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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8408

Union of Agricultural Work Committees


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the coalition questioning about AusAID funding paid via World Vision to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, an organisation which has been accused of having links with a proscribed terrorist organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In particular, I refer to the minister's insistence that the Union of Agricultural Work Committees is benign because it is registered in Israel as a not-for-profit organisation. Will the minister today abide by his undertaking to the Senate of 23 August, 68 days ago, to expeditiously say who provided this registration renewal to the government?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:49): The answer is yes. I have in my hands all the translations of the relevant documents. The documents were translated, among others, by Russell D. Mayer, a notary at Jerusalem Malcha Technology Park, who serves in the Israeli defence forces part-time.

Senator Abetz: Who provided the renewal?

Senator BOB CARR: He has provided them. Here is his affidavit. The affidavit is detailed and I am quite happy to see it picked through in great detail. The House might wonder why the opposition keeps barking up this tree. The allegations about this body, that provides seedlings to aboriginal workers—

Senator Kroger: Can you talk to us over here? We cannot hear.

Senator BOB CARR: It is very appropriate that the interjection comes from Senator Kroger—underline the name. These allegations first surfaced from the body Shurat HaDin in February this year. They came in questions raised by Senator Kroger. She persisted: 'Shurat HaDin said this,' 'Shurat HaDin said that,' on and on.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Sometimes people say that you appear to lack authority. In the other chamber, someone was accused of being discourteous by turning their back to Ms Roxon, I think it was. This speaker continuously turns his back to you, Mr President, and it undermines your authority. I would ask you to direct him to address the chair and to address his remarks through you, as every other senator is required to do.

The PRESIDENT: There is absolutely no point of order. The minister has 34 seconds remaining. I do draw the minister's attention to the fact that he needs to face the microphone for the microphone to pick his voice up.

Senator BOB CARR: The questions kept coming from Senator Kroger about Shurat Hadin and its allegations. We did check the details about the two Australian interns who, in February, started work at Shurat HaDin. It is nice that boys never forget their mum, and when they go overseas—

Senator Abetz: Mr President, I rise a point of order. There is a requirement that answers be directly relevant. Trying to drag senators' children into it is not exactly being directly relevant, let alone it being extremely untidy. But, apart from that, the question was very specific: who provided the registration renewal to the government? We have since had affidavits and a translation provided to the committee but not the answer as to who initially provided the registration renewal to the government. That is the only information that is being sought, not family histories.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order at this stage. I am listening closely to the answer. Minister, you have 12 seconds to address the question.

Senator BOB CARR: What were the names of the two Australian lawyers who turned up as interns at the body making these allegations? Mr J Kroger and Mr S Kroger. After their arrival, the questions started flowing. This is a cynical Victorian Liberal Party— (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on both sides!













Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:54): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the affidavit sworn by Khaled Hidmi, the chairman of the Jerusalem based Committee of Agricultural Works, which claims that he made clear to the Israeli authorities at the time of registration that the committee was the Union of Agricultural Work Committees' office in Jerusalem. Does the minister accept the veracity of this affidavit?


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:55): Mr Hidmi originally sought to register the committee in the name Union of Agricultural Work Committees, but at the request of the Israeli authorities was asked to register it in the name the Committee of Agricultural Works. The question of translation is resolved by this. The translation we have used comes from a lawyer—a professional of 30 years, a pillar of the community and in his spare time a volunteer patrolman with the rank of master sergeant. The affidavit, made by the General Director of the UAWC, makes very clear why there was that discrepancy in names. It was at the request of the government of Israel, which has not declared this organisation a terrorist organisation, which allows it to register and operate under Israeli law. It is not proscribed by the government of Israel. That is your difficulty in this one. No matter how many postcards the boys send home to mum, that remains the fact. (Time expired)


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:56): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of an al-Jazeera video showing Bashir al-Khairi, UAWC chairman in 2009, calling for the conquest of pre-1967 Israeli cities at a 2005 Hamas rally—a video which identifies him as a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a proscribed terrorist organisation? Is the government satisfied that Bashir al-Khairi and the— (Time expired)


Senator BOB CARR (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:57): The senator ought to take his submission to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem because his argument is with the government of Israel. The government of Israel has not proscribed this organisation. Let me just say what it does when they are seeking to deny aid. It distributes seedlings to Palestinian organisations—that is what it does—in the Gaza. It alleviates Palestinian poverty in Gaza—that is what it does. It provides aid to families—

Senator Abetz: Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to direct relevance. The minister was asked whether he was aware of a video which directly links the chairman of UAWC with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The PRESIDENT: There is no point of order at this stage. I am listening closely to the minister's answer. The minister has 23 seconds remaining to address the question.

Senator BOB CARR: The UAWC also receives aid from the government of the Netherlands, the European Union, the Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the government of Japan. Their efforts are helping over 8,000 people in Gaza get access to plants and seedlings, 300 farmers receive agricultural goods to improve crops— (Time expired)