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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4185


Senator ABETZ (Tasmania) (16:58): It is important for us to consider what is actually being asked of us today and what Senator Anning's motion is asking us to consider. The action part of the motion reads as follows:

... calls on the Australian Government to:

(i) maintain scrupulous oversight of Australian aid to the Palestinian Territories ...

I would have thought, even for Senator Gavin Marshall, that would not be an important issue that needs a lot of consideration. I would have thought everybody in this place would be able to give a yes or no answer to whether we should maintain scrupulous oversight of Australian aid to the Palestinian territories. Then the second part says:

... demand proper investigation into the content and delivery of education services provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

At a time when it has become very apparent that the Palestinian Authority are substituting aid to enable them to support what they call the 'Martyrs Fund'—in other words, the suicide bombers who are seeking to destroy the state of Israel—I think those sorts of questions are rightfully asked, especially when you consider that Israel is the only beacon of democracy in the Middle East.

It is the only beacon of a society that believes in the rule of law. It is the only society and body politic that has regular elections. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority continue in office. I think they had their last election 11 years ago—whereas in Israel the Knesset have had members who have been of Arab origin, I think about a third of them. There have even been people in the Knesset who have believed in the destruction of the state of Israel. That is how pluralistic a society Israel is. That is why it is such a beacon in the Middle East. And, sadly, that is why certain people want to destroy it. If our aid is unwittingly assisting the destruction of the state of Israel—the beacon that it is of democracy, of the rule of law, of pluralism—I think that is something that is a proper matter for this chamber to consider, and consider in the terms of Senator Anning's motion.

So this matter is something that is worthy for us to consider. I support the suspension of the standing orders and the final motion, which really is about the issues at stake in the Middle East. Some of those who serve on the Senate Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade may well be aware of the questions I have been asking about these issues over a number of years. They are real, live issues. They have been aired and ventilated in the Senate committee process. Indeed, the media have now been exposing it as well and, therefore, it is very timely that Senator Anning should come to this place with a motion of this nature. It does not seek to resolve the Middle East conflict. All it seeks to do—and I re-read the action part of the motion—is call on the Australian government to 'maintain scrupulous oversight of Australian aid to the Palestinian territories'.

I trust that everybody would want scrupulous oversight of all Australian aid, but there is a particular concern in relation to the Palestinian Authority, that I have already outlined, and to demand proper investigation into the content and delivery of education services provided by the United Nations. Similarly, one would want proper oversight of all United Nations aid, but in this particular circumstance there are very real and detailed allegations as to how funding is being misused. In those circumstances it is a real, live issue.

It is a matter that deserves the consideration of the Senate. I, for one, commend Senator Anning for bringing the motion forward and for having the determination to move the procedural motion to overcome the fact that Labor and the Greens sought to deny leave.

Debate interrupted.