Labor leader Bill Shorten says Russia’s latest sanctions imposed on Australia make him “sick in the guts” and has offered a bipartisan approach to the response.
Russia is banning beef, pork, fruit and vegetable produce, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products from a number of countries including Australia in retaliation for trade bans imposed over its support for separatists in the Ukraine.
“Do you want to know what I think? Who are they to put sanctions on us?” Mr Shorten told a business summit in Melbourne on Friday.
“They don’t have the … moral authority to do that in the light of what’s happened.
“I think that for the Russians to be talking about sanctions against us makes me sick in the guts.”
The federal government says it will work around the year-long ban on agricultural goods, but admits it will inflict some pain on farmers.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the government was looking at alternative markets in Asia to ease the blow.
“I know this is something that’s going to cause hardship in the country for rural producers,” Mr Joyce told ABC radio on Friday.
“But we will try and work around it.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said it was “extraordinary behaviour” from Russia to punish Australian farmers when it seemingly backed and armed separatists, blamed for the death of dozens of Australians on the downed MH17 flight.
Both sides said it was important to keep all lines of communication open, and banning Russian President Vladimir Putin from the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane in November would not help matters.
“Sometimes the best way to do that is to have someone in the room to say it to their face,” Ms Plibersek told the Nine Network on Friday.
The National Farmers Federation said it would now rely on the government’s trade agreements with Asian nations, and pending deal with China, to minimise the impact on farmers.
Farmers are concerned about the 12-month time frame of the ban and the impact on global prices for agricultural goods.