soviet empire. In coming to Australia as an adult, learning English wasn't really an option for many people. So finding work and a place in Australian society was a difficult transition for many people who came from Ukraine. Many in my electorate live in public housing. There is a Ukrainian community in some of the public housing areas in my electorate.
They are, at their core, deeply grateful to our nation for not only giving them safety but for giving them a home and allowing them time to come to this country in safety. Their families have gone on to give so much back to Australian society. Their kids have obviously been able to learn English. Many of the older migrants who came to this country did so in a pretty vulnerable state. They are kind and generous every time I go and visit them and are deeply distressed about the state of their families back home and the country they left behind.
One interesting analysis about Vladimir Putin is that he doesn't use technology. He doesn't use smartphones. He constantly surrounds himself by advisers who are answering his questions. He doesn't use smartphones for a range of reasons, including not wanting to be trackable for international espionage. One of the outcomes of that, perhaps, is that he really doesn't understand the temperature on the ground in Ukraine. He has this romantic idea of Soviet Russia, that the people of Ukraine would welcome back the Russian forces from their European aggressors. But that is not what Ukraine is.
Ukraine is not a country that looks back in history at the Soviet era in the romanticised way Vladimir Putin wants it to. Ukraine is a vibrant democracy, a democracy that is forward leaning, that is full of arts and culture and political debate. It is the sort of country that we are proud to affiliate ourselves with. It is not an autocratic country. It is not a dictatorship. It is a vibrant democracy.
In fact, the person who leads that vibrant democracy years ago found himself as an actor playing the President of Ukraine. He was so convincing in this portrayal that people said to him he should actually run to be the President of Ukraine. He was emphatically voted in with 70 per cent of the presidential vote. You'd think, 'How could a comedian tap into the sentiment of a forward-thinking, proud country like Ukraine?' But the way in which Volodymyr Zelenskyy has withstood the barrage, withstood the pressure, withstood the second largest military in the world, in terms of nuclear capability, and withstood the overwhelming capability of the Russian military on Ukraine's borders and inside Ukrainian territory has been heroic—absolutely heroic. I can't think of another figure in world politics, really since Nelson Mandela, who has been able to galvanise the international community in the way in which President Zelenskyy has. It will be an honour to hear him speak tomorrow in the Australian parliament. We wish him strength. We wish the Ukrainian people strength. We not only wish them victory on the battlefields, in their cities, but we wish them survival so that they can rebuild their amazing country, their country full of life and culture.
As the member for Canberra mentioned before, families have been separated due to the conscription of Ukrainian males who have been forced to stay behind while the females and the children have been at least given the option to flee. That has led to more than three million Ukrainian refugees leaving the country, an extraordinary number, putting huge pressure on Poland, on Romania, on Lithuania, on countries surrounding Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin came into Ukraine with a purpose of what he calls, outrageously, 'de-Nazifying' the Ukrainian people. It is an outdated Soviet mentality that aggression towards the Russian people is shrouded in Nazism. But, as we know, Nazism was something very, very different, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a grandson of Holocaust survivors. The extra sharpness of using that as a justification to invade Ukraine is simply abhorrent and another layer as to why this unjustified invasion of Ukraine is simply unacceptable.
The final thing I'll say is that some of the geostrategic consequences of Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine have been the exact opposite of what he intended when he invaded Ukraine. First of all, it is extraordinary—and it must be noted, as a friend and ally of many in the European Union—that Germany has completely changed its neutrality in terms of military activity, due to the aggression of Vladimir Putin. It is extraordinary that Switzerland has ended its neutrality and has provided aid to the Ukrainians in this contest. It is not insignificant, at this moment in history, that Vladimir Putin, through his aggression and his unjustified war in Ukraine, has galvanised NATO, united Europe and activated the Americans in a way such that there is now constant communication between the United States, NATO, Europe and allies like Australia around the world, to stand united against Vladimir Putin and his outrageous war in Ukraine.
This is important, because the sanctions that we are using and implementing in Australia right now, the sanctions that are being used by Europe and by the United States, by President Biden, are being felt in Russia right now. The people of Russia are smart. They are alive to the fact that this is a deadly, unnecessary war and they are feeling the economic consequences of the international community's sanctions. We need to keep the pressure up, as international citizens. We need to keep the pressure on the Russian oligarchs, on the central power that surrounds Vladimir Putin. We need to stand in constant solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We wish them strength. Their bravery is truly historic and heroic. We wish President Zelenskyy only peace as he and his people fight for their survival. We look forward to welcoming him to the House of Representatives tomorrow.
This is an important debate, and I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise to participate in it. I've been equally pleased to be present for the remarks of a number of my colleagues—the member for Canberra, the member for Perth and the member for Macnamara. I associate myself with their remarks and, of course, those of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labor Party.
For me, this debate is an opportunity for us in this place to express two things: our solidarity and our resolve. Both matter, and in my contribution I'll try, very briefly, to touch on why I think this is the case. Unlike my friend the member for McNamara, I don't represent a particularly significant Ukrainian Australian community. But, as Labor's shadow minister for multicultural affairs, I have had the opportunity—indeed, the privilege—to spend a lot of time recently listening to the voices of Australians of Ukrainian background. I have participated in some very moving occasions in the nature of those the member for Perth spoke about, be they church services or other community gatherings. I want to share with the chamber a couple of those occasions—firstly, a beautiful service at St Patrick's in Melbourne. It was well attended by the diaspora community—
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As I was saying, I was privileged to attend a very moving service at St Patrick 's Cathedral, around the corner from the state parliament house in Melbourne. I was gratified to see so many representatives of the wider community and faith leaders and political leaders in solidarity.
I also want to mention a very significant event in the Victorian calendar, the Multicultural Gala Dinner, which took place a couple of weeks ago. The dinner was addressed by the Premier and by the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, Matthew Guy, who is of Ukrainian heritage. They both made very significant and passionate contributions in recognition of the challenges the diaspora community are facing as they confront the rolling images of a horrific, unjustified and unjustifiable conflict that brings home so many awful feelings beyond those which horrify the rest of us who lack that personal connection. That bipartisan commitment—indeed, multipartisan commitment—is I think what this debate also demonstrates in this House: a shared solidarity to the people of Ukraine but also recognising the extraordinary challenges that are faced by Australians who have Ukrainian heritage, for whom this conflict is all too close.
I have had the opportunity to listen to many Ukrainian Australians in recent days. I want to briefly reflect on a conversation I had with a young woman who came to see me in my office in Parliament House with Amnesty. I think my friend the member for Newcastle may also share some of these reflections. I was struck first and foremost by her strength and her courage, but also by how obvious it was that she was so affected by the challenge of conveying to me—and, no doubt, to others in this place—exactly what this meant to her; how the quotidian events of life in her home country had been so brutally upended and how the days that were marked on her calendar as significant family occasions had been replaced by a creeping sense of dread, of hopelessness and of powerlessness.
I hope, in this place, we can attend to those feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. I don't think any of us presume to have all the answers to end that horrible conflict, but we know that, by showing the resolve that we—the government and the Labor opposition—have been showing, we can go some way towards that, in our expressions of humanitarian aid and indeed our support for lethal aid in these circumstances. I think all of us believe that is warranted.
In our recognition of the fact that Europe is facing the largest forced movement of people since World War II, and we are, as responsible international citizens and signatories of the convention, required to take the steps that we can do, to assist these people who've been forced to flee their homeland and ask for help, I am pleased to see the commitments in the budget—
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I was getting close to concluding. While I appreciate the steps that have been undertaken to offer refuge to people forced to flee the conflict, I just wanted to recognise again that we can do more, and we should, in doing more, listen to those voices closest to the ground and think about some of the steps that other wealthy countries that are also convention signatories have been taking, to assist people in such desperate need. I note that we can't take for granted living in a peaceful and rules based world—
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I'll conclude by making two last remarks. Firstly, my thoughts are also with the Russian Australian community, for whom this is a very difficult time too. I know that the vast majority of that community look with horror at the events of the invasion and its consequences.
The last point is this. I spoke about solidarity and resolve for things that we need to show. We'll have a great opportunity to do so tomorrow when President Zelenskyy, who has been an inspiration to us all, addresses the parliament and no doubt will give us more opportunity to think about what we can do to lend our support to a just cause and a people in need.
I am very honoured to be able to stand this evening to make a brief contribution with regard to the war against Ukraine. I think most of us in Australia were horrified to wake to the news of a Russian invasion that was, by all accounts, unprovoked and, indeed, unjustified. I found myself, for that first week or so, really glued to my devices, trying to follow everything that was happening in Ukraine and trying to understand something of what the Ukrainian people were going through. As is always the case in wars, there are thousands, if not millions, of innocent civilians—men, women and children. They are people we would have as part of our families, in our workplaces and in our neighbourhoods. They bear the brunt of the sheer brutality of war. This is the case in all wars and it is part of why war remains a reckless and senseless course of action.
It was my privilege to host the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, when he visited the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Broadmeadow, just outside the city of Newcastle. Anthony Albanese and I lit a candle in solidarity with not only the Ukrainian community of the Ukraine Catholic Church in Newcastle but also with the Ukrainian-Australian community everywhere and those in Ukraine who were being subjected to horrific acts of violence.
As colleagues have said, Australia is united; we are united in this parliament, in our communities and in our condemnation of Vladimir Putin's unjustified and unprovoked attack on Ukraine. I think there are many who might have been surprised by the sustained efforts of the Ukrainian people, but I can assure you that when the Leader of the Labor Party and I spoke to members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Newcastle it was abundantly clear how determined the Ukrainian people were to defend their homelands, protect their peoples and stand against a senseless act of aggression.
Stories from people like Stefania in my electorate, who I met at the church, were truly heartbreaking. Stefania is a 96-year-old woman. She fled Ukraine from the Germans and Russians after World War II, and today her community has witnessed another generation of Ukrainians who are bravely defending their country again. I met with many members of the Ukrainian community on that day who were fiercely proud of their families back in Ukraine when they learnt of the role that they were playing to defend their country. When I heard the national anthem being sung in the church, I could feel, with every fibre in my body, the pride and determination of a group of people who have been to hell and back before and truly wish that this newer generation of family were not having to experience this. But, sadly for many Ukrainian people, especially those here in Australia who fled after World War II, this is a very familiar experience, one that cuts very deeply within their living memories.
This is a lived experience for people like Stefania and people of her generation who fled a savage, war-torn Europe to find safety for themselves and their families. Without a doubt, they were urging decision makers in this parliament and parliaments across the globe to stand in solidarity with Ukraine at this hour of need. We should absolutely be doing everything we can to secure peace and ensure that it prevails in Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy will address this parliament tomorrow. I'm sure that will be a very moving moment for the Australian parliament. He has already addressed the parliaments of the United States, the European Union and the UK. It is fitting that we join the list of parliaments that he has addressed directly. We will learn firsthand of the situation and the needs of the Ukrainian people.
I want to thank Father Paul Berezniuk in Newcastle, the father at the Ukrainian Catholic Church, for hosting me and the Leader of the Australian Labor Party for what was a very moving service, and for the heartfelt and heartbreaking conversations that we had with the congregation. I would also like to acknowledge Wolodymyr Motyka, the gentleman who has really been the spokesperson for the Ukrainian community in Newcastle. He has handled much of the media inquiries and done a lot of the public outward facing work.
I would also like to acknowledge a recent visit from a delegation from Amnesty International and the pain that Inna Proshkivska made very clear when she, as a young Ukrainian woman herself, tried to explain what was happening back in her home country, the devastation that people were feeling. The reports of indiscriminate bombardment that are occurring are offensive. Anybody who has respect for international law and order and who wishes to see world peace would be grossly offended by the indiscriminate bombardment that is taking place in Ukraine. It is estimated that the damage done to Ukraine is already worth in excess of US$100 billion. That is really incomprehensible, I expect, for most members of the Australian community.
But I do wish to go back to an issue that the young Ukrainian woman, Inna, raised when she came to visit me with the Amnesty International delegation. It was deeply traumatic for her to have to relive these stories. She said that, whilst announcements from the Australian government last week concerning the temporary visas being offered to Ukraine in addition to the humanitarian program are absolutely welcome, there needs to be a more concerted effort from us so that the people on the ground in Europe know there is an option—not just the humanitarian program but also some temporary visas. She stressed that many people who are leaving Ukraine have nothing but the clothes on their backs, so being able to purchase an aeroplane ticket to Australia might not be possible for everybody. She wanted to ensure that people from Ukraine who want to come to Australia have that opportunity. So we might need chartered flights or offers to get people here—as well as the assurance that they will be assisted when they arrive, including pathways to permanency where that is desired.
I thank the House for enabling me to make this contribution today. Thank you very much.
Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:09