Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022



5:06 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak in support of this motion.

It has been just over 34 days, I think, since President Putin invaded the country of Ukraine. It was and remains an illegal and unprovoked invasion; an immoral war against the innocent men, women and children of Ukraine. Mr Putin and the Russian forces are laying waste to homes, to schools, to hospitals and towns. Mr Putin's war is inflicting immense loss of life and untold damage. Cities like Mariupol lie in ruin; over 170,000 civilians remain under siege as we sit here. Nearly a quarter of the people of Ukraine have been forced from their homes, including more than half of the country's children, and over three million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries. Ukrainian community groups have spoken about Russia forcibly transferring thousands of Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory, in clear violation of international humanitarian law. Innocent civilians have been targeted. The image of a pregnant woman being carried from a maternity hospital hit by a Russian airstrike will be seared into our memories—a defining moment in this horrific and unjust war—and we have read harrowing reports of rape and sexual violence. This clear targeting of innocent civilians is nothing short of a war crime. Europe, once again, in our lifetime, finds itself in a time of war, something all of us—the whole world—hoped never to witness again after what was the tragedy of World War II.

Amidst the tragedy, of course, we see such courage. The people of Ukraine and their government have withstood the attacks on their homeland. They continue to fight bravely, defending their country from this illegal invasion. Russian soldiers have been met with a determined Ukrainian resistance, and the facts on the ground show that Vladimir Putin is not winning this war. The people of Ukraine have been bolstered by a unified response from NATO, the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, who have stood united against this invasion. Comprehensive financial and economic sanctions continue to raise the costs of Mr Putin's aggression.

And they have been backed by other nations, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore, also implementing targeted sanctions against those responsible. Importantly, NATO has been revitalised. It has demonstrated its resolve as a defensive alliance and increased its deployments to Eastern Europe. Germany has overturned decades of strategic policy by allowing the provision of German-made weapons and materiel to third countries and by providing direct military support to Ukraine. Chancellor Scholz has rapidly expanded Germany's expenditure on defence and on energy diversification in response to Russia's action.

In the UN General Assembly last month, 141 countries voted to condemn Russia's illegal invasion, but Russia is not without friends—one of which is China. Just weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, China signed a no-limits friendship with Moscow. We've seen China declining to condemn the illegal invasion. In siding with Russia, China has abandoned two foreign policy orthodoxies it has held for decades: sovereignty and noninterference. China has failed in its special responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to uphold the UN Charter, whilst offering Russia relief from sanctions. There are many reasons to be concerned about these developments, particularly in light of China's growing assertiveness and at times aggression in our region.

We don't know how this conflict will end, but we do know that there will be more suffering, there will be more displacement and there will be more innocent lives lost. We know that more will be demanded of NATO members to help Ukraine defend itself. We also know Russia will increasingly be isolated from the world and Mr Putin's enablers will be held to account, and we commit ourselves to ensuring that occurs. We urge Mr Putin and his supporters to heed the calls of the international community to pull back and return to the negotiating table and to realise, as Secretary-General Guterres has said, this is actually an unwinnable war.

Our support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity will not waver. Labor have urged the government to impose the most comprehensive sanctions available and we have welcomed each tranche of sanctions against Mr Putin and his backers, and we continue to stand ready to work with the government on any additional measures. We will continue to support the provision of both lethal and non-lethal aid and humanitarian assistance in Ukraine at this time of urgent need. As Mr Albanese said some weeks ago now, all Australians stand with the people of Ukraine in the face of Mr Putin's unprovoked, illegal and immoral invasion of their homeland.


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