Topic:  Attempted Russian coup; Australian support for Ukraine; Economy

06:35AM AEST
Tuesday, 27 June 2022


Pete Stefanovic:  Let’s go live to the shadow Foreign affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, good to see you. Thanks for your time in the dark. Thanks for getting up so early for us, but we all start off with that overseas news. Putin has vowed to get tough on those responsible for the uprising. Prigozhin said. Just a protest, not a coup. What are your observations on all of that this morning?


Simon Birmingham: Well Pete, Yevgeny Prigozhin is a Russian warlord who is in large part the creation of Vladimir Putin. So, his creation, who has turned upon him. These are internal Russian matters very clearly. But what we really should be looking at is, of course, the harm that Vladimir Putin has caused clearly to Ukraine in terms of the inhumane, illegal invasion of Ukraine and the great loss of life and tragedy that’s unfolded there. But also, of course, the global harm, the disruption, the economic disruption, the pressures, inflationary and otherwise that have been generated. Now we can see from the events of the last few days as well the harm within the Russian Federation itself, the degree of instability, the degree of infighting that may be occurring, and of course, much harm to the Russian people, too, who are feeling the economic effects and other impacts of this. As well as we can see within the Russian military, the fact that they themselves lack indeed the morale to be able to conduct this war with the type of vigour Putin would have wanted. But thankfully, Ukraine showing completely the opposite. And that’s why it’s so important Australia’s support for Ukraine should be much stronger than it appears to be right now.


Pete Stefanovic: I will get to that in a second. But just one more here in Russia, do you think this strengthens the Ukrainian effort or is there an alternative view? And the cynics have suggested this, that there’s some kind of conspiracy going on, that it might all just be a ruse to lure Ukraine into a false sense of security and also be a ploy ahead of the Russian election next year? Are you buying into that at all, Simon?


Simon Birmingham: Well, there will always be lots of conspiracies, and I’m not going to hold myself out as an expert to know precisely what is happening within Russia. And I doubt there are many people in Australia who could claim to do that. But what we do know is that Ukraine has shown a heroic defence of its nation since this illegal and immoral invasion began last year. They have defied all odds to date and they deserve the continued backing of their many partners around the world where we’re not just talking about backing them for the sake of Ukraine’s defence. We’re talking about backing Ukraine in defence of smaller nations, having secure borders against larger neighbours, in defence of international rules, laws and norms that we all rely on depend upon and that’s what’s so critical about helping Ukraine through this.


Pete Stefanovic: Okay. Let’s get to Richard Marles package now. Simon He announced it yesterday on its way to Ukraine. What’s your view on it? Is it enough?


Simon Birmingham: It’s come to slowly as support package and it is frankly too little at this stage. Australia in the early days of the Ukraine war was the largest non-NATO contributor and had a comprehensive package of significant modern military equipment, along with humanitarian assistance and energy assistance. This package is using some of it quite old military equipment that was soon to be retired by the Australian Army. It’s much smaller in scale. It has only a token humanitarian contribution and no energy support. And so frankly, we think there should be a clear rethink by the Albanese Government and they should look specifically at the request. Ukraine has made themselves for Australian Hawkei vehicles, for Australian tanks, for the type of support in de-mining they’ve asked for too..


Pete Stefanovic: On Hawkeis. The claim from the Government is that it’s not suitable for the Ukrainian environment. There is a fault in the anti-lock braking system. I mean, is that is that fair enough?


Simon Birmingham: Well, look. The braking system might be a concern for Australian roads, but we’re talking about Ukrainian war conditions and I’m sure they are very conscious of those issues. Thales the manufacturer are also well placed to be able to provide European support in terms of the sustainment of such vehicles. I think there really needs to be a closer look in terms of why it is Ukraine is wanting these vehicles. Some independent analysis there. It feels at present that because the Albanese Government isn’t replenishing what defence is giving up, these are all coming out of the existing Australian Defence Force budget without any additional support, that perhaps there is some understandable reluctance in the Defence forces to provide modern equipment and they would rather get rid of some of the older equipment that’s there. Now that’s understandable from their perspective, but what we should be doing is ensuring there is a real commitment there from Australia for modern equipment to help Ukraine do the best on the battlefield, which they have done so well to date.


Pete Stefanovic: I know you’ve got to go, but just a quick one here before you do. S&P Global has found Australia’s economy will be one of the worst performing in the Asia-Pacific over the next two years because of interest rates. Is that in line with your expectations, Simon?


Simon Birmingham: We’ve seen two Albanese Government budgets now, the last one was clearly described by many economic commentators as expansionary and therefore inflationary. This is harm being caused in Canberra to our economy and all Australians are sadly paying the price and we can now see that external economic analysts are looking into Australia and saying, well we can see the pain that’s going to come because Australians are paying the price of those higher interest rates and higher inflation.


Pete Stefanovic: Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time.