Senator Nita Green – Estimates questions relating to the Australian Government’s response to Iran’s attacks on Israel

June 3, 2024

What actions have the Australian government taken in response to Iran’s attacks on Israel on 13 April?

Senator GREEN: I’ll follow up on some of those questions, and then I’ll go to another topic. What actions have the Australian government taken in response to Iran’s attacks on Israel on 13 April?

Mr Innes-Brown : The Prime Minister and the acting foreign minister issued a statement on that. We have made very clear our opposition to that highly escalatory step taken by Iran. It was such a large attack at a time the region is on a knife edge, in terms of conflict spreading, which is a highly dangerous situation. So, we have issued statements about that and made clear our position. Subsequently, we’ve also issued another batch of sanctions in response to that situation.

Senator GREEN: Just to ask for the specific information—apologies—who and what did those sanctions target?

Mr Innes-Brown : Sure. I’ll just find my notes on this. But we sanctioned a number of individuals and entities, including the defence minister, the head of IRGC Quds Force and a number of businesses that are linked to Iran’s construction of drones and other activities. Yes, one individual and three entities were involved in supplying drones—sorry, that was an earlier set of sanctions. So, we were responding to that situation.

Senator GREEN: Do you know how many individuals and entities in total Australia has sanctioned since protests commenced in late 2022? I don’t know if that’s a date you can go back to.

Mr Innes-Brown : I remember the date very clearly.

Senator GREEN: I’m sure you do.

Mr Innes-Brown : It is 190 in total, both entities and individuals.

Senator GREEN: And have you given an assessment of approximately how many of those individuals or entities were linked to the IRGC?

Mr Innes-Brown : Over 80.

Senator GREEN: I note there have been calls for Australia to take more action against Iran, including to close our embassy. I do think this is an important question to ask and be put on record. I want to understand why a country like Australia has diplomatic relations with Iran.

Mr Innes-Brown : Well, we have diplomatic relations with and an embassy in Iran because it’s in our national interests to do. There’s a range of reasons for having a diplomatic mission. We’re able to register issues of concern, including the issues we’ve been traversing just in the last few minutes. There are occasionally issues that we need to address that are of mutual interest. We have a mission there so we can engage in assisting Australians should they get into difficulties from a consular perspective. Given the situation in Iran, with restrictions on media and misinformation, it’s important to have an on-the-ground presence to have an independent sense of what’s happening, which is extremely valuable. It’s also useful in the sense that some of our close partners do not have a presence and so we’re able to provide insights and convey some messages from time to time as well. There is a range of reasons. We are able to robustly take things up, as I did most recently last week when I saw the Iranian ambassador and raised a number of topical issues. I might note that our new ambassador to Iran took a range of these issues up, including some of the things that we were just talking about as recently as yesterday with the acting Iranian foreign minister, so that they know exactly what we’re talking about.

Senator GREEN: Thank you very much. If I can, I want to move onto another topic—the situation in New Caledonia and some of the work the department is doing. There might need to be a bit of a change at the table.

Senator Wong: Unfortunately, Mr MacLachlan has the—

Senator GREEN: Fortunately or unfortunately? I’m not sure.

Senator Wong: honour of doing both the Middle East and consular.

Senator GREEN: Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for you.

Senator Wong: He’s doing a good job—a great job.

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