Questioned whether the Australian government had commented on allegations of vaccine stockpiling by the Palestinian Authority and whether this is tied to bigger issues of corruption.
There’s been some criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s recent decision to—they only have a tiny stockpile of coronavirus vaccines and they’ve diverted some of them to VIPs, to soccer players, for example. Has the Australian government commented on that?
Whole interaction with Dr Angela Macdonald (First Assistant Secretary, Global Counter-Terrorism, Middle East and Africa Division, DFAT) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator KITCHING: There’s been some criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s recent decision to—they only have a tiny stockpile of coronavirus vaccines and they’ve diverted some of them to VIPs, to soccer players, for example. Has the Australian government commented on that?
Dr Macdonald : I don’t know that we’ve made any particular comment on that alleged diversion. We do regularly work with UN and other organisations in the Palestinian territories, including the WHO, including to work through entering integrity in their allocation of the vaccines.
Senator KITCHING: I read somewhere that it was seen as feeding into the story of corruption. It was found to have corruption issues itself by the UN audit office. Does this cause concern?
Dr Macdonald : To be very clear, I think the allegations you’re talking about that were found to be in UNRWA itself—
Senator KITCHING: The CEO had to resign.
Dr Macdonald : were in relation to some finance mismanagement irregularities. I don’t think that we’d characterise—
Senator KITCHING: It was embezzlement. They embezzled the money given by countries around the world that was supposed to go to Palestinian authorities and didn’t get there because the officials were embezzling it.
Dr Macdonald : I don’t think that the phrase was ’embezzling’; it was in relation to some very specific financial mismanagement.
Senator KITCHING: The CEO left, though.
Dr Macdonald : That’s correct. The commissioner-general at the time.
CHAIR: Senator, I gave the call for one question.
Senator KITCHING: I’m not very good at one question!