Question Time - Visa provisions for Ukrainian nationals

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

5 March 2014

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:56): I thank the member for Mitchell for his question. I note his longstanding interest in foreign affairs and the concerns of Ukrainians in his electorate of Mitchell. I can inform the House that the situation in Ukraine remains highly charged and volatile. Overnight, the travel advisory of the Australian government was updated to urge Australians who are considering travel to Ukraine or who are currently there to reconsider their need to travel or their need to remain in Ukraine, and in any event to register on the government's website Smartraveller.

Given the volatile situation in Ukraine, my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and I announced today visa provisions to allow Ukrainian nationals in Australia temporary refuge from returning home while their nation is under threat. Ukrainian nationals who are currently in Australia on a visa due to expire and who may be affected by the unrest in the Ukraine will be able to approach the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and make an application to receive an extension of their visa for a temporary period. I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her support for that change.

We are concerned by reports that Russia has increased its military presence in Crimea. We reiterate our view that Russia's aggressive acts against Ukraine, an independent sovereign nation, are totally unacceptable. Australia joins with other nations across the globe in demanding that Russia take the lead in de-escalating the tensions, that it pull its troops back to base, and that it demonstrate its respect for Ukraine sovereignty. In that regard, we welcome the visit to Ukraine by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, demonstrating solidarity for Ukraine and its people and their sovereignty.

We are stressing the importance of dialogue and diplomacy. Australia has made its position clear in the now three debates that have been undertaken in the United Nations Security Council over recent days. In the meantime, I am in contact with the Australian ambassador in Moscow, with our head of mission in Warsaw, and we are working with heads of mission in the region generally, to register our concerns officially with the host governments and to ensure that we are providing consular support to any Australians who may be affected by this crisis.

I note that Ukraine's charge d'affaires, who appeared before the joint standing committee today, acknowledged the strong stand that has been taken by our Prime Minister and by the government. We reaffirm our support for Ukraine and its people.

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