Two federal politicians attended a rally supporting the people of Ukraine on Thursday at the Supreme Court gardens.
Victorian Liberal senator David Van, and West Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith, made speeches at the event and addressed questions from the community.
“It’s wonderful to be here, first and foremost,” said Mr Van.
“I’ve been doing a lot of work with the Ukrainian community and Victoria, I’m chair of the parliamentary friends of Ukraine, which is a bipartisan group of parliamentarians that care about Ukraine, so, to be asked to come over here and to speak at this rally.
“It was great to see so many people. As you can see, I don’t have a coat on unlike you, us Victorians aren’t quite used to this 38 degrees. But to see so many people here, despite it’s such a hot day, it’s fantastic.
“And that’s what we’re seeing all around Australia, is that the Ukrainian community and their friends and supporters, people who’ve never heard of Ukraine before, coming together to show their support for Ukraine.
The senator also called for “every Australian to stand up for Ukraine” and “do what they can to support” Ukraine.
“Even if it is just showing up at a rally or making a donation,” Mr Van said.
“There’s some very reputable charities that are getting aid into Ukraine, and helping people who are coming here as displaced persons, so everyone can play their part.
“We’ve seen that at the rally today, we’re seeing it around the world.
“So I would call on all my fellow Australians, to think about Ukraine, to support it, and to do what they can, even if it’s just a small donation.
Mr Van also discussed what Ukrainians all over the world want to see – the war over.
“They’re wanting peace, they’re wanting freedom. They’re wanting sovereignty. They’re wanting the Russians out of their country. That’s what they want.
“And so they’re prepared to come together in groups like this and rallies like this and call for that.
“But it also shows to the people back home, because I have no doubt all this footage will be flooded back into Ukraine, to show that people around the world are standing with them.
“So that those soldiers that are on the frontlines fighting the Russians know that the world is standing with them, and the world really is standing with them.
“I don’t know that we’ve seen the world react like this to any other conflict, at least not this quickly.
The reason why NATO has been reluctant to fight in Ukraine against Russian aggression was also addressed by Mr Van.
“It’s a very complex international relations situation,” he said.
“What NATO countries are worried about is if they fight with Ukraine, then that will bring about a third world war.
“So they believe that if they help Ukraine as best they can but not fight the war, then we’re not going to see an escalation to levels that could be horrendous and by that I mean nuclear weapons.”
The senator also discussed the role of the federal and state governments in providing visas to Australia for Ukrainian refugees.
“They are being fast tracked, we’re getting them here, as I said this is day fourteen and we’re already getting people, I know of people who are already in Melbourne on visas,” he said.
“Now the transition to another type of visa or a bridging visa or a pathway to permanent residency, that will come, there is no hurry for that.
“But that will take a lot of hard work from the federal government, this is a federal government issue, that we will work through and we will find the right way to do it.
“The state governments, however, should be looking at how they help with settlement services.
“So with education, with health, with helping to learn English if they don’t have English, so they’re things that state governments can and should be doing.”
Mr Van, however, said that Ukraine needs weapons to fight the war rather than the visas that Australia is offering.
“Well, as you heard a lot of people saying you know, their visas to come to Australia are being turned around very quickly,” he said.
“I know the Immigration Department are working around the clock and prioritizing those visas.
“There are different levels of visas or different types of visas that people can apply for, some take a little bit longer than others, some are quicker. So, they’re getting the visas.
“But that’s not what I’m being asked by the Ukrainian community, when the Ukrainian committee and we have a call every morning because they hear from overnight from what the people on the ground over there need and it’s not humanitarian aid, it’s not visas .
“They want ammunition. They want guns. They want body armour. They want helmets. They want surface-to-air-missiles, they want anti-tank weapons.
“That’s what the people in Ukraine want because they’re so strong, that they’re fighting for their country, and they will continue to fight.
“I have no doubt about that.”