Scott Morrison and his ministers have strongly attacked China over its failure to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or to use its influence to press President Putin to pull back.
This comes as the government says that, working through NATO, it will contribute towards non-lethal military assistance and medical supplies for Ukraine.
The contribution will take the form of Australia providing NATO with funds, expected to run into several million dollars, for this assistance, which could include items such as body armour.
Australia continued on Friday to ramp up sanctions in concert with other western countries, with oligarchs targeted as well as key Belarusian individuals and entities.
China has urged “all sides to exercise restraint”. It would not call Russia’s attack an “invasion”.
Morrison seized on a report in the South China Morning Post that said China had announced it was fully open to Russian wheat imports. It had previously restricted imports of Russian grain.
The Prime Minister said this was “unacceptable”, condemning China for extending a “lifeline” to Russia when it was invading another country.
Morrison also said international sporting events, including the Formula 1 and the men’s volleyball world championship, both scheduled for Russia later this year, should not be held there. He said he commended any Australians who said they would not participate in events in Russia.
“We should be taking every step we can to ensure Russia pays a price in the international community for their violent and aggressive acts in relation to their action against Ukraine,” he told a news conference in Adelaide.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said it was “deeply disturbing, that China has essentially encouraged Russia”.
“China is the one country that could pick the phone up to President Putin now and say turn back and pull back from this dreadful mistake that you’re making,” Dutton said. “They’re not prepared to do that it seems”.
“I think they’re probably watching to see what the world reaction is so that they can make their own calculations down the track in relation to Taiwan,” Dutton told the ABC.
Dutton told Sky: “This alliance between China and Russia really should be an alarm bell for the world and we need to stand united and the west needs to be as strong as we have been since at least the Cold War”.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham had the same message, saying China’s response was “deeply troubling”.
“They, whilst at the UN Security Council, have called for restraint. They have not been clear in their condemnation of Russia – in fact, far from it.
"Their foreign minister has suggested that he understands the territorial concerns of Russia.
"There is no justification for understanding those territorial concerns.
"Ukraine was a peaceful, democratic, sovereign nation whose territorial boundaries should have been respected and have been violated in the most obscene and abusive ways by Russia,” Birmingham told Sky.