Questioned Australia’s scrutiny of the Palestinian Authority’s budget and total foreign aid provided.
Do we examine the Palestinian Authority’s budget, which is publicly available? I’m not asking whether we send the auditors in or anything like that, but do we have a look at that which is publicly available?
Whole interaction with Mr Ewen McDonald (Deputy Secretary, DFAT) and Mr Matthew Neuhaus (Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator ABETZ: Now I might go to Israel and Palestine. Who can assist with that? As I promised you, it’s a smorgasbord—a few questions here and there.
Ms Adamson : Mr Neuhaus is on his way to the table.
Senator ABETZ: Do we examine the Palestinian Authority’s budget, which is publicly available? I’m not asking whether we send the auditors in or anything like that, but do we have a look at that which is publicly available?
Mr Neuhaus : It is not something that we focus on.
Senator ABETZ: But do you look at it? I’m not asking for the depth of it; all I asked was: do we have a look at it?
Mr McDonald : For all our programs, we have processes in place to monitor the program—expenditure—
Senator ABETZ: ‘Monitor’ is a good word.
Mr McDonald : We monitor checks and balances, if you like.
Senator ABETZ: Do we know how much foreign aid all-up the Palestinian Authority receives from around the world?
Mr McDonald : We would know that, but we’d have to take that on notice.
Senator ABETZ: Are you able to tell me how much from Australia—if need be, you can take that on notice as well.
Mr McDonald : Yes, we’ll take it on notice.
Senator ABETZ: Does the Palestinian Authority pay families who have family members in prison or have been killed, to quote the Palestinian Authority, ‘in the struggle against Zion’?
Mr McDonald : I’ve seen those reports. Certainly, in relation to our aid program, I can confirm that that’s not the case. I don’t know if Mr Neuhaus wants to add—
Senator ABETZ: I wasn’t asking about the aid program. I’m asking whether the Palestinian Authority, to your knowledge, pay families who have family members in prison or have been killed, to quote the Palestinian Authority, ‘in the struggle against Zion’. I’m not asking where the money is coming from, just whether that is, in fact, a correct statement.
Mr Neuhaus : Yes, there are such payments.
Senator ABETZ: Did the Palestinian Authority’s latest budget boost those payments by 13 per cent?
Mr Neuhaus : I have heard reports of that, but I would have to confirm the detail.
Senator ABETZ: If you could, please. I understand that, with that boost, it is now at a total of $344 million. Could you check that as well.
Mr Neuhaus : We will check that.
Senator ABETZ: Somebody who is better at maths than me asserts that this equals 49.6 per cent of all foreign aid paid to the Palestinian Authority. Whilst I accept foreign aid money may not be used for that purpose, clearly foreign aid money is used for purposes that then frees up this $344 million to encourage the struggle against Zion. I am very concerned about that. With all those questions being taken on notice, I look forward to your responses.