Senator Helen Kroger – Estimates question about the Gaza aid flotillas

photo of Senator Helen Kroger
October 20, 2011

Questioned Australia’s position on the Gaza aid flotillas and consular assistance provided to Australians involved.

Senator KROGER: I will go to Israel for a moment. Can you confirm I am right in presuming that the Australian government condemns the Gaza aid flotillas that have tried to break the blockade on the flow of goods and aid there? Am I right in making that statement?

 

Mr Stuart: You are not wrong but there is more to our position than that because we also call for proper movement of humanitarian goods into the Palestinian territories and into Gaza in particular.

Whole interaction with Mr David Stuart (First Assistant Secretary, South and West Asia and Middle East Division, DFAT) and Mr Jon Philp (Assistant Secretary, Consular Operations Branch, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).

Senator KROGER: I will go to Israel for a moment. Can you confirm I am right in presuming that the Australian government condemns the Gaza aid flotillas that have tried to break the blockade on the flow of goods and aid there? Am I right in making that statement?

 

Mr Stuart: You are not wrong but there is more to our position than that because we also call for proper movement of humanitarian goods into the Palestinian territories and into Gaza in particular.

 

Senator KROGER: But we do not support the boats that have been organised by some activists that seek to breach the passage of goods through to Gaza?

 

Mr Stuart: That is right. We do not and we made some quiet efforts with at least one other government to try to help dissuade people organising that from proceeding last time.

 

Senator KROGER: Mr Stuart, can you confirm for me whether there was an Australian on board the last flotilla that I understand was stopped by the Greek authorities?

 

Mr Philp: Yes. That is correct. I am afraid I do not have papers on that with me but I believe there were two Australians, to whom we extended consular assistance.

 

Senator KROGER: We extended consular assistance to them?

 

Mr Philp: Yes, we did. We made representations to the Israeli authorities about proper treatment of any Australians who happened on any ships that did attempt to breach the blockade. When the Greek authorities took action against that ship we then assisted the Australians who were caught up in that.

 

Senator KROGER: Were they taken back to Greece to be charged?

 

Mr Philp: As I said, I do not have papers on this with me, Senator Kroger, so I am doing this from memory. Perhaps I should take it on notice if you would like details. If you want to set out exactly what you would like, I will take it on notice and give you a proper answer.

 

Senator KROGER: I would be interested to know what we know about that, what consular advice was given, what their status is currently, whether they are still there or not, whether the charges been dismissed or have they been prosecuted, and whatever we know about that. Just on that matter then, is there any advice given by DFAT to Australians about our position on being involved in any such unlawful activity because it is not the first time Australians have been on ships. I am concerned whether they understand that we consider this to be unlawful.

 

Mr Philp: I think I should take that on notice just to see exactly what it was we said to people. We tried to contact a number of Australians, as I recall, but whether public advice was given I do not recall.

Link to full Hansard transcript (Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio (20 October 2011).

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