Topics: Russian escalation on war in Ukraine; Australian support for Ukraine


04:05PM AEST


Kieran Gilbert: Let’s get some more reaction now to that escalation of tensions in Eastern Europe. I’m joined now by the shadow foreign minister, Simon Birmingham. You’ve said that the Albanese Government should swiftly and generously respond to the Ukrainian request for more help. What would you like to see offered.


Simon Birmingham: Kieran, Australia has positioned itself from the outset to be one of the most generous supporters of Ukraine. One of the most, if not the most generous non-NATO contributor to help Ukraine. And our assistance has made a real difference. Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia, the Ukrainian President himself and others have continuously highlighted that Australia’s supply missiles of weapons of vehicles, bushmasters, of financial assistance as well as of course of humanitarian assistance and resettlement assistance, have all made a meaningful difference and helped Ukraine to be able to withstand and far exceed expectations withstanding Russia’s illegal invasion. Ukraine, though, has asked for more help and they’ve been asking for a little while now. And so we ought to make sure that Australia continues to deliver that extra assistance.


Kieran Gilbert: Has the Government taken too long?


Simon Birmingham: I’m not making I’m not making that accusation because I realise the Government has to go through proper processes with the Australian Defence Force and others about what can physically be provided, the timelines for getting things there and be mindful of course of our own needs and interests. But the Australian Government absolutely should provide a positive response of more assistance to Ukraine. It should do so in a spirit of generosity and it should do so as quickly as possible.


Kieran Gilbert: Would you like to see more bushmasters, howitzer missiles. The Ambassador saying he’d like to- he wants harpoons. I’m not sure how much we have within our military, but he’s obviously thinking of targeting the Russian navy in the Black Sea. How much do we have to give? I mean, obviously, we’ve got we have more bushmasters, but we don’t have a great missile stockpile.


Simon Birmingham: So subject to the advice of our own defence force, we should be as generous as possible. Subject to what we can physically manage to provide without, of course, putting Australia in a detrimental position. We should be making those provisions because it is in Australia’s national interest as it as it is in countries, be they big or small, be they democracies or not, to stand up for the rules-based system, to stand up for the sovereignty and the territorial rights of any nation, in this case of Ukraine. And to ensure that in Ukraine success, we have a situation where it then acts as a deterrent to anybody else acting like this in the future. And of course, the delay in any provision of assistance only plays into Russia’s hands, only presents the possibility that the momentum Ukraine has managed to have in its defence is somehow dented or stalled. And that’s why it’s important that the Albanese Government responds as swiftly, as fully and as generously as possible.


Kieran Gilbert: How concerned are you by Putin’s latest rant when he talks about the threat of nuclear attacks as well?


Simon Birmingham: There are many aspects to President Putin’s behaviour and statements that are deeply distressing and concerning. For any of us the contemplation of the use of nuclear weapons would of course be something that brings deep distress, many concerns and is a reminder as to why the work of the non-proliferation regime, the work of nations in terms of trying to ensure that the control of nuclear weapons is tight, is so very, very important. What we see in terms of President Putin, though, is that he’s acting illegally in terms of his invasion of Ukraine and the actions he’s having Russia undertake. He’s been he’s acting immorally.


Kieran Gilbert: He’s under pressure now are he’s worried about what he might do in those circumstances?


Simon Birmingham: He is under he’s under pressure. Clearly, any country who seven months into an invasion of another needs to then call up hundreds of thousands of additional troops. It’s a demonstration that things are not going to plan. His threats in relation to the use of nuclear weapons are nothing short of immoral. And then his plans for these sham referenda to be held in the occupied territories of Ukraine are completely illegitimate. So what we see in President Putin is somebody acting illegally, immorally, illegitimately, and that’s why it’s so important that we continue to stand up to him and support Ukraine in doing so.


Kieran Gilbert: And the concern one of the concerns is if those referenda are held, that he then uses that as the excuse to then escalate even further and follow through with some of those reprehensible threats.


Simon Birmingham: Well, we’ve seen this play by President Putin before. He did this in relation to Crimea. The referenda held there had absolutely no legitimacy to it. From the question asked to the conduct through to the results was all a sham. And that’s why the world should be very open eyed in relation to any proposal that he brings forward of replicating those sorts of dodgy sorts processes.


Kieran Gilbert: We know that the bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian people has been extraordinary, incredible to watch. But there are quite a few thousand brave Russians as well protesting right now. Several thousand plus, of course, the Navalny supporters and all the opposition within Russia. But to see those protests emerge immediately off the back of Putin making those comments, does that give you any hope that maybe he’s knocked off?


Simon Birmingham: Look, we can but tell as to what will happen in the future. And it’s hard to make speculation in relation to that. But I do pay tribute to the courageous and valiant stance taken by people in Russia speaking out against President Putin. They do so in a regime where that is of threat then to them their lives and the lives of their family members. And that is the tragedy of a situation with somebody like Putin and the way in which he operates within his own country. That’s, again, why it is crucial that the world not only supports Ukraine, but also redoubles efforts to identify any other spheres in which we can place pressure together on President Putin, the oligarchs who support him and Russia to achieve the outcome, which is not to interfere in Russia’s domestic politics or systems, but to have Russia cease and desist from this invasion of Ukraine.


Kieran Gilbert: Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham, I appreciate your time, as always.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks Kieran, my pleasure.