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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 6512


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) (15:04): I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard further information to questions taken on notice from Senator Brown yesterday.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows:

Senator BOB BROWN: 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?

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

Australia consistently and strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure and independent Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state.

The Australian Government has consistently called on all parties to return to negotiations as a matter of urgency.

The Government believes that it is only through negotiation between the two sides that final status issues such as borders, security and Jerusalem can be solved and that a just and enduring peace can be achieved.

A number of countries have chosen to unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state.

Such a step, however, does not change current realities on the ground. That's why the Australian Government believes that direct negotiations are the only true path to peace.

This matter of Palestinian statehood has not yet come before the United Nations General Assembly or the United Nations Security Council (of which Australia is not a member).

Should a Palestinian statehood resolution be introduced to the General Assembly, the Government will consider it carefully and in close consultation with our friends in Israel and the Arab world before determining how to vote.

Senator BOB BROWN: 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?

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

As the Australian Government has consistently made clear, we believe that the only way that a just and enduring peace in the Middle East can be achieved is through negotiations towards a two-state solution.

Australia is a friend and close partner of Israel's, and has a strong and long-standing commitment to Israel's right to security and self-defence.

Australia is also a friend to the Palestinian people, and is making a tangible contribution to the peace process through support for the Palestinian people and the state-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority.

Since 2007 the Australian Government has provided nearly $170 million in humanitarian and institution-building assistance to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian refugees.

The Government recently finalised a five-year development partnership with the Palestinian Authority under which Australia will provide up to $120 million in budget support to the Palestinian Authority, delivered through the World Bank, and scholarships focusing on disciplines critical to institution building.