Questioned Australia’s position on Palestinian statehood.
Has the department provided advice to the Australian government regarding Australia’s vote for Palestinian statehood?
Whole interaction with Mr Dennis Richardson (Secretary, DFAT) and Mr David Stuart (First Assistant Secretary, South and West Asia and Middle East Division, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator EGGLESTON: I have a few questions under that heading, firstly on Palestinian statehood. Has the department provided advice to the Australian government regarding Australia’s vote for Palestinian statehood?
Mr Richardson: We have provided advice around the issue. However, there is not yet a resolution before the United Nations to provide specific advice on.
Senator EGGLESTON: Will that resolution still be coming up in a month or so?
Mr Richardson: It could; it is not entirely clear to us at the moment as to if and when.
Senator EGGLESTON: Where have we stood in the past on this issue?
Mr Richardson: I do not believe a vote has been previously put to the United Nations—is that right, David?
Mr Stuart: That is right. What is being discussed is a possible vote on a resolution that would elevate the Palestinian delegation’s status in the General Assembly. At the moment there is a discussion in the UN Security Council about its application for statehood. Until that discussion is finished and a report provided, the General Assembly will not act. As the secretary said, we do not have a proposal for the General Assembly to take a position on at this point.
Senator EGGLESTON: There have been motions on Palestine put to the UN previously, have there not, but not necessarily about statehood?
Mr Richardson: That is right, not on statehood.
Senator EGGLESTON: What has our position been?
Mr Richardson: It has varied, depending upon the actual wording of the resolution and what the resolution is specifically about.
Senator EGGLESTON: Where do we think this will go? There is kind of observer status classification for organisations like the Holy See and the ILO at the United Nations. Is that a likely possible outcome?
Mr Richardson: We are not sure where it will go.
Senator EGGLESTON: Have the United States or Canada made representations to the department regarding any possible vote by Australia?
Mr Stuart: The United States has made representations to us. I do not believe Canada has.
Senator EGGLESTON: Are we permitted to ask what the United States representation was?
Mr Stuart: No, it was a confidential diplomatic exchange.
Senator EGGLESTON: Yes, of course. Was the department involved in drafting the letter from the foreign minister to the Prime Minister recommending that Australia abstain from any vote on Palestinian statehood?
Mr Stuart: We would not comment on the existence or otherwise of correspondence between ministers.