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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2104

Middle East

Senator HANSON (Queensland) (14:36): My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, Australia will contribute an estimated $43.8 million to the Palestinian territories. DFAT further explains that Australia seeks to align its support for the Palestinian Authority's objectives, which include providing incentive payments to terrorists who injure and kill innocent civilian Israelis. There is a sliding scale based on jail term, with the more serious the crime, the more money paid. There is also the Palestinian Authority's Martyrs Fund to pay families of dead terrorists. The program is known as 'slay for pay' by critics. The US is implementing legislative measures to restrict such funding while the PA continues these practices. Does the government intend to pull funding in light of this information? If not, why not?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:37): I thank Senator Hanson for her question. I don't have detailed information with me in the chamber on that matter this afternoon. However, the government takes a measured, considered and balanced approach to its engagement in the Middle East, including with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as you have referred to it. I am happy to take the details of your question on notice and seek further advice from the foreign minister.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson, a supplementary question.

Senator HANSON (Queensland) (14:38): Australia in 2017 pledged US$17.6 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UNRWA, which administers numerous Palestinian schools in the West Bank and Gaza. A year 4 maths exercise is to add up the number of martyrs, while a grade 9 book describes a Molotov cocktail thrown into a bus as 'a barbecue party'. Translated books show content which denies the existence of Israel and encourages violence. Does the government support this educational practice—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Hanson. Time for asking that question has expired. I will ask Senator Payne to respond.

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:39): I heard some of the detail of Senator Hanson's question but not all of it. I will take the details of that question on notice.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson, a final supplementary question.

Senator HANSON (Queensland) (14:39): The prestigious Simon Wiesenthal Center in Washington, in conjunction with the Center for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem, made presentations to members of Congress and the State Department concerning the UNRWA educational material. As a result, the US is withholding UNRWA funding because of education towards terrorism. The most recent report, which translated the latest cohort of schoolbooks for 2018, was released on 6 February. Will the government invite these experts to brief it on the same matters? If not, why not?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:39): The government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is well acquainted with centres like the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other prominent think tanks in this regard. We communicate with them regularly. If there are matters to be followed up out of Senator Hanson's question, I'll take those on notice.