Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia—Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (12:06): by leave—The coalition join the government in expressing our concerns at the ongoing violence in Sudan, a conflict and a humanitarian crisis which now, in the latest element of this ongoing tragedy, is in its fourth week of more intense conflict and battle. We join the government in calling for the parties, the national army, the Rapid Support Forces and others engaged in the conflict to urgently cease hostilities, to return to negotiations and also to settle arrangements to protect the humanitarian assistance that people across Sudan desperately need and deserve. We also urge them to continue to work to provide safe passage for those who want to leave areas where fighting is taking place, including the capital, Khartoum, and Darfur.
More than 100,000 people have reportedly fled Sudan into neighbouring South Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, sparking further humanitarian crises in parts of the world already struggling with such challenges. At least 700 are estimated to have been killed, although those estimates may be far too understated. According to humanitarian groups, the majority of those killed have been civilians.
The opposition welcomes the government’s initial contribution of $6 million in humanitarian assistance, including the provision of $1 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross for immediate relief such as medical supplies, food, water and sanitation, emergency shelter and protection. We welcome also the provision of $5 million to Australia’s international partners who are leading the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
I join the minister in acknowledging publicly the work of the members of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consular and crisis management team in their efforts, alongside those of the Australian Defence Force, other officials and NGO supporters, who have all helped to ensure the safe evacuation of Australians who are in Sudan, and indeed nationals of other partner countries who are in Sudan. Their evacuation required intense effort, negotiation and assistance. I also thank on the record the numerous partner nations who helped to provide for the early evacuation of Australians and ensure their safety. Often unheralded, these officials in our consular and crisis management team deal with Australians and their loved ones, often at their very worst and in the most difficult of circumstances, and this event demonstrates yet again the worth of their tireless efforts right around the clock each and every day of the year.
The coalition joins with members of the Australian Sudanese community who remain concerned about loved ones still in Sudan and about the future of their country. We urge the Australian government and all nations to continue to provide support to ongoing efforts with partners and allies to evacuate Australian citizens and others who need to leave, and to continue to support efforts towards peaceful resolution. We urge the parties within Sudan and their supporters to use any and every opportunity to pursue a peaceful end to this conflict, including through the current talks occurring in Saudi Arabia. I thank the Senate.