Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Wednesday, 23 February 2022
Carrie Bickmore: Simon Birmingham is a member of the National Security Committee, and he joins us now. Minister sanctions have been in place since 2014. They didn't deter Russia then. Do you think they'll make any difference now?
Simon Birmingham: Well, this is a very coordinated escalation of sanctions. We're not surprised by what Russia has done, we're deeply disturbed by it, but we've been working for weeks with international partners on the type of response that can be applied. And that's why you've seen the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Japan all moving very much in lockstep in terms of targeting the financial capabilities of Russian banks, targeting some of the individuals involved. And we have further steps that can be taken if need be, should Russia continue to escalate?
Carrie Bickmore: What would those steps be? Because the Ukrainian president has said that the sanctions needed to happen well before any invasion. You know time is passing on. What are the West's options if Putin ploughs on?
Simon Birmingham: There are further types of trade, financial and indeed individual sanctions that can be deployed. We'll continue to work with all of those international partners to make sure that Australia is right there upholding that, as well as encouraging other nations to do likewise. We encourage those in our region welcoming Japan's decision, encouraging China, encouraging others to follow suit and to make sure maximum pressure is there. Of course, we've also taken the steps in terms of ensuring that those Ukrainian citizens in Australia have certainty to stay longer, an extra six months. And fast tracking visa applications for any people in the Ukraine seeking to come to Australia.
Waleed Aly: So you're clearly right that we could or the West could ramp up these sanctions. There's a lot more room to go there at the light end, but there are more severe things that could happen. I guess the problem is that particularly for other countries, so Europe, the United States, if they were to do that, Russia would retaliate with sanctions that probably cripple Europe. So they would say, all right, no gas for you. And then that would create a huge problem for Europe. So the question really becomes, I think, what price exactly is the West really prepared to put on this that they think Putin wouldn't be prepared to pay?
Simon Birmingham: Scott Morrison is speaking with the Ukrainian Prime Minister right now. Our Foreign Minister has been in Europe for much of the last week having discussions with leaders there. I think there is a strong resolve across Europe to stop Russia from carrying through with a violent and bloody conflict. You've seen that, for example, in Germany's decision, which is about cutting off a potential new source of energy and a new pipeline and saying that's not going to go ahead at this time-
Waleed Aly: That's very diferent to risking your own current supply of gas, though, isn't it?
Simon Birmingham: But European leaders are now looking very carefully at all of the contingencies for themselves in these circumstances. The pressures are real. You can see that in what's happening with global oil prices and how that's flowing through across the economy. But the resolve does appear to be strong and particularly to go after the financial institutions of Russia to see, as you saw in the U.K., the seizing of assets or at least the freezing of assets and going further where necessary.
Carrie Bickmore: Well, let's hope it's enough, Minister. Thanks so much for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks guys.