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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 213


Senator Cormann asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 3 December 2008:

(1)   Can an outline be provided of the reasons for Australia’s change in voting position during the 63rd session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on the following resolutions: (a) draft resolution on the ‘Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories’ (document A/C.4/63/L.16); and (b) draft resolution on ‘Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan’ (document A/C.4/63/L.17).

(2)   Did the Minister receive any communication from Israel or the Palestinian Authority on this change of position, either prior to the vote or subsequently; if so: (a) can an outline be provided of the nature of these communications; and (b) can copies of any correspondence on this matter be provided.

(3)   Has the Minister or the department had any discussion, internal or external, on the impact of this changed position regarding the resolutions outlined in (1) above on the Government’s desire to secure a seat on the UN Security Council.

(4)   Has the Minister or the department had any formal or informal approach from other nations in regard to the resolutions mentioned in (1) above, either: (a) generally; or (b) specifically in relation to Australia securing a seat on the UN Security Council.


Senator Faulkner (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   The Government examines on a case by case basis each Middle East resolution tabled in the United Nations General Assembly including the resolutions on settlements and the Fourth Geneva Convention. In its examination of each resolution, the Government was guided by its strong commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, based on Israel’s right to live in peace within secure borders, and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

(2)   The Australian Government has had several exchanges with the Government of Israel and representatives of the Palestinian Authority regarding the Middle East resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly. As part of this interaction, the Australian Government informed the Government of Israel and representatives of the Palestinian Authority of its voting intentions prior to the vote on the resolutions. Consistent with usual diplomatic practice, the details of these conversations are not public.

(3)   The Australian Government has not changed, and does not intend to change, its General Assembly votes for electoral reasons.

(4)   The General Assembly is the United Nations’ primary deliberative organ. All resolutions put forward for General Assembly consideration are discussed by Australia’s delegation in New York with a range of other delegations as part of its normal General Assembly work. The details of those conversations are not public. As noted in response to (1), the Government’s decisions on voting were made on a case by case basis, guided by its strong commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, based on Israel’s right to live in peace within secure borders, and recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a viable state of their own.