Senate debates

Tuesday, 7 March 2023



3:37 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the general business notice of motion standing in the name of Senators Bilyk and Van, relating to Ukraine, be called on immediately and considered for 60 minutes, after which the question be put.

Question agreed to.

At the request of Senators Bilyk and Van, I move:

That the Senate, observing one year since Russia's 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine:

(a) deplores the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which continues a pattern of illegal and immoral aggression against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has resulted in a toll of destruction, many thousands of human casualties, and the displacement of over 14 million Ukrainians;

(b) condemns:

(i) acts by Russia aimed at destroying the national, cultural, religious and democratic institutions of the Ukrainian people and Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and

(ii) Russia for violating international law noting the clear evidence of war crimes being committed against the Ukrainian people;

(c) notes Australia continues to stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression and has provided Ukraine with military and humanitarian support, as well as refuge for displaced people and will continue to do so; and

(d) reaffirms the eleventh emergency special session of the United Nations General Assembly, which also condemned, deplored and expressed grave concern over attacks on civilian populations and infrastructure and reiterates its demand that Russia withdraw from Ukraine's recognised sovereign territory.

It is with sorrow and resolve that I move this motion marking one year since Russia's illegal and immoral full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Sorrow for lives lost, futures disrupted, civilians recklessly targeted by Russian missiles, and the hunger and hardship deliberately inflicted on the vulnerable of the world by a criminal Russian regime through the deliberate damage it has wrought on global markets for grain and energy.

But the courageous people of Ukraine can do little with our sorrow, so I also move this notion to demonstrate our government's and our nation's resolve. As Olena Zelenska, Ukraine's first lady, has said, we are not commemorating a year of war. We are celebrating a year of resistance, a year of courage, a year of solidarity, and a year of Australia and our partners doing what we can to support the people of Ukraine. We have imposed travel bans and targeted financial sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals and entities in response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We've committed more than $500 million in military assistance to Ukraine, including, most recently, $33 million for additional uncrewed aerial systems.

In late January I had the privilege of visiting the training grounds where ADF personnel are training members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as part of a UK-led multinational training program. We do many things in this job which are moving, but that was amongst the most moving of engagements I've had. I was deeply moved by interactions with the new Ukrainian soldiers, who only a year ago were teachers, farmers, professionals and more, now standing ready to fight against Russian aggression. Mr Putin and Russia have underestimated the courage of Ukrainians like these soldiers, and they underestimated the resolve of the global community. As I said in the UN last year, Russia is to be condemned for its illegal and immoral invasion. It should be condemned as an attack on all smaller countries. What it represents, fundamentally, is the assertion that a larger country is entitled to subjugate a smaller neighbour. On 24 February, Australia was one of 141 UN member states that again rejected this assertion—141 countries voted in support of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine; only seven voted against.

Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine has prompted many of us to look back at our history, at the horrors in Europe and Asia that led humanity—that led the global community—to establish the Charter of the United Nations. For many living through those times, it must've seemed that power and lies would succeed. In 1942, George Orwell published his reflections on the competing propaganda that swirled around the Spanish civil war. He saw competing propaganda and lies—what we would now call disinformation. He wrote of his fear that the very concept of objective truth was fading out of the world, but we know now that he was wrong. The truth, at great cost, eventually won out.

I say this to Russia and to its apologists and cronies: your crimes and your lies will not stand. In fact, you have only strengthened our collective resolve. You see, we have reflected anew on the type of world order we treasure—the lives lived to potential, the dreams and ambitions fulfilled and the common aspiration around this world that our children prosper in peace and live better lives than our own. Russia has reminded us again that these treasures, important to so many people around this world, are born of a system of rules and order respected by all. One year on, let us commit anew to these rules and laws and, in doing so, commit anew, one year on, to stand with the people of Ukraine.

3:42 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Ira Lyubarskaya is a young woman, a university student—a young university student with dreams and hopes—but Ira is from Mariupol. Ira is one of so many human faces with human stories that have been told as part of the bloody war that has struck Ukraine. Ira has buried her friend's parents, helped her disabled father to flee, seen her mother trapped in Russian territory and lived on stinking mattresses in the basement of her former building. In Ira's words:

We lived in Building No. 7; there is no building left … I went to the Mariupol State University; there is no university left. There is no city left.

…   …   …

Putin 'liberated' us from our home, from our studies, our work, our future.

We, in Australia, thousands of kilometres away, care about the war in Ukraine because there are important principles at stake. We condemn the barbaric, illegal and immoral actions of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government he leads. To do otherwise would be to imperil us all by tacitly condoning the actions of violent autocrats. But, amidst our important principles and our strong condemnation, we should remember Ira and the countless other stories of unnecessary loss and suffering.

UNICEF analysis suggests that 80 per cent of Ukrainian children are now living in poverty. These children are not just facing the obvious physical risks of war from shelling, firing and combat. Such children are not just facing the mental health scars that will stay with them throughout their lives. Their lives and long-term health are imperilled in other ways. The destruction by Russia of more than 800 Ukrainian health facilities means children are missing out on vital vaccines that would otherwise shield them from future disease. Then there are the horrific instances of war crimes committed by Russia. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has identified mass graves, massacres and torture chambers. In one of its reports, the OSCE spoke of the mutilated bodies of murdered men, women and children discovered in a basement. Some had their ears cut off, while others had their teeth pulled out.

Amid such horrors and crimes, it would be easy to be despondent. But if there is one thing Ukraine has shown itself to be the antithesis of, it is despondency. Ukraine has come to be defined by defiance, stoicism, bravery, resolve and triumph. Putin expected a quick victory, but Vladimir Putin was as wrong in his military strategy as he is in his moral compass. This war was unprovoked, unjust and unacceptable.

Thirty-one years ago, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, proud Ukrainians rose up and seized their national identity to once again recreate their nation. Using their rights under international law, Ukrainians embraced their sovereignty, celebrated their nationality and built their nation. Although imperfect, like all of us, Ukraine has much to be proud of and much to defend. Ukraine and Ukrainians can be especially proud of their defence of their nation.

They and much of the world have been inspired by the acts of courage and bravery. Inspirations have come in many forms, most visibly in the leadership of President Zelenskyy. As President Zelenskyy said, Ukrainians made a choice on 24 February last year—not of a white flag but of a blue and yellow flag. He spoken not only in defence of territory or people but of principles—the right to self-determination, to security and to live without being threatened. These principles form the basis of our call to arms, Australia's call to arms, even from the other side of the world. No small or mid-sized nation should tolerate seeing another invaded by or made subservient to a bigger or more powerful regional neighbour.

In helping to defend Ukraine, we defend the principles, the norms and the international laws that help to defend Australia. The previous coalition government proudly stepped forward with $225 million of defence military equipment, $65 million in humanitarian assistance, thermal coal to support energy supplies and humanitarian visas for Ukrainians forced to flee. We applied financial sanctions against hundreds of Russian individuals and entities as part of coordinated action with like-minded partners.

The Labor government has built upon this foundation with more support and more sanctions, and our bipartisan support for these actions is emphatic. We will continue to encourage and welcome further actions and encourage further humanitarian assistance for people like Ira and others, as well as encouraging the reopening of Australia's embassy in Kiev.

If democracies have suffered from self-doubt in recent times, the Ukrainian spirit reminds us to have confidence in ourselves, confidence in the enduring nature of our values, confidence to speak truthfully about threats to freedom and confidence to show resolve in confronting evil wherever it lurks. As we acknowledge this first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine we say confidently, 'Slava Ukraini. Glory to Ukraine.'

3:47 pm

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

On 24 February this year the Ukrainian community throughout not just Australia but the world joined with supporters to commemorate one year since Russia's illegal and immoral full-scale invasion of Ukraine. I was honoured to be invited to speak at the Hobart rally and vigil. We couldn't bring on this motion that day because parliament was not sitting; however, bringing it on today ties in well with this evening's launch of the Australia-Ukraine parliamentary friendship group, which I understand is now the largest friendship group in the parliament.

As chair of the group, I would like to thank those members and senators who have joined and to encourage anyone who hasn't joined to join. I would also like to thank Senator Van for serving as deputy chair. I'm looking forward to the launch tonight and to catching up again with the ambassador of Ukraine, His Excellency Vasyl Myroshnychenko, with whom I have developed a great working relationship.

I'd also like to acknowledge two members of the Ukrainian community in the gallery here today. There are other members already in the building, off having meetings with various ministers and other people. I thank you for being in the chamber and thank you for coming to the parliament. Please be assured that you have very, very good friends in this place.

It gives me a great sense of pride that Australia is one of the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine. We've provided $65 million in emergency humanitarian assistance and over half-a-billion dollars in military assistance, with our most recent support including sending ADF personnel to the United Kingdom to train Ukrainian soldiers and contributing $33 million in drone technology. Our significant assistance to Ukraine is complemented by actions to impose costs on Russia, including sanctions targeted against more than 1,000 organisations and individuals and import and export sanctions against a number of commodities, including Russian oil, refined petroleum products, coal and gas.

Our assistance to Ukraine has been maintained through the transition from a coalition to a Labor government, and it has continued to have bipartisan support through both. In fact, I understand it has the unanimous support of the parliament—at least, I haven't heard any dissent. There is no better demonstration of parliament support to Ukraine than when both houses gathered for a group photo with the ambassador, in which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition stood shoulder to shoulder with the ambassador. That was a historic moment. The Australian parliament has never done that before.

But parliament doesn't stand alone in its support for Ukraine. Our stance is a reflection of the overwhelming support of the Australian public. Australians understand that even though we are almost on the other side of the world, Australia needs to be in this fight with Ukraine—not just for Ukraine's sake but for our own national interests. Russia's actions threaten the stability of the rules based order that governs international relations. Australians understand that Russia's actions are a threat to every country and the rules based order that maintains global stability.

I am certain the assistance given to Ukraine and costs imposed on Russia by Australia and our allies have been instrumental in ensuring that Russia's invasion has been a monumental failure, but international solidarity with Ukraine is not the only thing holding Russia back from achieving its objectives. What is also standing in their way is the patriotism, resilience and fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people. I am in no doubt that Russia underestimated the Ukrainian people and that they expected to be in a much better position than they are now. While 24 February marks one year since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it is the culmination of over 30 years of Russia's attacks on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, Russia has interfered in the domestic politics of Ukraine, illegally annexed Crimea and backed separatist militias in the Donbas region—the very militias who were responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, murdering 298 people, including 38 Australians.

A lot of people know that my interest in this conflict, like our nation's, is motivated by an aspiration for global stability and security, but my interest is also very personal. My surname is Ukrainian. I have family ties with Ukraine by marriage, and my husband, Robert, who is of Ukrainian descent, still has a strong connection to his Ukrainian heritage. We are both involved in the Ukrainian community in Tasmania and have been for many, many years. So we see and hear how Ukrainians are suffering, and it affects us deeply. So, given that this is personal, I have the following message for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Putin, the blood that has been spilt—Ukrainian and Russian—in this illegal and unprovoked invasion is on your hands. You have failed to appreciate that Ukrainians are a proud people with their own language, their own culture and their own identity, who have embraced democracy and want to determine their own future. For this reason, your invasion will fail. That is inevitable. The important question for you is how much more blood has to be spilt before that happens. I commend the motion.

3:53 pm

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

I would like to thank Senator Bilyk for being chair with me on the Parliamentary Friends of Ukraine since I came into this place in 2019. We have worked very well together on this issue, and I do thank her for her hard efforts.

While we are celebrating the anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 24 February 2022, it can't be lost on any of us that this war has been running since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. We have learnt lessons from that, as have the Ukrainian army. We are now seeing a complete rout of the Russian troops. They have effectively lost this war. They have certainly lost the war that they set out to fight, and that is to decapitate the Zelenskyy administration in Kyiv, and then go over and take over the country. That is never going to happen. Why isn't it going to happen? Because like-minded nations have stood side by side with Ukraine and given them the arms, material and financial aid that they deserve. They deserve it richly, because, as we've seen, they've fought these fights.

We've seen these Russian tactics before, whether in Aleppo in Syria or in Grozny in Chechnya. We've since seen how they fight a war of attrition, in Mariupol and now in Bakhmut. These aren't new tactics for the Russian army, but they are tactics that are bound to fail as long as the West keeps on arming Ukraine and as long as the West keeps on giving Ukraine the weapons they need to fight the war. I've been saying for close to a year that the West needs to supply the main battle tanks and fighter jets. Thankfully, we've seen those main battle tanks promised and some delivered. What we need to do now is convince like-minded countries to send in those fighter jets, which are so desperately needed for air defence and ground strikes, to hit those dug-in trenches where the Russians are hiding away through this winter.

As most of you will know, particularly our foreign minister, I visited Ukraine in August last year. It wasn't unauthorised; I was invited by the Ukrainian government. It was an incredibly eye-opening trip. I went for two reasons. The first was to go there—I did a lot of interviews with media there—to tell Ukrainians that we haven't forgotten about them and that even a country as far away as Australia remembers what they're going through and is there to support them. The second was to be able to come home and say to Australians, 'We need to stand with Ukraine.'

I've seen the damage that this Russian army has done in Ukraine. It's not pretty. I wouldn't suggest that anyone go there just for sightseeing purposes. I went there and I saw the Bushmasters that we donated, which are being used in this battle incredibly well. I met with the troops that are using them. Sadly, now some of those troops are no longer with us. They've been lost in this war. It reminds me every day that we in Australia, and all our like-minded countries, need to do more. We need to do far more. Yes, we have promised $475 million in military aid. Sadly, not all of that has made its way into the country yet, and I encourage this government to speed up those deliveries.

On my first morning in Kyiv, I went for my morning run and I ran past our embassy. We share a building with the Canadian embassy. You can see the Canadian flag flying there. The Australian flag is not there, because our ambassador is not there. The most important thing I learnt while I was there was the resilience of the Ukrainian people. Every person I met was waiting to be called up. Whether they were a taxi driver or a barista making a coffee—anyone you met in the street—everyone was saying: 'I'm up for this fight. I'm up for this fight, and I'm dying to go.' Every person I spoke to—and, I think, every person in that country—will fight to defeat Russia. We need to be doing our bit to support them, and we must.

3:58 pm

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

HN () (): War is a most terrible thing. Those so-called leaders who would pursue wars of aggression, to dominate, to subjugate and to profit from their neighbours for political purposes are committing, in that act, one of the highest legal and moral crimes possible in the human community. In their illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin and his regime have joined a dark pantheon of despots, dictators and sometimes democratically elected officials who have committed such vile crimes.

In speaking to this motion today, I once again extend the solidarity of the Australian Greens movement to the people of Ukraine in their struggle to retain and reassert their sovereignty and to face down this vicious dictator and his brutal regime. In doing so, I also reiterate the calls of the Australian Greens for all nations that are party to the United Nations Charter to work collectively in accordance with the Uniting for Peace resolution, No. 377 A, to deliver coordinated international support to the people of Ukraine. It is absolutely incumbent upon Australia to work as part of the international community to ensure that the words of solidarity that are so often and so easily spoken in political chambers throughout the world are translated into material action. One of the ways in which those words must be translated into that material action is to now begin organising an international program of debt relief for Ukraine to support them in the urgent work that will need to be done for the rebuilding of their communities.

Right now, as we sit here, the Ukrainian army is engaged in a great battle with Russian forces over the city of Bakhmut. Much has been said in relation to the military strategic value of this engagement and this location. But we must not forget that this is a town which before the war hosted 70,000 people. Seventy thousand people called Bakhmut home, and it is now little more than rubble. Should the Ukrainian army and their allies achieve their strategic objectives, should tomorrow the Russian forces be thrown back over the border, should Crimea be liberated, the very next day the residents of Bakhmut will have no more home to return to than they do right now.

There is a profound moment of danger for the people of Ukraine in that moment if, in the aftermath of victory on the field, the international community declares 'mission accomplished' and moves on. We cannot let that happen. We must ensure that the Ukrainian government are provided with that plan of debt relief so that they can invest in the rebuilding of their communities and the reknitting together of those communities, to be able to once again have the services and supports that people need to ensure that a state is able to function in a time of peace, and to do more than simply deliver ammunition, materiel and troops to a battlefront. If we fail in that moment—if we turn away and say, 'You've got your battle tanks, but it's a very hard conversation for us to have with the IMF or the ECB or global moneylenders in relation to your national debt'—then in that moment we will condemn Ukraine to struggle to re-establish itself as a sovereign nation and a functioning, peaceful nation. We will continue this work. We will continue to advocate alongside the Ukrainian community for these actions.

In closing, I say simply this: Slava Ukraini. Glory to Ukraine.

4:04 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the National Party, I rise to support the motion and honour the bravery and strength of the people of Ukraine, who continue to courageously fight a war not of their making—a war which President Putin expected to last just three days but which has now passed the one-year mark in duration. This illegal, unprovoked and unjust conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians by Russian forces, according the UNHCR, with more than 7,000 civilians killed and 11,000 injured, including 177 girls and 221 young boys. The UNHCR reported in September last year that 12.3 million people had fled the Ukraine, while seven million had been displaced internally. That's 18 million Ukrainians that have left their homes. Many thousands more have been forcibly deported to Russia.

Historic cities that have taken hundreds of years to build now lie in ruins. Ukraine estimates that Russia has caused US$1 trillion worth of damage since the start of the full-scale invasion last February, and that it is not even allowing for the costs in Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, which were invaded in 2014. The Ukraine government has estimated that 150,000 residential buildings, 1,500 schools and 20,000 kilometres of roads have been destroyed. And Russia, in its indiscriminate attacks, has targeted hospitals, schools and energy supplies. Russia's blockade of the Black Sea ports is equal to economic blackmail with some of the world's poorest people now paying higher prices for food, energy and the very means to survive. In the areas liberated from Russian forces, Ukrainians have uncovered mass graves as well as evidence of rape and torture on an unimaginable scale.

It is President Putin who is responsible for this. He could stop it at once by withdrawing his forces from Ukrainian land, but he continues with his delusions of imperial grandeur and expansion. He blundered into a war that he cannot and will not win.

Ukrainians were always going to resist a hostile attack aimed at wiping out their country as Russia was warned that if they instigated the conflict Ukrainians would defend their homeland ferociously, and they have. Today, Ukrainians are more unified, proud and determined than ever, and the overreach of Russia has united the world in the common purpose of peace and to defend the principles of the UN Charter.

All Australians remain united and resolute in our support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Today, to be in the chamber and to hear the Labor government, the Liberal and National parties in coalition, the Greens and the independent senators stand as one, united in our support for Ukraine, is demonstration of what is occurring. This is a microcosm of what's actually occurred, particularly across Western democracies around the world.

We, as a nation, are doing our part in helping Ukraine fight this illegal war and abate the global economic impacts Russia has caused. It is the former coalition government that stood with Ukraine 12 months ago, offering substantial humanitarian, economic and social support, and that has been continued by today's Labor government, and we thank them for that. We played a major role in food supply and fuel for Europe and the wider economic community. We've donated 70,000 tons of thermal coal to support Ukraine's energy security. We've banned the import of Russian oil, petroleum, coal and gas, banned the export of alumina, bauxite and luxury goods to Russia, and introduced an additional tariff of 35 per cent on imports from Russia and Belarus. We will continue to provide bipartisan support to the Australian government to ensure we provide more military and humanitarian assistance.

Our former coalition government committed $285 million of defence military assistance, including 40 Bushmasters from my home state in Victoria, produced in Bendigo, and $65 million of the humanitarian assistance in Ukraine's fight for freedom. I'm proud to say that Bendigo Bushmasters have played a central role in Australia's military assistance.

This is a David and Goliath battle. As a middle power in the global order, Australia stood strong at the start, and I think it was particularly our efforts at the beginning of this war that—I don't think it was an assured assumption that everyone was going to come to the table 12 months ago—we stand as united, as the Western democracies in particular have, against the aggression of this illegal war. So, practically and philosophically, this nation stands with Ukraine. We stand for peace, but it's not peace at any price. The sovereignty of this nation matters, and we won't stop supporting them until they can be sovereign again and Vladimir Putin and the Russian forces are behind their own borders.

4:09 pm

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Senate for this opportunity and I thank my fellow senators for their contributions. We've watched on for over a year now at the horrors of the war in Ukraine, a country being invaded, a people fighting bravely and against all odds for their families and for their country. The world has rightly grappled with what to do with such an immoral, illegal and unjust invasion.

I believe we can learn much from the words of a moral giant, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who grappled with this question in the face of Hitler and what to do in that situation. He left some wisdom for us:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

The global community has made clear the condemnation of Putin's actions. We must call for an end to this war and we must call for peace. We must stand alongside the Ukrainian people.

I am really proud to represent so many people here in the ACT who have been protesting, fundraising and looking after Ukrainian refugees. Many of them have put their lives on hold to focus on this. I'd really like to take this opportunity to read out some of the words of a few of them. The first one is Canberran Marusya Jacyshyn. She said: 'My parents were forced to leave their beloved homeland, Ukraine, due to the twin horrors of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. They were never to return to their families. Our family arrived in Australia in July 1949. Australia provided a safe haven and hope to rebuild their shattered lies. My late parents worked tirelessly for Ukraine's freedom, sovereignty and independence. This was passed on to their children and grandchildren.

The Ukrainian community in the Canberra region, with their loyal friends and supporters from many countries of origin, have protested for over 12 months, every Saturday, outside the Russian embassy—not just in support of Ukraine's fight for self-determination, freedom and democracy but for that of the free world. I urge the Australian parliament to continue to provide bipartisan support for Ukraine with humanitarian aid, military aid and economic aid. This full-scale war waged on Ukraine by the Russian Federation impacts on all of us. Thank you, Australia. Slava Ukraini.'

The next one is from Andrew Liszczynsky. He said: 'We're 12 months into this war, Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian community here is still outraged about the invasion. Ukraine is a sovereign nation and is grimly defending that sovereignty. The Ukrainian community here and all over Australia, and the rest of the world, continue to protest this Russian aggression and will continue to do so whilst Russian forces are in Ukraine. Let's make no mistake, Putin is trying to destroy everything Ukrainian—identity, language, culture, religion and cultural icons. But he will not win, because Ukraine, led by President Zelenskyy, is strong in its resolve. Ukraine is determined to defend all things Ukrainian, and the world is showing massive support because this is simply wrong. Putin will lose and Ukraine will prevail.'

Lastly, I have a contribution from Dimitri Kun. He said: 'Thank you, Australia, for supporting Ukraine. We must continue the support. Russia's disregard for international norms and laws must be stopped by Ukrainians now or else we may find that other dictators, inspired by Putin, start territorial conflicts and wars. That is not a good prospect. We stand with Ukraine and we call for an end to this war. Slava Ukraini.'

Clearly, this is an issue that we need to continue to speak up about. I thank the major parties for their support of Ukraine, at this time, and for the many thousands of Australian people who, in their own way, have protested or shown their support to people in Ukraine.

4:14 pm

Photo of Ross CadellRoss Cadell (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On 24 February 2022, after months of Western intelligence agency warnings and Russian denials, the armed forces of Russia invaded the land of Ukraine. We saw on TV live pictures of helicopter landings in Hostomel Airport, armoured columns advancing on suburbs and cities and the Ukrainian population filling bottles of Molotov cocktails, sending children away from their homes and arming themselves in response. In what was meant to be a three-day easy victory, as we heard, we are now on day 377, and they retain control of a very small portion of Ukrainian sovereign territory.

We have seen war crimes, we have seen targeting of civilians, we have seen and been reminded of the horrors of war over and over again, in Bucha, in Mariupol and now in Bakhmut. Even overnight there was a video of a Ukrainian prisoner of war being executed on camera. His last words were, 'Glory to Ukraine.' But we have also seen the best of humanity, people coming together in unity of purpose, helping each other, protecting their country, their way of life, working to survive.

Across the globe there has been humanitarian military aid in response to the needs of Ukrainians and their government. Just hours after the invasion, President Zelenskyy was quoted as saying: 'The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.' The world has heard that, and it has answered. The people of Ukraine, inspired by its armed forces and political leadership, turned the tables and drove the invaders completely out of western Ukraine, with the famous tractor corp of Ukraine claiming hundreds of pieces of military equipment that could be repaired and then reused against the invaders.

The world is not fuelling Ukraine's ability to fight. Ukraine's ability to fight is fuelling the world's appetite to stand up for what is right and what is wrong. I searched for better words than those of the German foreign minister, but I couldn't find them. She said: 'If Russia stops fighting, the war stops. If Ukraine stops fighting, there is no more Ukraine. It is that simple.'

But this is not going to be a defeat of Russia. It is a defeat of decency, it is a defeat of diplomacy and it is a defeat of humanity. We must do better. Russia has a right to its own security and to feel safe within its own borders. It does not, however, have any right to act with such hostility across and within the borders of another sovereign country. That is not the way to achieve this.

To Russia I say: tell the world what security you need to pull all of your forces and all of your arms back to the borders of '91. What can the world do to stop sending the sons of the Rodina to their deaths? What can the world do to halt your illegal, immoral and corrupt slaughter of the innocent and the destruction of such beautiful, historical and productive lands? It's not just the future of Ukraine you hold in your hands; it is the future potential of Russia. No-one wants to see a generation of young men taken away from their families, their homes and their jobs. These men that Russia is sending to their slaughter deserve so much better than that. The Stalinist phrase 'quantity has a quality all of its own' should not be measured in body bags.

This war must end because no-one will win it. The war must end with guaranteed safety of Ukraine and Russia within their own borders, and in Australia we've done our bit. We have sent our aid, we have sent our arms, we are sending our training and we have sent our love and support to Ukraine. Respected independent open source intelligence like ORIX has observed the loss of six of our Bushmasters and three of our M113 APCs. It is likely that more has been lost, but we have seen these put to action and the crime is that people have died while they were in them. We must continue to seek opportunities to assist the Ukrainians, we must continue to seek opportunities to support peace and when all of this madness ends we must seek opportunities to support reconstruction and reconciliation, for the absence of armed conflict does not in itself represent peace.

But the war rages on. People are dying today, they will die tomorrow and the risk is we will all become so used to it that we become desensitised to it, we stop caring and we stop helping. I say to Ukraine: I will not stop caring, Australia will not stop helping. We must do whatever it takes to deliver peace to your country and your people, and please, until that day, stay safe, fight hard, and we salute you.

4:19 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before making my remarks, I want to pay tribute to my good friend Senator Bilyk and to Senator Van. The way they have come together in order to provide leadership to the friends of Ukraine is just an outstanding example of what this place does at its best. Thank you very much.

On 25 February 2023, I attended a rally in King George Square in my home state of Brisbane. In that place, in King George Square in Brisbane, the Ukrainian spirit was there for all to see and feel. It was there in King George Square—the spirit of freedom, democracy, sovereignty—a spirit that has survived the horrors of the Stalinist Soviet Union, which survived World War II and which now, against all odds, is surviving.

Also in that square, with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, were brothers and sisters from Iran, representing the Iranian community. There were representatives from our wonderful Vietnamese community, our African community and our Indian community. The very, very best of Australia was in that square in Brisbane on Saturday 25 February 2023.

There were also leaders from all major parties. Graham Perrett MP was there, my local member. I was there, representing the coalition. Cameron Dick was there, representing the state Labor government. David Crisafulli MP, the state opposition leader, was there. The deputy mayor of Brisbane was there. There was a unity of purpose in that square on that day. It was the very, very best of Australia.

I say to the Ukrainian people: please know that we are standing with you, shoulder to shoulder, on this journey. In doing so, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with everyone in the world who believes in freedom, who believes in democracy, who believes in a rules based international order. We are there for this journey, for the long term, until it comes to an end and peace and sovereignty reign once more in Ukraine.