The Times Australia

The Times Australia

The Times

Prime Minister's interview with David Koch, Sunrise

  • Written by David Koch & Scott Morrison

DAVID KOCH: The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, joins me now. Prime Minister, you phoned your Ukrainian counterpart overnight. What did he have to tell you? Does he believe the invasion has started?

PRIME MINISTER: He was very appreciative of the incredible support he's getting all around the world, and the reason he wanted to speak to us was to thank Australia for its very strong stand, and we are going to work very closely with him and other neighbouring countries, particularly Poland, where we have people right now, both providing consular support into the Ukraine. We've got some 38,000 Australians here in Australia who will be very concerned about the situation in Ukraine. They've got Ukrainian heritage, about 1,400, we think Australians in Ukraine itself. And so the situation remains on very, at the most extreme level. And I mean, the invasion has effectively already begun. We completely reject the claims that Russia have made in relation to Ukraine and the territories that they've come and effectively already occupied. And the world has to continue to stand strong on this. And the Ukrainian Prime Minister was very appreciative of the strong stand, particularly Australia, has taken across a whole range of sanctions.

KOCH: Prime Minister explain to Australians why we should care. Most Australians, probably we can't find Ukraine on a map. It's not in our backyard. Why do we need to take as hard, a tough stance?

PRIME MINISTER: This is about the sovereignty of countries. We've got a very large country in Russia, which is bullying and threatening its neighbour and telling them the decisions that they have to make. And this is not how the world should work. This is not how the rule of law and international law can work. Now, Ukraine itself is not a member of the NATO alliance, but even still, when you have a country that is bullying and seeking to use force and threats of violence to get its own way against another country, that is not something that Australia could ever support.

KOCH: Again, Ukraine is not in our backyard. China is. It's always had eyes on Taiwan. Do you think they're watching this closely and the world's reaction to Russia as they have Taiwan in the back of their mind?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I believe China, of course, is watching this very carefully, and that's why I've been at pains to say that China needs to take as strong a position as other countries in the world and in denouncing what Russia is doing. See, what we have to be very clear about is there's no pretext for this. There's no provocation of this for Russia. There's no just cause that Russia is seeking to pursue. I've seen the statements made by the Russian Ambassador here in Australia. I completely reject that. Cyber attacks are occurring again in Ukraine, and we know the Russian troops are there and already moving. And so we cannot have it stand that there's somehow justification for this. And that's why I welcome the fact that China so far has said that yes, tension should be de-escalated. But they need to go further and denounce the threats of violence. And any suggestion there is some sort of justification or pretext for this because, bullying wherever it's occurring and particularly in our own region, is things that we and my government has always stood up very strongly to.

KOCH: So what you're really saying, China, don't you even think about Taiwan?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, of course, and that's always been our position. But equal to that, it's important that they seek to play to a much larger global role. Well, the responsibilities that go with that is to denounce bullying and threats of violence against other countries for the purpose of seeking to control them. That's what coercion is.

KOCH: We can't, we can't do much in terms of sanctions because we are going to have really big trade ties with Russia, unlike Europe. Do you fear any Russian retaliation towards us in terms of trade or political sanctions?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that the most pressing threat has to do with cyber attacks, and we know that Russia has been involved in those things before. They're involved in it right now against Ukraine, and we call that out. But what we can do is the legislation our Government brought in, which enables us to target individuals in Russia and to work with our partners, particularly the United States and UK, to ensure that we can freeze their assets. They can't move their money around. And because those who benefit from the aggression of Russia and support the regime in doing that, we can't have them be able to go around and moving their money and going shopping at Harrods and, and other places around the world and travelling in and out of countries and operating their businesses. I mean, we have no quarrel with the people of Russia, and I know so many Russian Australians would be appalled about what is occurring. So this isn't about the people of Russia. This is about an autocratic, authoritarian government that is seeking to bully others and those who support that regime cannot be enabled to go about their lives and move around the world, doing their business and profiting from that violence.

KOCH: And just before we let you go, know you've got to go, but poor old Queensland. Borders open, tourism returns, hit by this wild weather and flooding. Anything the government is going to do in terms of support?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we always work closely with the Queensland Government and respond to every request that is made as we have with other floods and fires and everything. And so we'll be working closely with the Queensland Government. You're absolutely right. It is just another, another terrible time for Queensland, but Queensland is, I would argue, one of the best, if not the best in the country at responding to these disasters. And we have a very close working relationship with them to do our bit when we're called upon, and we certainly will. If it's flooded, forget it. That is my plea. If it's flooded, forget it. We've already seen a loss of life there and we don't want to see more. So that is my appeal to follow the instructions of the authorities there in Queensland. And we're thinking of you and watching that situation very closely and we will be there the moment the Queensland Government seeks our support.

KOCH: Prime Minister, we know you've got to to dash. Thanks for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much, David.

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