Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Missile strikes on Ukraine, missile strike in Polish Territory; Prime Minister’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping; relationship with China

Kieran Gilbert, Host: As we've heard, world leaders have held an emergency meeting at the G20 over that missile strike in Polish territory. It's believed the missiles are Russian made, but investigations are ongoing. Let's go live to Adelaide. I'm joined by the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong.

Thank you for your time, Foreign Minister. This attack really highlights the concern that so many have had throughout this conflict - that it could have the potential to draw in NATO. That's the risk right now, isn't it?

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: We've always understood that Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine has enormous cost in terms of human life, the atrocities we are seeing and the damage to Ukrainian cities and homes. But we also know the risk of miscalculation. And I think, you know, we are always concerned about that.

What I would say is that as you said, there have been meetings at the G20 today. I spoke to the Prime Minister earlier today, who's engaging with European counterparts. I understand the Polish Government has made clear that it will undertake an investigation into the origin of the missile. I'd urge, you know, that we refrain from wild speculation until that investigation has been finalised. And I would echo the words of the Polish Prime Minister who called for calm and prudence.

Gilbert: Are you reassured by that calm response from the Polish leadership?

Foreign Minister: Look, if you look at what the President and Prime Minister of Poland have said, if you look at what NATO partners have said, if you look at President Biden's response, I think what you are seeing is nations of the world but, in particular of NATO, and like-minded partners working together calmly to ensure there is a very mature and calm response to this incident. Because I think we all understand the leadership that should be shown at these sorts of times.

Gilbert: There is leadership happening on one side of those borders in eastern Europe. Not so much – it's quite erratic on the other with Putin and his behaviour and this sort of flagrant disregard for the sovereignty of Ukraine and other nations. But also to happen right now in the middle of the G20, Penny Wong?

Foreign Minister: Well, look, I mean, Mr Putin's decisions as Russia's leader is leading to, I think, the diminution of Russian power. I think that's the hard reality and it's probably a difficult reality for he and those who support him to swallow. And whilst they might be engaging in violent destruction of parts of Ukraine, the reality is Russia's place in the world has become diminished as a consequence of this behaviour and continues to be.

Gilbert: It's certainly a complex web when it comes to the relationship with China. Obviously now we're seeing the Chinese leadership wanting to reach out to Australia and to the US as well right now. What is the wash-up in your eyes from that meeting between President Xi and Prime Minister Albanese?

Foreign Minister: Well, Kieran, as you know, when we came to Government, we said we wanted – we thought it would be in the interests of both Australia and China for our relationship to be stabilised. Australian interests had not changed, nor will China's. Our differences will need to be managed, but we believed it was better for both countries for there to be dialogue and engagement.

You know, we think a more stable relationship is better for both China and Australia and for the region. So that's the approach we take – we've taken. That's the message I have given my counterpart Wang Yi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in my two face-to-face meetings with him and a call ahead of the G20. And it was a good step that dialogue has been resumed.

Obviously there will still be differences to manage. And what we want to see is both countries managing our interests and our differences wisely.

Gilbert: Are you more optimistic today than you were before those talks in Bali?

Foreign Minister: Look, I think it is an important and good step. As I said after my very first meeting with the Foreign Minister, State Councilor Wang Yi, always at Bali at the Foreign Ministers G20 meeting, I said we are walking down a path together. There will be many steps in this path. And that path will necessarily mean there are difficult things, differences that we have to manage. But it is better for us to be in dialogue.

You know, the approach the Government takes is we will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in our national interests. And that's the approach the Prime Minister took at the meeting with President Xi.

Gilbert: And I know that you've said before and I'm sure that it's only reaffirmed by the events of the last 24 hours that it would be better for the world, better for certainly Ukraine and those supporting it if China spoke out and called out Russia for its behaviour.

Foreign Minister: I have said that, and so have others. And what I've said is, you know, China has a leadership role in this world. And it is a great power. It's also a permanent member of the Security Council. And so we would urge China to use, you know, its power and its relationship with Russia to try and end an invasion which is not only wreaking human suffering but is deeply undermining of world peace and stability. I mean, it is a breach of the UN Charter where the world all agreed after World War II we wouldn't invade one another. It's one of the basic principles of keeping the peace. And Russia is breaching that. And they – we need to continue to work together to put pressure on them to cease.

Gilbert: Look, we're almost out of time, but Joe Biden says a cold war can be avoided. Do you agree with him?

Foreign Minister: Look, that is the focus of – you know, our diplomacy is to focus on, you know, ensuring that we can have a stable, peaceful, prosperous region in which no country is dominated and no country dominates. And we're very pleased to work with the Biden Administration, with the US, on that, and all the countries of the region to ensure, you know, we achieve that and we sustain that.

Gilbert: Foreign Minister Penny Wong, I appreciate your time, as always. Thank you.

Foreign Minister: Great to be with you. Thanks.

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