Questioned the status of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, travel advice to Israel and Gaza, and assistance provided to Australians in Gaza.
What is the status of the ceasefire between Israel and the terrorist organisation Hamas?
Whole interaction with Mr Marc Innes-Brown (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 McGRATH: I would like to go to the Middle East. What is the status of the ceasefire between Israel and the terrorist organisation Hamas?
Mr Innes-Brown : It is still in operation. It continues. There was a conference recently in Cairo where a significant amount of money was pledged to rebuild Gaza. They are working through, as I understand it, some of the arrangements for allowing the entry of building materials and so on into Gaza for the reconstruction. We have given some money for a monitoring mechanism for that. At this stage, the ceasefire is still in operation.
Senator McGRATH: How much money have we put in?
Mr Innes-Brown : There is a monitoring mechanism. We have given $120,000 to get that up and running. It was a UN initiative to give confidence that the materials that are going to flow back into Gaza for reconstruction will be used for appropriate purposes and not be diverted to other activities.
Senator McGRATH: For the last six months, does the Australian government have an estimate of how many rockets or missiles have been fired from Gaza into Israel and what the effect has been on Israeli citizens?
Mr Innes-Brown : I do not have the exact number to hand, but I think it was well over 2,000, which obviously had a significant impact on the safety and mental wellbeing of the people of Israel.
Senator McGRATH: What is our current travel advice for Gaza and also the state of Israel?
Mr Brown : I am just looking it up on the Smartraveller website. The reception is not good in here.
Senator McGRATH: Maybe we can come back to that. Can you outline the steps taken by the government to assist foreign nationals to leave Gaza during the crisis? Are we aware of how many Australians left Gaza during the recent period?
Mr Brown : I will deal first with the issue of the travel advice. I think you asked explicitly about Gaza.
Senator McGRATH: Gaza and the state of Israel.
Mr Brown : For Israel overall, the current rating is ‘exercise a high degree of caution’. For Gaza, it is ‘do not travel’, which is our highest alert. For the sake of completeness, the West Bank has a rating of ‘reconsider your need to travel’. For areas within a five-kilometre radius of the border with Gaza, it is also ‘reconsider your need to travel’. We did assist a number of Australians to depart Gaza. I may, however, have to take on notice the question about the specific numbers.
Senator McGRATH: Could you, please.
Mr Brown : I am happy to.
Senator McGRATH: How much assistance will Australia provide to the Palestinian territories in 2014-15 and how does that compare to previous years?
Mr Innes-Brown : The amount of program funding for this year is $56.5 million. It is a three per cent increase on last year, which was $54.8 million.