Let’s do our part for Ukraine

We are now four months into Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

And it’s been five months since many Australians, including myself, took to the streets and stood in solidarity with the people of Ukraine in rallies across the country, hoping with all hope that the war would not begin.

I can only imagine the trauma Ukrainians and their diaspora are feeling each minute of every day.

Yesterday morning we woke to the news of another deadly Russian missile attack on a Ukraine shopping centre in Kremenchuk.

According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, there were 1000 innocent Ukrainians inside the mall at the time of the attack. Early reports were that at least 14 people were killed.

The horror of this war goes far beyond gas and grain shortages; it is active fighting not seen in Europe since World War II.

To date, at least 15 million Ukrainian people have been displaced, 400,000 people are missing and there have been at least 47,000 deaths.

Tragic numbers to mirror a tragic war. Australia is committed to supporting the Ukrainian Government combat the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of its country.

There has been bipartisan support since the beginning of the war and this will continue.

Australia has so far committed more than $285 million in military aid to Ukraine, including 14 Australian-built Bushmaster vehicles.

We can all be proud of our country’s efforts in supporting our Ukrainian friends. As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said this week: “It’s not just an issue for Europe, but an issue in our own region that needs to be dealt with.”

The first four weeks of the Albanese Labor Government are indicative of the strong ties and smart bonds we intend to make and keep with other countries.

As the 19th century saying from British preacher Charles H. Spurgeon goes: “Begin as you mean to go on.”

The past three years of Coalition government, led by former prime minister Scott Morrison, saw Australia’s standing with countries, particularly our neighbours in Asia, increasingly adrift.

To see our Prime Minister this week in Madrid at the NATO summit speaking up for Ukraine was a great moment in our nation’s global affairs.

The PM went on to flag a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

That, too, is a case of fixing relationships left damaged by Scott Morrison’s Liberal government.

In late 2021, Macron accused our former prime minister of lying about the cancellation of a submarine contract with the French Government.

To say the relationship with France was hurt by the contretemps would be a gross understatement.

It was also another nail in the coffin for the former PM’s relationship with many Australian voters who had lost trust in him throughout the pandemic.

Coupled with our Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong visiting Vietnam and Malaysia and our Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Rwanda, our leadership in the world is proving highly capable.

Also heartening is Australia’s warm welcome to Ukrainian refugees who have been forced to flee their homeland since February 24, when the war officially began.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, more than 3000 Ukrainian refugees have come to Australia since then.

Their new Government, including the important staff at Services Australia supported agencies including Centrelink and Medicare, has helped Ukrainian families as they start their lives afresh in their new communities.

Let’s hope the brave people of Ukraine can maintain their spirited resistance.

In the meantime, let’s be grateful our Government is being held in good stead and we are able to make a meaningful and respected contribution to world affairs.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 29 June 2022.