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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1782


Mr IRONS (Swan) (11:31): I would have thought that there would be another speaker on the other side. I rise in support of the motion put forward by the member for Dunkley relating to the Ukrainian Holodomor. I'm a firm believer that those who cannot or do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. We must remember the pain and suffering caused by such events and honour those who lost their lives. We must recognise the importance of such dark chapters in our human history to ensure that such crimes against humanity are not allowed to be repeated.

I thank the member for Dunkley and other speakers who have contributed for reminding the House of the significance of Holodomor. This May marks 85 years since Holodomor—the enforced famine in the Ukraine caused by the deliberate actions of Joseph Stalin's communist government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Mr Deputy Speaker, I'd like to take you back a couple of years further. It's 1930 and 1.5 million Ukrainians have fallen victim to Stalin's policies that saw the arrest, deportation and execution of the richer peasants. Nearly 500,000 people were forcefully removed from their homes, packed onto trains and sent to often uninhabitable regions, such as Siberia. Many were left without food and shelter. Many of those who survived the journey died soon after. The worst was yet to come not only in Holodomor. That paragraph reminds us of the period under Hitler with the Jews in Europe.

In the summer of 1932 the Soviet government dramatically increased Ukraine's production quotas. They ensured that they were unachievable. Starvation quickly spread across the country. Soon after, Stalin implemented a decree that called for the arrest and execution of any individual, including children, caught taking even the smallest amount of food—grains from the fields they worked on or stalks from a neighbour's crop. Military blockades were set up around many Ukrainian villages to ensure that food wasn't brought into the villages, and the hungry weren't allowed out in search of food. Stalin attempted to teach a lesson through famine.

The forced collectivisation and the seizure of crops and farms by the Stalin government had devastating consequences. By June 1933 and at the height of the famine nearly 30,000 people were dying each and every day. It's understood almost one-third of these were children under the age of 10. These children were brutally punished for stealing the smallest amount of grain. They were malnourished and eventually fell victim to Holodomor. The death toll was catastrophic. Almost 7.4 million people died as a result of the inhumane policies of the Soviet government.

I join with the member for Dunkley in condemning these acts which aimed to destroy the national, cultural, religious and democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people and in condemning all similar acts during the 20th century as the ultimate manifestations of racial, ethnic or religious hatred and violence. The atrocities of the Holodomor were further exacerbated by the Soviets' denial of the famine. Outside assistance was refused because the regime continued to deny that there was in fact a famine. Denial of a famine was long echoed by Eastern and Western journalists like. Survivors of the famine had their stories discounted and discredited and were often subject to punishments such as hard labour for even mentioning a famine. To suggest blame on the authorities risked a death sentence. Those just trying to do their jobs, such as those responsible for reporting population numbers accurately, were often doomed to execution.

It wasn't until the late 1980s, just prior to Ukraine reaching independence in 1991, that greater scrutiny and attention was paid to the atrocities of the Holodomor. The fall of the Soviet Union allowed previously suppressed documents and oral testimony from survivors to come to light which provided irrefutable evidence of the tragic famine. In 2006, the Parliament of Ukraine passed a decree defining the Holodomor as a deliberate act of genocide. It was formal acknowledgement of the pain and suffering inflicted on their people.

I join with my fellow members of parliament speaking on this motion in paying respect to the Australian Ukrainians that lived through this tragedy and those who have bravely shared their stories. Australia has continued to deepen its ties with Ukraine in recent years. We've opened an embassy in Kiev and we've remained steadfast in our support of Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian actions. This is reflective of our similar values and strength of our people-to-people links, underpinned by a community of almost 50,000 Australians of Ukrainian descent. Again I thank the member for Dunkley for his motion and support it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Goodenough ): The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.