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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8634

Foreign Affairs: Palestine

(Question No. 1008)

Ms Julie Bishop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 9 May 2012:

(1) Did AusAID; (a) undertake a direct investigation of the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), (b) refer the concerns about the Palestinian UAWC to any intelligence agency, and (c) seek the advice of any intelligence agency about the alleged activities of the Palestinian UAWC.

(2) How did AusAID determine that no employees or officials of the Palestinian UAWC have links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

(3) In respect of background checks on staff and officials of the Palestinian UAWC to ensure they were not associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were the checks undertaken by, (a) AusAID, and (b) an intelligence organisation.

(4) What due diligence processes does AusAID require of its fellow agencies and organisations working in such environments.

Dr Emerson: The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) (a) Yes.

(b) and (c) usAID consulted on this matter with relevant Australian Government agencies: the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Australian Government Solicitor; the Australian Federal Police; and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

(2) Through thorough examination of material alleging such links, and other relevant material, in consultation with relevant Australian Government agencies and others, AusAID determined that there was no evidence of a breach of the UN Charter Act as a result of AusAID funding of UAWC-implemented activities through World Vision. In particular, none of the material examined demonstrated that assets had been provided, directly or indirectly, to a proscribed entity or that any other entity has, or had, effective control over UAWC's assets.

(3) Under the Australia Middle East NGO Cooperation Agreement (AMENCA) program, background checks on staff and officials of UAWC are the responsibility of World Vision. AusAID consulted with the Department of Foreign Affairs to confirm that UAWC Board members are not listed under the UN Charter Act.

(4) AusAID requires that all those involved in managing and implementing Australia's aid program make all reasonable efforts to ensure that aid funds and resources are not used to support terrorist activity. AusAID's contracts and agreements require other parties to use their best endeavours to comply with the law. The actions required to satisfy these legal and contractual obligations may differ depending on particular circumstances. At a minimum, AusAID expects all development partners :

To know the persons/organisations that are being directly assisted;

To make sure that people/organisations being directly assisted are not listed as terrorist organisations for the purposes of the Criminal Code or listed as proscribed persons or entities for the purposes of the UN Charter Act (1945).

To make sure that directly funded persons/organisations are aware of and obliged to comply with relevant Australian laws, and that they in turn are obliged to make sure that their distribution of the funds or support is made on the same basis.