Topics: Further sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, action taken by Australia over MH17, Cultural problems within the Australian Labor Party.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Well, calls are growing for China to use its influence with Vladimir Putin to call off Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Prime Minister says Australia will move in step with the US in imposing sanctions if China supports Russia. Joining me live now is the Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews. Minister, thanks for your time again. Good to see you. Is there actually enough evidence that you or the government has come across yet to suggest that China is, in fact, helping Russia militarily?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, good morning. Look, there’s a very big question that you’re asking, and they’re the right questions to be asking. Look, what I can say is that we are very much aware of the actions that have been taken by Russia. We continue to call for a diplomatic resolution to the issues between Russia and Ukraine. We’re also very conscious of any of the actions that China may take to support Russia, or any activity that China may take – or continue to take – in our region. Now at this point in time, we’re very closely monitoring the situation. We will remain vigilant. Our priority firstly is for there to be a diplomatic resolution between Russia and Ukraine and, of course, to make sure that at all times we are protecting Australia’s interests.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So as things stand at the moment there’s no solid proof that China is actually supplying military hardware to Russia?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, we would ask that certainly any nation does not do that. And that’s our very strong position. We will look at what the evidence is at the time that we can access that. We would expect and we would encourage China to use its influence over Russia to get them to withdraw from Ukraine. Now, to date there’s been little to no evidence that China is taking any action, and that’s what we would call on China to do.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. So the US this week has threatened to sanction China. The Prime Minister is saying yesterday that we would move in lockstep with the US to apply sanctions on China. Would that be a wise move for us to take given that it would be so much harder for us to unpick ourselves from China than it would be to unpick ourselves from Russia, if you know what I mean?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the Coalition Government is always going to put the interests of Australia and Australians first and foremost. We’ve also been very clear that we will be in lockstep with our very strong allies, and that includes the United States and the United Kingdom. So we will continue to look at sanctions. We have already imposed well over 400 sanctions. We will continue to do what we need to do in relation to Russia. We will monitor the situation with China very closely. We’ll remain in very close contact with the United States. And, as the Prime Minister has indicated, we will be absolutely prepared to work – continue to work – in lockstep with the United States, and we will take the action that is necessary.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just on to this Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, so far he’s avoided sanctions here in Australia. For our viewers who don’t know, he’s got a stake in a Queensland refinery in Gladstone. Will Oleg Deripaska be sanctioned, Minister?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, the Foreign Minister Marise Payne is already looking at further sanctions. Now, QAL – Queensland Alumina – is very important to the Gladstone economy. It’s a very large employer in that town. So we will be mindful of that. But there is the bigger picture that we need to be mindful of as well, too. And if sanctions are necessary, if we need to continue to put those in place, if more individuals are going to be needed to have sanctions against them, then we will take the appropriate action.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. So the fact that he hasn’t been sanctioned yet is purely because of economic reasons?
KAREN ANDREWS: No. Marise Payne as our Foreign Minister will consider the advice that’s given to her by her department and she will make the decision that is in the best interests of Australia. So, yes, we’re mindful of what the impact may well be, the economic impact in Gladstone. But we are also very mindful of the bigger picture.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just on the MH17 there was some legal action that was taken this week by your government. I note overnight, Minister, that the Malaysians have just said that they’ve noted the action. They haven’t said anything more than that. Are you disappointed with that kind of response?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, we’ve been very focused on taking the action that we need in relation to the evidence that we have been able to gather. Now, the Australian Federal Police have been working on this for years since the downing of MH17. And we believe that there is sufficient evidence to indicate that a Russian missile downed MH17. That’s the action that we’re taking in ICAO. We’ve supported and joined with the Netherlands to do that. Other nations may well determine and make a decision that they will join. We would welcome that. But we are resolute that we are going to continue this action.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just a final one here – Labor still refusing to be drawn on investigating claims of bullying surrounding Kimberley Kitching. Minister, the family wants an apology. So far it hasn’t received one. Tanya Plibersek, shadow minister for women on the show a short time ago, still not budging on that. What are your thoughts on these developments?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, I have a more general response, and that is that the Labor Party likes to portray itself as the party to represent and support women. My experience of the Labor Party is that that could not be further from the truth. And I think that we’ve seen being played out now is really what the Labor Party – and potentially the Greens – are really about. They don’t stand up for women. They don’t support women, and they need to.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. That is the Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, live from the Gold Coast. Thank you, Minister. We’ll talk to you again soon.