Interview with Allison Langdon and Charles Croucher, Today
Allison Langdon: Well, US President Joe Biden is this morning leading global calls for Vladimir Putin to face trial for war crimes.
Charles Croucher: It comes as our Foreign Minister heads to Brussels later today for crucial talks with NATO Foreign Ministers on the crisis in Ukraine. And Marise Payne joins us now from Penrith in Western Sydney. Minister, good morning to you. Do you support the push for the Russian President to face trial?
Marise Payne: Good morning, Charles and Ali, and Australia strongly supports an investigation by the International Criminal Court. We supported that reference on 3 March with other partners. We've offered two professional staff to join that investigation team at the ICC. Given what we have seen reported in Bucha, which is horrific beyond description, frankly, in terms of the scenes that we have seen; given what we know about the deliberate shelling of shelters for civilians, both theatres, schools, health facilities, absolutely these are actions of a country that need to be examined by the International Criminal Court.
Allison Langdon: I don't think anyone would disagree with that. But, I mean, is there any realistic chance that Putin will actually face consequences over the war in Ukraine? Do you think he even cares that this dialogue is taking place right now?
Marise Payne: I don't care whether Vladimir Putin cares or not. What is important is that the international community does everything it can to hold Russia to account for their actions: their actions on the ground in Ukraine that we have seen over the last more than 30 days, their actions that are being uncovered as troops are purportedly leaving Ukraine. And it remains to be seen what the President's next steps are, but for Australia's part, we will support any moves to make sure that these are investigated and examined comprehensively through the International Criminal Court process, and we will support through our sanctions process the strongest possible focus on ensuring that Russia pays a cost for these actions.
Charles Croucher: You mentioned sanctions. The international community appears to be preparing for another round of sanctions. Will Australia join them?
Marise Payne: Well, Australia has sanctioned over 500 people and entities so far. Last night, I also signed an authority to ban the export of luxury goods from Australia to Russia, as we did with bauxite and alumina in the last few weeks. We are working very closely with our partners to make sure that we can take similar steps on sanctions wherever possible, and that's why we have put so many sanction processes in place to ensure that we are doing that and enforcing them strongly.
Allison Langdon: Joe Biden has described India's position on Russia as shaky. I mean, as a member of the Quad, why haven't you come out with stronger language or persuaded or asked India to take a more substantial stance?
Marise Payne: Ali, we've been speaking with India regularly, including in the leaders' summit between Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Morrison where they did make a statement in relation to the actions of Russia in Ukraine – certainly, something that I raised with my Foreign Minister counterpart, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, when we have spoken in recent weeks. The actions of Russia are deeply concerning to the whole world, and we talk with all of our partners about the importance of recognising the impact of these actions.
Allison Langdon: So, you're happy with India's response?
Marise Payne: Not for me to be happy or unhappy with India's response. It's for Australia to be explicitly clear about our own position and to engage with our counterparts, as we have done with India, including Prime Minister to Prime Minister, as you saw in the leaders' meeting of Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Morrison in the last two weeks, I think.
Charles Croucher: You head to Brussels this evening. What are you hoping to achieve with this meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers and how much more can NATO do to try to deter Russia?
Marise Payne: Charles, I think this is a very important meeting of not just NATO Foreign Ministers, but NATO Foreign Ministers plus partners like Australia. We've been working very closely together in the last month to ensure that we are as coordinated as possible in that sanctions process that we've spoken about, in the provision of humanitarian assistance, where Australia has worked closely with our partners with key international NGOs and with Australian NGOs to deliver that assistance, and in relation to military support – and I know that the Defence Minister has spoken about that today as well.
We want to make sure that we continue that strong coordination. Meeting in person is an important opportunity to do that and also to make sure that, as we discussed earlier in this interview, we are absolutely focused on the work of the International Criminal Court and the investigations of Russia's actions that need to take place.
Allison Langdon: France and Germany have kicked out a bunch of Russian diplomats overnight. Is that something you're willing to do?
Marise Payne: As I've said before, we are continually reviewing our position in relation to this. The Russian Ambassador was called into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade by our Secretary again last week to ensure that we are able to say directly to Russia's representative that their actions are unacceptable, that they are in breach of international law, a wholesale breach of the UN Charter, and particularly on this last occasion to raise our concerns in relation to humanitarian access. What we've seen in the last week is the blocking of humanitarian deliveries to sites like Mariupol and the blocking of the exit of people through humanitarian pathways – both deeply concerning.
We've been able to deliver that message directly, but it is always a matter that we keep under review in relation to the position of diplomats, and I understand why some Australians have a view that we should be expelling diplomats, and we will continue to review that, as I said, at the highest levels of the Government.
Charles Croucher: It is a crucial time and a pivotal moment in this war, it feels like. Minister, we appreciate your time this morning.
Allison Langdon: Thanks, Minister.