Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022



5:32 pm

Photo of Jordon Steele-JohnJordon Steele-John (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

OHN () (): Tonight the Senate debates a motion of solidarity and support for the people of Ukraine in this most terrible moment, this time of war. It is altogether fit and proper that we are here tonight engaging in this debate. Over the last four weeks, we have seen a full-scale humanitarian disaster unfold across Ukraine as people have had their lives destroyed and have fled in the face of tanks and guns, at the hands of a Russian oligarch and the media and military that he commands.

Australians have seen this unfold in devastating real time. We have followed the people of Kherson in their heroic resistance against occupation. We have shed a tear as images of Kharkiv have been streamed to our phones and across our television screens. We have watched the people of Odesa fill sandbags and look out to a freezing, iron-grey sea, wondering when the ships will come. We have heard the cries of the fearful children of Lviv, who wait every night in the knowledge that the destruction that they have witnessed in Kyiv—the rockets, the bombs, the planes, from which they have fled—is following them there. Never before in real time have the results of war been so readily available to be seen, so accessible, so immediate to all those who may wonder what the result of war is, what the reality of war is.

Already we have seen across the Ukrainian nation generational scars of the type that only war can cause lashed into the community. Thousands have died. Tens of thousands have had their homes destroyed or have been wounded. Millions have fled for their lives into western Ukraine, Poland and Romania. They have left with the clothes on their backs and with whatever they could cram into a suitcase, and they have often done so knowing that their mothers and fathers have stayed behind to fight, to build molotov cocktails or to place their bodies between their grandparents and the oncoming army.

At home in Perth I have seen people come together—members of the Ukrainian community and people of Ukrainian heritage. A few weeks ago I attended a vigil in St Mary's Cathedral. I was struck by the amount of young people that came out to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people, to come together in one voice and utter the words into the darkness and the fear that it contained, into the uncertainty which was the very essence of the gloom, 'Slava Ukraini'.

The solidarity that we demonstrate tonight in the passage of this moment must go beyond the words of the motion itself. We must put into action serious steps designed to bring peaceful resolution to this war that has already inflicted so much damage and pain on so many. We must go beyond these words of solidarity and, as we work to put them into action, work not as individual nations but as a global community in unison to ensure that Vladimir Putin and his dictatorial regime are held to account and that the people of Ukraine are provided with the support that they need.

The United Nations as an institution was created in the aftermath of the Second World War as a global human attempt to prevent any generation from ever again experiencing the horrors of global war. The mechanisms set up within that international institution were designed to mitigate the dangers of conflict and to enable the world to come together and prevent such violent and atrocious acts as we are seeing take place in Ukraine today. The mechanism which is most relevant, I believe, to this particular crisis is the 'Uniting for Peace' resolution—resolution 377A. This resolution exists to be used when the Security Council is unable to come to a unanimous position. The resolution enables for all actions which may be considered by the Security Council to instead be considered by the entirety of the General Assembly. Such a session under that resolution has been called and has resulted in an international statement of condemnation of Russia's unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine and its violation of that nation's sovereignty.

We in the Australian Greens are calling on the Australian government to work with our international partners, and with our friends in the region and across the globe, to ensure that that session is reconvened with two primary purposes. In addition to those of an immediate halt to the violence and a full withdrawal of Russian forces—an end to this carnage—we are also calling for an international effort to provide Ukraine with debt relief. The nation of Ukraine with which we are expressing our solidarity tonight is some $129 billion indebted to the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. In the last few months alone they have been forced to attempt to make millions of dollars and euros in payments on those debts, something no nation should have to do in the middle of such a war. No global benefit can be gained by attempting to pursue debt that Ukraine does not have the ability to repay in its current situation, and so Australia should use its position in the United Nations to champion global debt relief as part of our solidarity with Ukraine.

Additionally, we would see this resolution mechanism used to support Germany and other nations of the world, currently highly reliant on Russian oil and gas, to transition urgently away from the purchasing of that gas and oil to other forms of power, particularly renewable energy. We must be clear: Russia is a petro-state. The invasion of Ukraine, this war, is a petro-war. It is financed by fossil fuels. In fact, in 2021 alone, Russia made some US$119 billion from the sale of oil and gas. This is what is keeping the war machine going.

Additionally, here at home, Australia must do its part. We are happy to see that our calls for the end of Australian import of Russian oil have been taken up. However, we must go further. There must be a special humanitarian intake of no fewer than 20,000 refugees in relation to Ukraine, and the pausing of any temporary protection visas and the cancellation of any deportation orders of Ukrainian nationals until the crisis abated.

All of these actions are perfectly possible and are additional tangible ways that we can show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine, that we can turn our words and our actions to this point into concrete support for the Ukrainian people. We can do all of these things while pursuing peace, and supporting peace and nonviolence globally. We can do all of these things while centring peace as the goal, as a global community, and seizing on the opportunity that this moment presents to turn away from solutions to violent conflict that only forge further conflict, only destroy more lives. We can learn from history in this moment, provide aid to Ukraine and to its people in its recovery of this horrific invasion and ensure that more tangibly is done in this place and at this time than simply line the pockets of weapon manufacturers and global energy companies.

Finally tonight I note that this motion calls upon the chamber and the government to come together in the condemnation of Russia's violation of international law. It asks the Russian Federation to cease its invasion and uphold its obligations under the human rights charter and the International Criminal Court. It is right and proper that we do this. It is also right and proper that we reflect, as the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq comes into view, upon what role we may have played as a nation in supporting that particular illegal unjustified invasion of Iraqi sovereignty, led by the United States government, and what role that participation may have played in the creation of an international community where Putin believes that he can get away with such a crime. This is an urgent reflection each legislator must consider. I thank the chamber for its time.


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