Questioned whether Australian funded aid projects in Palestine had been damaged or destroyed by Israeli military action in Gaza and demolitions of houses and communities in the West Bank.
I was going to pick up on some of the responses to questions on notice and just ask for some further elaboration, please. I am referring to questions from February this year. This is question No. 45. I asked about how many projects funded by Australian aid were destroyed by the Israeli army during the 2014 war in Gaza. Part of the answer said, ‘If any project is affected we respond on a case-by-case basis.’ Could you now update the hearing on what that response has been?
Whole interaction with Mr Marc Innes-Brown (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 RHIANNON: Thank you. I was going to move on to Australian aid to Palestine.
Mr McDonald : Yes, Senator.
Senator RHIANNON: I was going to pick up on some of the responses to questions on notice and just ask for some further elaboration, please. I am referring to questions from February this year. This is question No. 45. I asked about how many projects funded by Australian aid were destroyed by the Israeli army during the 2014 war in Gaza. Part of the answer said, ‘If any project is affected we respond on a case-by-case basis.’ Could you now update the hearing on what that response has been?
Mr McDonald : I will ask Mr Innes-Brown if he has any information on that with him.
Mr Innes-Brown : There were projects. I cannot find the note immediately before me, but we were funding two NGOs and their programs were impacted by the conflict, and there was damage. I might take that on notice and come back to you.
Senator RHIANNON: Okay. It was the APHEDA project and the World Vision project. You gave me some information about it previously. You further responded to say, ‘If any project is affected we respond on a case-by-case basis.’ That is where I was after an update.
Mr Innes-Brown : Sure, and I think we have a dollar amount. Let me find the reference and I will come back to you.
Senator RHIANNON: I am happy for you to take it on notice.
Mr Innes-Brown : I will come back to you, but I do have the information here somewhere.
Senator RHIANNON: Also from February this year, question No. 46 was a question about the 96,000 homes that were demolished when Israel invaded Gaza—if they would be rebuilt. You replied:
In such a complex operating environment DFAT is not able to estimate timeframes for the reconstruction of Gaza.
I am interested in any updated information you have on what reconstruction has occurred—any information at all that you have about that, as it is now about eight months later?
Mr Innes-Brown : Sure. Reconstruction in Gaza is very slow. Some houses which were partially destroyed have been repaired. However, I am advised that reconstruction of totally destroyed houses has not started.
Senator RHIANNON: I am just after information about the Australian aid involvement in this reconstruction—if there is any? That is all I am trying to find out—if there is or if there is not and, if there is, what it is.
Mr Innes-Brown : I will take that on notice.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. With regard to Susiya village—this was in question No. 46 in February last year—generally, I was after an update about the situation in Susiya village. You would be well aware of the situation there. Australian aid projects have been quite important for that village. Periodically, it has been suggested that it might be dismantled—
Mr Innes-Brown : Sure.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you update the situation?
Mr Innes-Brown : I have inquired about this recently. A few months ago it seemed that there were renewed fears that those structures would be demolished. A number of governments, including ours, have made representations about that. At present, there is a planned meeting between the community and the Israeli defence forces. I think that was supposed to take place this week or last week. However, it has been postponed due to the security situation.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you for that update. I think you just said that the government had made representations—
Mr Innes-Brown : Yes. Deputy Secretary Wells raised this with the Israeli authorities during his visit in May. That was at the time when it appeared there were renewed fears that these demolitions were going to take place. So ours and a number of other governments made representations about it at that time.
Senator RHIANNON: Along the lines of?
Mr Innes-Brown : Well, we made representations about it. Obviously—
Senator RHIANNON: Are the representations—
Mr Innes-Brown : Obviously, we were not supportive of the demolitions going ahead.
Senator RHIANNON: Okay—that is all I was asking. Thank you.