Australia's new anti-Russian moves come as no surprise

29.03.2022, Moscow.

The authorities of the country are consistent in their following the US policy, even when they do not benefit from this categorically – remember how, in April 2020, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison supported Trump and was the first to call for an investigation into Beijing’s fault for COVID-19, thereby launching a long trade war with its largest importer with very large consequences for the economy.

Or how in mid-September 2021 the same Morrison broke a submarine construction contract with France at a very large reputational cost to himself just before the election, all for an alliance with the USA.

This week Morrison became Biden’s personal echo as he willingly repeated the baseless accusations of war crimes against Russia and refused to sit at the same table with Putin at the G20.

Before that, the Australian government also imposed sanctions against Russia – although, like the Canadians, they were rather symbolic. The trade turnover between Russia and Australia is minuscule, and the amount of property owned by those in power in Russia is clearly close to zero.

However, unlike Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will be elected in 2025 and who frankly admitted that Putin has nothing in Canada, so the personal sanctions against him are an empty insult, Morrison, who has elections in less than two months, could not afford such frankness.

Another characteristic feature of Australian politics is that the authorities tried to the last minute not to impose sanctions on those Russian businessmen who have real interests in the country.

Therefore, the first list of sanctioned Russian oligarchs did not include Oleg Deripaska, whose company owns a fifth of the world’s largest alumina producer, Queensland Alumina Ltd, or Viktor Vekselberg, associated with a gas project in the Beetaloo sub-basin.

On March 18, the sanctions had to be introduced against the businessmen – it is banal that on the eve of the election the opposition started asking inconvenient questions too loudly through the media – but the wording is so vague that the companies admit that they have no real legal levers to get rid of their partners.

True, they have banned the export of alumina, aluminum ore and bauxite to Russia (just as they have banned imports of Russian oil and gas), but one nevertheless wonders whether this is just a more complicated scheme via third countries – after all, Australia has had endless floods in the last two months and needs billions to rebuild cities.

And, of course, Australian politicians also promise to help Ukraine. They have agreed to send 70 thousand tons of coal. However, it has been several days now, and there is no sign of preparations to the shipment. There are few ships in Australia, which can in principle carry so large cargo, and they can also be used by the government, and all of them are used for something else. But, as they say, better late than never.

The Australian government also promised to give priority to refugees from Ukraine and even give them temporary visas for three years. There are only a couple of nuances.

Local human rights defenders were outraged at this, and they reminded the audience that a) almost no one has been brought back from Afghanistan, and b) hundreds of refugees have been in jail for years in special detention centers for refugees in Australia itself, or on the nearby tropical islands.

One was recently released after a failed suicide attempt. Maybe the Ukrainians will have better luck, though.

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