We could be saving lives in Ukraine — Contribute uncommitted emergency funds from 22/23 FY Matters of Public Interest

I rise to support this motion regarding support to Ukraine.

More Support for Ukraine

I welcome the call for bipartisanship and I note that we have very enthusiastically welcomed any announcements of support, including the sanctions and other things the government has given to the effort to defeat a totalitarian regime which shamefully, despite being on the Security Council and supposedly upholding the global rules-based order and security for smaller nations, has illegally invaded their neighbour to impose their will.

The problem we have is that we want to do more barracking for this effort, but we’re looking for more decisions from the government to provide support.

Even ABC Fact Check has called out the Prime Minister for continuing to claim that Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor when that is no longer true and hasn’t been for some time because of decreasing levels of support.

So we would welcome the opportunity to celebrate and cheer more support from the government, but, given the fact that there is an offensive to liberate the eastern parts of Ukraine underway as we speak, that needs to occur sooner rather than later.

Diplomatic Support

The other thing in this area that I think is important is for the government to do all it can to get other stakeholders and interlocutors in global affairs to use whatever influence they have over the Putin regime to get Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and to respect its sovereignty.

In particular, I would encourage the government of President Xi Jinping in China, who have an all-in, no-holds-barred relationship with the Putin regime, to use whatever influence they have to get a better outcome.

Save the Children

I go to some particular measures that I think the government can make a decision on today.

During estimates, the department of foreign affairs were talking about their emergency humanitarian fund. As we explored that fund, it was confirmed that they have $12.9 million uncommitted in that fund.

At the same time, we see reports coming out of Ukraine—in two reports in particular that I’d like to refer to, by Save the Children—that, as of April, over 500 children have been confirmed as having been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s unjustified and illegal invasion, and over 900, nearly a thousand, are confirmed to have been injured. And it is feared that those numbers are actually much greater.

There are mine incidents daily in Ukraine, and one in eight casualties of landmines are children.

The other thing to be aware of is that there are 17,000-odd people that have been affected, after the damage to the dam, by the flooding that has occurred around the Dnipro river. In Australia we’re all used to floods and the damage and disease they cause, and other impacts.

The unique part there is that those waters have raced through the land and unearthed landmines, and now there is this scattering of landmines throughout that flood plain, which affect communities, particularly children, in those areas.

Australian De-Mining Capability

For that $12.9 million—there is an Australian capability, a group called Minelab, who make the world’s most advanced mine detection system, the MDS-10, which is used by the American Department of Defense.

It’s also used by NGOs, such as the HALO Trust, who conduct mine-clearing operations in conflict zones worldwide.

There is an opportunity, in the last eight or so working days before the end of the financial year, for the government to commit the $12.9 million that is uncommitted in the emergency humanitarian fund.

If there was ever a cause which is an emergency humanitarian need, from both the flooding and particularly the mine characteristics, where we could be saving the lives of innocent men, women and children, it is the provision of de-mining equipment as well as training to the Ukrainian government, to their society and to international groups to support their work there.

So, quite apart from the military announcements that we are looking for—including the 41 Hornets, which I think should be delivered, particularly with American support around spares and maintenance—there is no reason why that $12.9 million can’t be committed right now to provide de-mining equipment for the children of Ukraine.