Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022



7:20 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to declare that I stand with the people of Ukraine in their fight for sovereignty and in their defence of democracy and the international rule of law. I speak to continue to draw attention to the plight of the people of Ukraine, who are right now suffering the impact of one of the most consequential and horrifying events of this century: none other than Vladimir Putin's unprovoked, unjustified and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

On 23 February this year, an entire nation of 44 million people were living lives not so very different from yours and mine. They were in a free country with a democratically elected government in place, and they were getting on with their lives—with all its joys and all its sorrows. They were uploading TikTok dance videos, planning weddings and holidays, meeting friends; they were living life as we do. But that all changed overnight when the dictator next door, who believes in concocted and convoluted historical revisionism that denies Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian language and Ukrainian history, invaded. He invaded a sovereign nation.

The falsehoods that underpinned that claim for a right to invade Ukraine continue to spread in Russia as part of a number of highly dangerous modern misinformation warfare techniques that are running in Russia and anywhere else where Russia can ensure they can get a hold. Information warfare is a reality, and it's really important that in institutions such as our parliament and parliaments around the world we make sure that we get correct information on the record.

I want to acknowledge the tremendous suffering of the Ukrainian people since 24 February and indicate how significantly their lives have changed. They've borne the brunt of a vicious military manoeuvre that has destroyed homes, destroyed families and changed Ukraine forever. They've been the subject of countless war crimes, displacements and unimaginable disruptions, and of the endless tragedy of lost loved ones, loved ones injured and loved ones who have been killed by that invading Russian force—to the number of almost 10,000 citizens of Ukraine.

Now, much can be said about the incredible leadership of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has led his people with a steel will and a humanity that scarcely anyone would have believed was possible before this tragic war began. But the violation of international law and human rights has to be acknowledged. It must be condemned, and it must be punished by the global community.

I've been horrified by reports of mass war crimes committed by the Russian occupiers that have now been confirmed by the UN investigators. The Russian force's crimes include bombings of civilian areas, numerous executions, torture and horrific sexual violence. In towns like Bucha, Hostomel and Borodyanka, UN teams have discovered mass graves with large numbers of Ukrainians who had been executed and tortured by Russian forces. There is nothing that justifies this war, and nothing can justify this abominable conduct. Those responsible must be held to account and prosecuted.

But, in the meantime, I want to report to the Senate that, in my conversations with civic leaders in Ukraine and with their representatives during a recent trip that I had to Washington to attend the IPAC meetings, I heard directly from Ukrainians of their desperate need. Australians have never ever let me down, and I'm so proud to be an Australian; when we know there's a need, we respond. Well, the need is in Ukraine right now. Ordinary Australian citizens just like us have told me that there is a shortage of medical supplies, not only for the people who are fighting at the front but for civilians because, let's face it, they are being attacked in their homes. Australians have risen to the challenge before. I want to put it to this parliament we should be looking at the way in which parliaments and the body politic of Australia, ordinary Australian citizens, can help those other citizens who have had their rights violated, their country invaded by Russia. They need our help and they need it now. They need medical supplies. They also need significant educational supplies. I will have more to say on that but I encourage all senators here to support me in this call on action for the people of Ukraine.


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