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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1316


Mr WILLIAMS (Hindmarsh) (14:09): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the minister to the escalating situation in the Ukraine, which is of deep concern to the people in my electorate of Hindmarsh. Further to the Prime Minister's answer, will the minister advise the House how the Australian government has responded to these troubling events?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:09): I thank the member for Hindmarsh for his question and I acknowledge that he is deeply concerned, as are other members who have Ukrainian communities in their electorate, about the escalating crisis that we see in Ukraine. I can confirm, as the Prime Minister has, that both sides of the House are gravely concerned about the escalation that we have seen—an escalation in Russian military activity, an escalation in tensions. In recent days the Russian parliament has authorised the use of force inside Ukraine. This is a significant but wholly unacceptable development. It undermines the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own destiny. The Australian government has urged Russia to withdraw its troops, to step back from Ukraine and to de-escalate its activities that are persisting in this unfolding crisis. We are particularly concerned that the new Ukrainian government requested urgent talks with the Russian Federation. This request was rebuffed outright. We are greatly concerned that the lines of communication between the parties be kept open. This is a time for diplomacy and dialogue.

We join with the international community in calling on the Russian Federation to respect Ukraine's sovereignty and its territorial integrity. In particular, we are calling on the new government of Ukraine to continue to exercise restraint in the face of provocation. Today, on my direction, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade called in the Russian ambassador to formally register our concerns with the Russian government and to ascertain the intentions of the Russian government in this matter. We will continue to maintain that dialogue. Over the past 48 hours, the United Nations Security Council has also met on two occasions. Our ambassador to the United Nations, our permanent representative, Ambassador Gary Quinlan, has given a clear, unequivocal message on behalf of the Australian government and the Australian people, and that is that we support Ukraine's sovereignty. The use of force is utterly unacceptable. It is contrary to the UN charter of rights and it is contrary to international agreements that Russia has signed to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty. We will remain in very close contact with our friends and allies and the members of the UN Security Council.

I urge Australians thinking of travelling to Ukraine and the surrounding area to log on to the government's Smartraveller website. The travel advisory will be updated; it will be under constant review as the situation changes. This is an extremely volatile, fluid situation and extreme caution must be exercised. I will keep the House informed of any further developments.

Ms PLIBERSEK (SydneyDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (14:12): On indulgence, Madam Speaker, I want to associate myself, as the Leader of the Opposition has, with the comments made by both the Prime Minister and the foreign minister on events in Ukraine. Things are unfolding very quickly and the opposition offers our support to the government in making very clear to Russia that the actions we have seen thus far are not appropriate, and we certainly hope our position on the Security Council is used to make our view very clear.