Topics: Prime Minister invitation to NATO; French President visit to China; US document leak; 

07:45AM AEDT
Tuesday, 11 April 2023


Peter Stefanovic:  Thanks for your company this morning on a busy day with foreign matters. So, it’s timely that we’re bringing in the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. We’ll start off with the Prime Minister on this invite to the NATO summit. Should he go?


Simon Birmingham: Absolutely. Pete. Look, the Prime Minister should be seizing the opportunity to engage with our NATO partners and allies across the board. Seizing the opportunity as well to make sure that Australia’s commitment to Ukraine in its war against Russia is wholesome and complete in terms of providing another clear and substantial package of support, of military assistance, of humanitarian assistance and of other practical support for the Ukrainian people. Their efforts have been nothing short of heroic in defence of the illegal and immoral invasion by Russia. And we really do need to see Ukraine continue to be supported. If the Prime Minister is going to go as he should, then he should go well prepared to make sure that our position continues to be one of the leading non-NATO contributors.


Peter Stefanovic: There are some interesting comments that have emerged from Emmanuel Macron, who’s just left China, and his meetings with Xi Jinping on the topic of Ukraine as a matter of fact. But some of his comments in an interview this is again by French President Emmanuel Macron that the US should reduce- that Europe, I should say, should reduce dependence on the US dollar. That Europe must resist pressure to become America’s followers. Also says the great risk Europe faces is that it gets caught up in crises that are not ours. Again, this relates to Ukraine, and not surprisingly, Xi Jinping has endorsed those comments. How damaging to transatlantic relations could those comments be?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I hope the comments don’t prove damaging, but they do point to attitudes and approaches that at times are of concern in terms of not realising the challenges that are faced in relation to China’s efforts over a period of time to bend and push against the rules-based order in different ways. The establishment of military operations in the South China Sea, the, of course undermining of human rights in a number of areas. The pressure that is felt in the way in which China’s exercised, for example, trade based economic coercion in breach of WTO rules against Australia. These are all serious issues and an important point for any leader of a democratic nation to be mindful of is the need for us all to work together in defence of our values. And particularly leaders of nations that want to see respect for those international rules and norms need to be willing to stand up for them consistently and do so in ways that help to preserve the type of liberty and democracy that in a country like France, they consider so important, as do we.


Peter Stefanovic: Well, I mean, just on the face of it, then, from those comments from Macron, is he I mean, is he ignorant or anything of that nature of the US’s efforts in Ukraine and things would be a whole lot worse without the American’s help.


Simon Birmingham: Well, I’m sure he’s well aware of the American efforts in Ukraine. He’s been well engaged in all of those sorts of discussions and dialogue. And from what we’ve seen, Europe continues to have a very strong and united stance in support of Ukraine and wanting the US, Australia and others to continue our support there. But it’s not unreasonable for us to expect that those sorts of partners should also be standing up for the values, the rules that are under pressure not just in Ukraine but from autocratic actions elsewhere around the world.


Peter Stefanovic: How concerned should we be about this defence leak out of the US, which basically acknowledges shortfalls or shortcomings within the Ukraine military outfit over the next few weeks?


Simon Birmingham: Well, we should be concerned firstly at the fact that the leak has occurred and obviously US officials have made clear their concerns there and they will be working hard to try to understand the source of the leak and to contain it where possible. We should also be concerned that in this day and age, this type of leak can also be used to feed and fuel disinformation, that some of the documents could have been modified in different ways, spread in different ways throughout the world to create false impressions or false information. And so that can be very concerning and is one of the risks in terms of information management in this day and age. But we should also make sure that where frank assessments have been made of Ukraine and the war effort there. They’re not blown out of proportion because to date Ukraine has managed to defy pretty much all expectations in the success of its defence and that whilst frank assessments are necessary for internal US or other planning, we need to make sure that we continue to stand very clearly with Ukraine and not allow this type of leak to in any way alter the support that is there to make sure that they repel this illegal and immoral invasion.


Peter Stefanovic: Okay. Simon Birmingham, live from Adelaide, thank you. We’ll talk to you again soon.