Interview with Michael Usher the Latest, Seven News
Michael Usher: Foreign Minister Marise Payne has just left Europe and joins me on the phone now from Southeast Asia. Minister, thank you so much for joining me. I know that you are on the go. So the government's announced new sanctions against Russia. Do you have any concerns for retaliation? Russia is known for its cyber warfare, do Australian companies or government authorities or bodies need to be on guard for cyber attacks now in retaliation for these sanctions?
Marise Payne: We've seen what, as you say, Russia has already done in the Ukraine, particularly in terms of attacks on their defence system and on banks, for example. So, we are very aware and via the Australian Cyber Security Centre we will always encourage businesses and entities in Australia to be making sure that they are maximising their own security.
Michael Usher: Is there a role for Russia's Ambassador in Australia at the moment? I know the PM today said that he should stay so we have some open line of communication. But should we just kick him out, right now?
Marise Payne: Well, we called in the Russian Ambassador to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday. That method of communication is, at this point, something that we will continue to use. But recalling or expelling diplomats is always an option.
Michael Usher: Having just been through Europe as you said you'd just been, what is the mood there? Does greater Europe believe it is going to be drawn into this conflict?
Marise Payne: There is big concern right across Europe. I've met with more than 20 counterparts in the last few days. A number of counterparts in Eastern Europe are deeply concerned about the threat that Russia's actions pose to them and to their own countries. The challenges that this poses for the international community, needs unity. The unity that we are seeing between the United States, the United Kingdom, members of the European Union, Australia, Canada and other like-minded, is extremely important to send the strongest possible signals to Russia and to President Putin.
Michael Usher: Minister do you believe that this the greatest crisis facing Europe since the end of World War Two?
Marise Payne: I think this is a very significant crisis, Michael. And it would be hard to identify something that has happened since that time that is more catastrophic and serious than this, particularly for those in the Ukraine itself.
Michael Usher: As a senior diplomat though, our most senior diplomat, how do you deal with a country that lies? You have Russia saying that it's being provoked by Ukraine, therefore they've invaded, which is not correct. How do you deal with that?
Marise Payne: Well, you have to engage in a way that makes it clear that this is not, these are not actions that we are prepared, that we would condone. In fact, we absolutely reject them. But you do have to be able to engage where necessary. That is why we called in the Russian Ambassador in Canberra yesterday and we will continue to be the strongest supporters of Ukraine and their sovereignty and their territorial integrity, unequivocally.
Michael Usher: Does anyone ever tell that Ambassador that your President, Vladimir Putin, is lying about this?
Marise Payne: We made it very clear to an Ambassador in such a circumstance that we believe that there is no justification for this, that the pretext on which the invasion has been made is wholly fabricated. We have publicly called it disinformation and propaganda and your word, lying, particularly in terms of provocation from Ukraine, is certainly an appropriate term as well.
Michael Usher: Look, I mean Vladimir Putin is calling this a military operation. Are you of any doubt at all that this is war?
Marise Payne: This is not a military operation in the sense that President Putin has also asserted that those soldiers that he sent to Ukraine could be characterised as peacekeepers. I think I have been extremely clear what Australia's view is on that outrageous assertion. And what we see now is a matter of deep concern to us, to Australians, I know to Australians of Ukrainian background and of descent and we will continue to ensure that we play our part so that Russia pays the highest price that this invasion warrants.
Michael Usher: It's very good of you to join us after your tour of Europe there. Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister, thank you.
Marise Payne: Thank you very much Michael.