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Monday, 19 September 2011
Page: 6360

Middle East


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:05): My question without notice goes to Senator Conroy, the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What will be Australia's position in the United Nations as the issue of recognition of Palestine as an independent state arises in the Security Council this week?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:06): I thank Senator Brown for his ongoing interest in this area. The Australian government is committed to peace and security in the Middle East and to supporting progress in the Middle East peace process. Australia consistently and strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that will allow a secure and independent Israel to live side by side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state. Australia continues to urge both parties to return to direct negotiations as a matter of urgency as the only way a just and enduring peace can be achieved. Australia is a friend and close partner of Israel and has a strong and longstanding commitment to Israel's right to security and self-defence. Australia is also making a tangible contribution to the peace process through support for the Palestinian people. Since 2007 the Australian government has provided nearly $170 million in humanitarian and institution-building assistance to the Palestinian Authority and refugees. On 18 September in New York, Foreign Minister Rudd and Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad signed a five-year development partnership with the Palestinian Authority, which includes regular budget support delivered through the World Bank and scholarships focusing on disciplines critical to institution building.

Mr Rudd underlined to both sides Australia's strong support for a negotiated two-state solution during visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories in December 2010 and March and April 2011. The government is closely following developments around a possible UN resolution on Palestinian statehood. We note statements on this matter by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu in recent days. Foreign Minister Rudd is discussing this matter in person as Australia's representative at the UN General Assembly meeting. The government will make a decision on the matter closer to the time of any vote after a text is circulated.


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In view of the fact that many other countries, including Spain, Ireland and Sweden, are supporting the move for recognition of Palestine as an independent state, what are the arguments that Australia sees as impeding its way to agreeing with that position?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:08): As I thought I indicated in my earlier statement, we support a negotiated two-state solution. I thought I was reasonably comprehensive in terms of Australia's support for that process.


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:08): Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. Just to be clear: the question I asked of the minister was not about negotiations; it was about recognising Palestine. What are the reasons that Australia might have for not having joined other similar countries in moving in that direction?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:09): I am happy to take the remainder of that question on notice and seek any further information that the Foreign Minister might like to supply.


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. In view of the complete failure of negotiations since 1967 to move towards the recognition of Palestine or to broker peace between the two states in the two-state solution that the minister is referring to, can he chart some other course to a two-state solution other than recognising Palestine so that the world can then move towards seeing that they live in peace? (Time expired)


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:10): Thank you for offering me the opportunity to resolve the Middle East process in a 60-second answer and provide all my diplomatic skills at the forefront. I am happy to take that on notice, Senator Brown, and defer to the Foreign Minister. I appreciate that I could have a lash outside the off stump, but I think I will let Mr Rudd speak for himself.