Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022



4:54 pm

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that the Russian Federation's unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine has left over 3,000 Ukrainian civilians dead or wounded, with numbers feared much higher; forced over 10 million people - nearly a quarter of Ukraine's population - to flee their homes; and brought countless cities across Ukraine to ruin, including by the unlawful targeting of civilian infrastructure;

(b) notes that the targeting of civilians and strikes on protected objects such as hospitals violate international humanitarian law (the laws of war) and can constitute war crimes;

(c) acknowledges that this Parliament, and the people of Australia, condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia's invasion of Ukraine;

(d) places on record admiration for the remarkable courage and resilience shown by Ukraine and its people;

(e) reaffirms that Russia must withdraw its forces from Ukraine consistent with its obligations under international law, including the United Nations Charter and the legally binding decision of the International Court of Justice;

(f) notes that Australia is standing with our international partners to impose severe costs on President Putin, his inner circle, and those responsible, including through sanctions and by joining partners in asking the International Criminal Court and United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate Russia's actions that includes allegations of Russian crimes;

(g) notes that Australia continues to provide humanitarian assistance to help meet the urgent needs of the Ukrainian people along with military assistance to support Ukraine in defending itself against Russia's unjust actions; and

(h) condemns actions by third countries that enable and facilitate Russia's invasion, including through economic and military support.

The Australian government condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion of its smaller democratic neighbour Ukraine. This invasion is a gross violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations. We have called and continue to call on Russia to immediately withdraw its forces from Ukrainian territory, consistent with the legally binding decision with the International Court of Justice passed on 16 March.

Australia has been proud to stand with over 140 countries in condemning this invasion in the UN General Assembly on two occasions in the last month. There is a strong sense of unity around the world about standing up to protect the rules based global order built on the UN Charter, on international law and institutions and on respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. Australia is part of this strong, unified coalition against Russia's illegal war. We are working with partners to impose a high cost on Russia and to provide support to Ukraine.

On Monday I spoke again with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Mr Dmytro Kuleba. I strongly reiterated Australia's continuing support to his country and its people and our firm commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. I conveyed our outrage at Russia's escalation of indiscriminate attacks, which are exacting a catastrophic humanitarian toll and creating the fastest growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.

The reports of atrocities are appalling. The bombing of a school in Mariupol where a reported 400 civilians were sheltering, reports of forced deportations of Mariupol residents to Russia, an airstrike on a theatre in Mariupol where civilians were are again sheltering, the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol. Over 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes, at least 3.9 million of those to neighbouring countries, more than half of whom are children. Civilian causalities continue to rise. The office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has confirmed 1,179 killed and 1,860 injured—though we feel these numbers are much higher.

Humanitarian convoys have been unable to reach key cities to support those civilians so dreadfully impacted by Russia's illegal invasion. That is completely unacceptable. As I have said publicly both in this chamber and elsewhere, the targeting of innocent civilians and the targeting of civilian infrastructure are war crimes, and the President of Russia must be held to account. Let me be clear: there is one reason and one reason alone why there is a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine. it is the direct result of the unprovoked, unjustified and illegal invasion by Russia. Russia must uphold its obligations under international law, including the protection of civilians, and permit humanitarian access inside Ukraine and safe passage for civilians trying to flee the violence.

To support the Ukrainian people, Australia is so far providing $65 million in humanitarian funding and working with trusted humanitarian partners, including with a focus on the most vulnerable people—children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities. This week we also announced our cooperation with the United Kingdom to deliver humanitarian relief, including blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets and lighting, to displaced Ukrainians. We are also supporting Ukraine's energy security by donating at least 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal. To further assist Ukrainians who have been forced to flee, we have issued over 5,000 visas to Ukrainian citizens, with more underway. In excess of 1,100 Ukrainians have already arrived in Australia, and I know that they have arrived to the warmth and support of the embrace of the Australian people, who stand with them and with their country at this time. I thank and acknowledge the Australian people for that.

However, a resolution to this humanitarian disaster can only come from the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. It has been both profound and sobering to see the tremendous courage and determination with which the Ukrainians are fighting. Australia pays tribute to their strength and resilience, and, in this motion, so will the Senate. The capabilities of the armed forces of Ukraine and the sheer will of the Ukrainian people, as well as the determination of the international community to uphold the rules based order, were self-evidently not understood by President Putin.

The world is working to supply and provide critical military assistance to Ukraine. Australia alone is providing $91 million in defensive military assistance. At the same time, Australia and our partners are imposing a high economic toll on Russia, with a focus on the elites and those who are responsible for this invasion or hold the levers of power in Russia and also in Belarus. Australia has listed more than 500 individuals and entities to date. They include President Putin and his circle of oligarchs and propagandists. This is the largest ever imposition of sanctions by Australia against a single country. Our listings include 80 per cent of Russia's banking sector and all government entities that handle Russia's sovereign debt. Our coordinated action with partners significantly undermines Russia's ability to continue financing President Putin's war.

In recognition of the importance of the strategic contest over information, those sanctioned also include propagandists and purveyors of disinformation who have peddled such false narratives about this invasion. We have sanctioned military commanders and members of parliament, as well as those who facilitated the invasion from outside Russia, including, as I said, the leadership of neighbouring Belarus. We also condemn actions by third-party countries that would enable and facilitate Russia's invasion, including through economic, military and political support. We have prohibited exports of alumina, impacting a key Russian industry, and also the import of Russian oil, refined petroleum products, gas and coal. A significant portion of Russia's foreign exchange reserves has been frozen, and the Russian economy is increasingly cut off from Western markets. Major international firms have suspended their operations in or with Russia. Many other businesses are reluctant to trade with Russia.

While this invasion is an unparalleled breach of international law and the UN charter, it is also an escalation of the pattern of repressive and aggressive behaviour by Russia under this President. President Putin's Russia has for years silenced political opposition and critics. Sergei Magnitsky, the Ukrainian-born Russian lawyer who exposed massive fraud committed by Russian government officials was one of those silenced. Mr Magnitsky was arrested, imprisoned, subjected to degrading treatment and tortured. He died in custody in 2009, having been denied medical treatment.

Under laws this parliament passed in December, we will hold the perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and corruption to account. Yesterday, the government listed 14 Russian individuals responsible for the corruption that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered and his subsequent imprisonment, and a further 25 individuals complicit in his torture and death. Those individuals will be subject to targeted financial sanctions and travel bans. In doing so, we honour Mr Magnitsky and all who defend the rule of law. We also acknowledge former senator Kimberley Kitching, such a strong supporter of these laws who worked closely with the government to ensure their passage. This is the first of what will be ongoing sanctions using the Magnitsky-style thematic frameworks which enable us to impose costs on and deter those responsible for the most egregious human rights violations and abuses and serious corruption.

Russia must stop its invasion; Russia must get out of Ukraine. Until that happens, Australia and our partners will continue to impose costs on Russia and support Ukraine. We look forward to welcoming, by virtual means, President Zelenskyy when he addresses our parliament and does us the honour of speaking to our parliament tomorrow.

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.

5:13 pm

Photo of David VanDavid Van (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll be very brief in adding my remarks to those of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I could talk for hours on the geostrategic importance of what's happening in Ukraine at the moment—and I've written on it extensively—but at this stage and at this time, and given the strength of the foreign minister's statement, I'd like to take a different tack and acknowledge the Ukrainian community here in Australia and around the world for their bravery and support. I feel very blessed to have here at the moment my very good friend Stef Romaniw, Chairman of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations and vice-president of the global organisation.

The Ukrainian community here in Australia are doing an amazing job in supporting the people in Ukraine, the people who are fleeing Ukraine and those who have arrived in Australia from Ukraine. There is so much more we can do. There's so much more the world needs to do. The more military aid we can send to Ukraine the better their heroes who are fighting so hard can fight back this Russian aggression. We all need to do more. I ask the world to do more. I leave my remarks there. Thank you.

5:14 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to put on the record the Greens' support for this motion for the people of Ukraine. Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine, who are suffering so much from this brutal war that is being waged upon them by Russia, and we condemn Russia's military aggression against Ukraine as we condemn all violent aggression of this type. Russia's war in Ukraine is absolutely catastrophic for global peace. When talking about the war, the images and the stories that we have heard just reinforce how the cost of war is borne by ordinary people—the sheer figures that a quarter of the Ukrainian population, 10 million people, have had to flee their homes. We've got three million people who have fled Ukraine, and many people are either dead or wounded. The whole country is being traumatised by this appalling war, this appalling invasion. We affirm our support for the right of the people of Ukraine to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we support the measures that are outlined in this Senate motion. We call upon the global community to work together, even more than they have been, to support additional non-violent measures to apply extra pressure on Russia to get them to withdraw.

There are two things in particular that we would like to see the Australian government work multilaterally to get more global support for. One is debt forgiveness. The world could move to forgive Ukraine's debt, which is worth about $129 billion. That would free up their resources to be able to withstand the Russian invasion. The second is that we're calling on the world to reduce its reliance on Russian fossil fuels, absolutely as quickly and as urgently as possible. The sale of gas and oil from Russia is worth about $120 billion a year to them. That $120 billion a year is what is funding and fuelling the Russian war machine. We know the issues of the energy needs in Europe, particularly in Germany but also in other European countries, and the fact that they feel at the moment that they have no choice and that they have to keep on importing Russian gas and oil. But I say the world needs to work with Europe, including Germany, to work out how we can very quickly remove their reliance on Russian gas and oil and support them in shifting to other energy, particularly renewable energies, which we in Australia are well placed to help to supply.

We have a situation where there is potentially further military aggression against Russia. We know the risks of doing that. We know that at this stage it's very easy to say, 'What else can we do?' We have this violence of Russia against Ukraine, but we know that if there is further military aggression—if, for example, a no-fly zone were instituted—there is the potential of it escalating into World War III. To safeguard our future, we need to work on what other measures we can put in place that haven't got that incredibly high risk, including the incredibly high risk of escalation into nuclear war.

Although it seems really difficult to work out how Germany could wean itself quickly off Russian gas and oil, I say that Australia and the world need to work with Europe, including Germany, to work out just how we can make that happen so that we can safeguard our future. The world at this moment has to unite for peace. We have to work together. There are more mechanisms that we can use through the United Nations to respond collectively and decisively to de-escalate the situation and work for peace. My colleague Senator Steele-John is going to be talking more about these measures.

5:19 pm

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the government, and Minister Payne in particular, for moving this motion, and I am pleased to join with Senator Wong and the rest of my Labor Senate colleagues in supporting it. I also had two motions on today's Notice Paper, one regarding the war in Ukraine and the second regarding the downing of flight MH17. I have already spoken earlier today during senators' statements in regard to the issue in Ukraine. I was telling people that my father-in-law immigrated from Ukraine, so my husband, Robert, is of Ukrainian descent and still has relatives in Ukraine. As you can imagine, this makes the situation in Ukraine very deeply personal for both me and my family.

As a Tasmanian of Ukrainian descent, Robert is an active member of the Tasmanian Ukrainian community. The community has been holding regular rallies since the invasion, calling for peace, and I've had the privilege of being able to speak at some of the rallies in both Hobart and Launceston. Speaking to the Ukrainians at these rallies, I understand that their only desire for their country and for their families and friends back home is peace. Many of them hold grave concerns about loved ones in Ukraine, and we've heard that more than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes. Many cities are in ruin. Even the safer areas, like Lviv in Ukraine's west, aren't immune to attack. Ukrainian people are deeply patriotic and they're courageous. They rightly want the future of their democratic country to be determined by Ukrainians.

Ukraine has its own unique history, culture and identity, and the people there are a resilient people. This was the case when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, and it remains the case now that Ukraine has celebrated 30 years of independence. But it seems that the Russian government, particularly under the leadership of Mr Putin, has never truly accepted that. Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity have been under threat from Russia ever since they declared their independence. Russia's leadership was suspected of poisoning a pro-independence Ukrainian presidential candidate. They later installed a Russian puppet as President of Ukraine, who was then removed by the popular uprising known as the Revolution of Dignity. They illegally annexed Crimea and gave support to Donbas separatist rebels.

The invasion of Ukraine is a further illegal act by the Russian Federation. It's an international crime. It's unjustified and it's unprovoked. But, in addition to this crime, Russia has committed further crimes through their actions during the invasion. The motion currently before the Senate mentions 3,000 dead or wounded civilians, in accordance with the United Nations' official figures, but Ukrainian authorities estimate that around 6,000 civilians may have been killed. Part of the reason for the high civilian death toll, as we've heard, is the deliberate targeting of civilians by Russian forces.

I mentioned in my senators' statements speech earlier the stories of family and friends of Ukrainians in Tasmania. I was saying that there was a group of friends from Irpin who were tortured after being captured by Russian soldiers, and one of the friends was executed. Then there is the woman who fled with a seven-year-old son after their apartment building came under rocket attack, only to suffer a further attack on the bus they were escaping on, which was full of civilians. There are the residents of Russian occupied Kherson who have been fired on after protesting the invasion. These are just a few of the tragic stories I've heard, in addition to those that we've all heard on the news. These include a Russian air strike on a maternity hospital—an attack that injured 17 people, including pregnant women and children. For me, the most shocking was the air strike on the Donetsk regional theatre in Mariupol, where thousands of Ukrainian civilians were sheltering. Large signs clearly indicated that there were children sheltering there, yet the Russians still bombed it. The death toll from the theatre attack could be as high as 300.

There have also been reports of Russian soldiers firing on civilians who were trying to escape Kyiv. These attacks achieved no military objective. The deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime for which Russia must be held to account, and Labor stands shoulder to shoulder with the government, as Senator Wong said, in condemning Russia's illegal actions and making them accountable. This includes support for economic sanctions against Russia, including targeted sanctions against Mr Putin and those officials responsible for the invasion. It includes the provision of humanitarian aid to the suffering citizens of Ukraine and assistance in the form of military weaponry and equipment to help Ukraine defend itself. It also includes support for actions in the International Criminal Court and United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of humanitarian crimes committed by Russia.

Furthermore, Labor continues to offer our support for all efforts by the Australian government to bring to justice the perpetrators of the illegal attack on Malaysia Airlines MH17 by Russian backed rebels, which led to the murder of 298 passengers and crew, including 38 Australians.

There are at least three good reasons, as I've said before, why Australia should be part of the global effort to pressure Russia to stop the invasion and withdraw its troops. Firstly, it is our responsibility to Australian citizens who are members of the Ukrainian diaspora who are scared for the safety of their family members and close friends back in their home country. The second is because it's Australia's responsibility as a good global citizen to join its allies in upholding the rules based order that keeps the world relatively peaceful and stable. The third reason this invasion concerns Australia is that if it can happen to Ukraine it can happen to any other sovereign nation. Russia's attack must have real consequences. We must send a signal to the world that an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation will not be tolerated and that the world will respond accordingly. The global community knows that this attack is unjustified, and so does Mr Putin, despite his ridiculous claims.

Through internet and broadcast media censorship, as well as a steady stream of Russian government propaganda, we know that Russian citizens are being kept in the dark as to their government's actions and agenda. Sadly, many Russians honestly believe that there is a need to de-Nazify Ukraine, or that civilians have been spared and their military greeted as liberators, because that is what the Russian state propaganda machine is telling them. Whatever excuse Mr Putin has given for the invasion, it is an act of megalomania by an autocratic despot. As we've heard, it is Mr Putin and his regime that will bear the responsibility for the bloodshed and suffering that has followed and will continue to follow.

I also want to commend the bravery and the resilience of the Ukrainian people. Despite the material advantages of Russia's forces, Ukraine's military have not only been able to hold them back from capturing a major Ukrainian city but they have reportedly even regained some ground in recent days. We also hear stories like that of the 13 Ukrainian soldiers defending an island in the Black Sea, who responded with a defiant profanity—which I won't repeat here, because it's unparliamentary—to the Russian navy, who were demanding that they surrender.

Ukrainian civilians have also demonstrated their courage and solidarity in the face of Russia's aggression. Who could not be inspired by the images of Ukrainian civilians standing in the path of advancing Russian troops and tanks? I mentioned earlier the citizens protesting in Russian occupied towns. The President of Ukraine has demonstrated solidarity with his citizens by remaining in the capital. What a great leader! The patriotic refrain of 'Heroiam slava!' or 'Glory to the heroes!' that I've heard uttered at the rallies in Tasmania, has a particular resonance during these awful times. I and the whole world were moved to tears when we saw the viral video of seven-year-old Amelia singing 'Let it Go' in a Kyiv bomb shelter and then singing the Ukrainian national anthem in front of a crowd of thousands at a stadium in parliament—in fact I've got goosebumps just remembering that now.

As I have said, Ukrainians are a truly remarkable people. They are resilient, and they will rebuild. Let's continue to stand together, as Australians amid the global community, in solidarity with Ukraine to end this atrocious war. Slava Ukraini! Glory to Ukraine!

I seek leave to have Senator Farrell's speech on Ukraine incorporated into Hansard. It has been agreed with the Government Whip.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows

Labor stands united with the people of Ukraine and with our allies in expressing our condemnation of Russia's shameful acts of continuing aggression.

We stand united in expressing our strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty.

There is no justification for Russia's attacks.

The world has witnessed horrific scenes in recent weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

Hopes that Putin's manoeuvres would remain nothing more than aggressive posturing were dashed on 22 February.

Things have gone from bad to worse since Vladimir Putin first ordered his forces into Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia alone is the aggressor and bears responsibility for the bloodshed and suffering occurring in Ukraine.

Australia must continue to be in lockstep with our allies in holding Russia to account.

Back in 20 February, when Russian forces were building up along the border with Ukraine, I joined Peter Malinauskas as the only South Australian politicians at the time to speak in support of Ukraine.

Peter, of course, is of Lithuanian heritage, and is well aware of the full horror of Russia's historical occupation of Eastern Europe.

Friends, colleagues, and members of Adelaide's Ukrainian community—led by Frank Fursenko—met on the steps of the South Australian Parliament in a sign of solidarity.

All countries should show solidarity in condemning Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.

And any country aiding and abetting this war should face consequences.

Australia must continue to work with the international community to ensure the people of Ukraine are supported.

Labor supports assistance for Ukraine including coal, and humanitarian and military assistance.

We also support strong and comprehensive measures to support Ukraine's resistance against Russia's invasion.

Labor has encouraged the Government to impose the most comprehensive sanctions available.

Australia should continue to work cooperatively with our international partners to ratchet up the pressure on Vladimir Putin.

Specific measures are decision for the Government, but Labor stands ready to work in a bipartisan way.

The Prime Minister has announced a visa and·refugee response to the Ukraine crisis, but it is crucial that he follows it up with actions.

People fleeing from and displaced by Russia's attacks on Ukraine need Australia's help now.

The unfolding security and humanitarian crisis is devastating for the people of Ukraine and for the Ukrainian-Australian community.

That community has its roots way back in the 1800s.

But it grew significantly after World War 11, when significant numbers of Ukrainians migrated to Australia as displaced persons.

The first Ukrainian association in my home state of South Australia was formed in 1949 and I believe it might have been one of the first in Australia.

There is a rich Ukrainian-Australian cultural history in South Australia, and in other states.

The suburb of Hindmarsh, in Adelaide, is home to South Australia's Ukrainian Hall, which house the national museum of the Ukrainian scouting movement - known as Plast.

There is still a strong and proud Ukrainian-Australian community in South Australia today.

Earlier this month I again joined Mr Frank Fursenko, President of the Association of Ukrainians in South Australia at a prayer event for the people of Ukraine.

Peter Malinauskas, now Premier of South Australia, and some of my Federal and State Labor colleagues—including Senator Marielle Smith and the Member for Adelaide, Steve Georganas—also took part in the Pray for Ukraine event.

It is important that we should tell Ukrainians in Australia, and those dealing with the terrible situation in Ukraine that Australia and its parliament supports them.

Australia must stand for peace.

As US President John F Kennedy once said:

"Let us, if we can, step back from the shadows of war and seek out the way of peace."

It is not in Australia's interests for any country to think they can threaten another's sovereignty, or change the status quo by force.

Our Parliament must work in a bipartisan manner to support the people of Ukraine and apply every measure we can to pressure Russia into ending its unprovoked, illegal, and immoral of Ukraine.

I'd especially like to congratulate Mr Lawrence Ben—a South Australian of Ukrainian heritage—for his tireless work to promote the cause of Ukrainian independence and convince Australian companies to ban the sale of Russian products.

5:29 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand in full support of this motion and I am encouraged by the words and fully support all of the actions taken by the government, as articulated by Senator Payne. I share Senator Wong's concerns as well. However, I wish to add some words. I have called for the Australian government to expel the Russian ambassador from Australia. News of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, including indiscriminate attacks on civilians, leave no doubt that the Russian regime has chosen to place their country outside the company of civilised nations. The Russian bombing of a children's hospital in Mariupol and, indeed, the theatre, as Senator Bilyk alluded to, are just the latest set of atrocities—and there will be more.

The Russian military also confirmed the use of thermobaric weapons. The use of these devastating fuel-air explosives in urban areas will unquestionably violate the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, which outlaws a wide range of barbaric weaponry. Barbarism is what President Putin's regime is engaged in across Ukraine. Aggressive war is a war crime. So too are the terrorist tactics employed by the Russian forces engaged in this war of aggression. In these circumstances, Foreign Minister Senator Payne's arguments that it is necessary to keep the Russian ambassador in Canberra to maintain a direct line of communication with the Russian government sends precisely the wrong signals to Moscow. It suggests that, no matter what President Putin does, Australia still wants to talk to his henchmen. Yet there is no evidence that the Australian government's direct line of communication has any influence or value whatsoever. Australia should immediately expel the Russian ambassador in Canberra and their consul-general in Sydney.

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.

5:45 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I want to note that peace and security are my goals. Yet often these conflict—part of the irony of the human condition—at a personal level and a global level. We do know some things for sure. War is ugly. There are many inhuman actions in even the smallest war. We also know that truth is always war's first casualty. We're told there are two sides to this issue in Ukraine. I want to discuss a third view. So far, we've only heard one view. I'll leave the other side to the Russians. They can talk for themselves; I'm not going to speak for the Russians. I want to discuss a third view. Having read widely in the last 14 years, I no longer swallow the crap we were fed at school and continue to be fed in the media.

Former Senator Ron Paul in the United States is acknowledged for trying to start a department of peace in America instead of a defence department. He had the respect, when he was in Congress, of both sides of politics, Democrats and Republicans. He is very well known for his honesty, his competence and his sincerity. Ron Paul said that every major war since 1913 can be directly attributed to the United States Federal Reserve bank, which is controlled by globalists.

Senator Steele-John just talked about Iraq. Mr President, I'd take your mind back to Iraq, and I remind people of what Mr Alexander Downer said when he retired. On his last night he said that, when John Howard came back from the 9/11 World Trade Center towers collapse in 2001, he walked into cabinet and said, 'We're off to Iraq.' And the cabinet followed, and Australia followed, and in that conflict we killed Australian men and women—young men and women. We also killed a lot of Iraqis and people of other nationalities. 'We're off to Iraq.' I can recall another incident, too, when Prime Minister Howard, Prime Minister Tony Blair from the United Kingdom and President George W Bush from the United States said, 'We're all going to go there because of weapons of mass destruction.' And then, quietly, the world was told they never had any evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but not one parliament, not one congress, held anyone accountable. It went similarly after the Vietnam War and so many other wars around the world, and, as Senator Steele-John just said, it was led on many occasions by the United States.

I have huge admiration for the United States, having lived there for five years, been through all 50 states, worked in eight states and lived in eight states. I admire what the United States has done. I'm married to an American—a dual citizen of Australia and America. But I recognise now that I swallowed a lot of rubbish and propaganda from the Americans, because the government of America led many war efforts. The American people are fine, peace-loving people, but we have been taken into conflicts. So I'm open to alternative views on the Ukrainian issue, but we have no dog in this fight and we should stay out of it.

We repeatedly see decisions in the place—as people know, I can see—where there is data contradicting the reality, and yet, without any data, we blunder into things. We sometimes ignore the facts and data. And always, as one of the Labor senators pointed out, the people pay. So I raise questions. I question the narrative. I question the media narrative—it's one-way. I question the political narrative—it's one-way. I question the propaganda and the demonising. But I don't make statements without facts, and I don't know sufficient facts to take other than a third view here.

I question the cost of fuel. The biggest impact on our fuel prices is not the Ukraine conflict; it's government taxes. Senator Hanson has flagged a reduction in excise duty. I question our capacity to defend ourselves, because we need manufacturing to produce weapons, armaments, tanks. We don't have that capacity anymore. We've been gutted by adherence to UN agreements—the Lima declaration, the Kyoto protocol. We see, today, the government setting aside money for injecting babies—babies!—with an untested vaccine.

We heard the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne, talk about the Russians now having to fight German weapons that are being given to Ukraine. But the Germans are giving them billions of dollars for gas, because the United Nations has destroyed Germany's capacity to look after its own energy needs. We have been disarmed. Germany is being disarmed. The only concrete thing I will say in this statement is that we need to get the hell out of the United Nations, not follow it, because the United Nations is pushing a war on humanity.

I'm not sufficiently informed to take a stance either way on this issue. I am, though, sufficiently informed to invite all senators to question what we're being told. I implore senators, first of all, to understand basic needs of humans and the needs that are driving these conflicts, whether they're domestic, national or international, and to understand that meeting universal human needs for security, basic interactions and connections is key. It is key to connection and key to relationships.

So I'd just ask people to question. I question how the Ukraine—I'm told by Senator Steele-John—is $129 billion in debt to the IMF, when it's one of the richest countries in the world. How is that possible? So I ask questions, and I take a third view.

Question agreed to.