The Invasion of Ukraine - 30/03/2022

30 March 2022


I rise to speak about the war in Ukraine. I want to acknowledge the heartfelt speeches I've just heard from the member for Griffith, the member for Wills and the member for Sydney. It's been 34 days since Russia invaded Ukraine. We've been witnessing the devastating loss of life and attacks on civilians, including attacks on hospitals and healthcare facilities. The World Health Organization has confirmed that there have been more than 70 separate attacks on hospitals, ambulances and doctors in Ukraine, with the number increasing on a daily basis.

Australians have been shocked and saddened to see this—and seeing a maternity hospital attacked was a particularly sickening example. We're seeing families being torn apart as men stay to fight for their country and women try to get the rest of the family to safety. We're seeing little children weeping as they say goodbye to their fathers, for reasons that they have no comprehension of, and adults knowing that they may never see them again.

The UN estimates that close to 1,000 civilians have been killed, although this most likely underestimates the real figure, and it will continue to climb until peace can be restored. We have seen the senseless destruction of cities and infrastructure. We have seen more than 3.5 million Ukrainians fleeing their homes for safety in neighbouring nations, and the United Nations has predicted that the number of refugees from the conflict could reach four million.

With this invasion, Vladimir Putin has attacked the rules based order that has guaranteed peace and prosperity since the end of World War II. He has torn up those rules. This is an illegal and unjust war. Ukraine is fighting for sovereignty, democracy and freedom. Ukrainians have the right to live in peace. The courageous resistance of the Ukrainian people has been inspirational. The leadership of the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will address our parliament tomorrow, has also been inspirational. I very much look forward to that address.

Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine and to those in Australia who have lost or are worried about their loved ones who are caught up in that violence. I also want to acknowledge the Russians who are so bravely protesting against this dictatorship and this war. For us here in Australia it is hard to fathom what that really means—because we live in a democracy, where we have the right to protest and to speak against our government. That is something we must deeply value and continue to stand up for with pride.

I recently had the privilege to speak at a vigil here in Canberra, organised by Amnesty International, at the Nara Peace Park not far from this building. As the member for Canberra, and on behalf of our community and of our parliament, I reiterate to the Canberra Ukrainian community that we stand with you in solidarity and that our hearts are with you in this unthinkable pain that you are in. We had some incredible speakers at the vigil talking about their homeland, their experiences and their families and loved ones who are still there. One of those speakers was Aleksandr Demianenko, who works at the Australian National University. He and his wife and young daughter had just returned from being in Ukraine before this happened. He spoke very passionately about those he knows who have been tragically killed—a school friend was one—about the heartbreak felt by Ukrainians watching the destruction of their homeland and about his condemnation of Mr Putin's aggression. Canberrans really stand with Ukrainians in our condemnation of that, as does this parliament. I've been really pleased to see that Australia has granted more than 5,000 visas to Ukrainians in Ukraine, and hundreds more to Ukrainians elsewhere, and that more than 1,000 of these visa holders have already arrived safely in Australia and will continue to arrive every day.

It is vitally important that Australia plays this role in accepting refugees from Ukraine and from all conflicts around the world. Afghanistan is another example where we have seen so many people's livelihoods and futures destroyed. Many of them are seeking a future here in Australia and we should grant that to more people than we do at the moment. Just today, I heard from a constituent who has managed to get five members of her family here to Canberra. We will be seeking visas for them, and I hope that I will be able to help her with that. They are five female members of her family. The men are remaining there to fight for their country and its sovereignty. That is absolutely heartbreaking. Attacks on global peace and security impact us all, and it is not in anyone 's interest for any country to think that they can threaten sovereignty or change the status quo by force. It's important that we demonstrate that these actions come with a cost, and that's why Australia and the world have a responsibility to join in the defence of Ukraine and the principles of democracy and freedom. Australia has joined in exerting diplomatic pressure, imposing sanctions on Russia and supplying aid to Ukraine.

Labor has, of course, given bipartisan support to these efforts, and Australia should be working in concert with our international partners to continue to ratchet up these costs for Mr Putin and his regime. Labor is also supportive of additional assistance for Ukraine, including coal and humanitarian and military assistance. Strong and comprehensive measures are required to support Ukraine's pushback against Russia's invasion. Again, I just want to say to our Ukrainian community here in Canberra and around Australia, that Australians stand with you and our hearts are with you.