Senate debates

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Questions without Notice

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

2:58 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

The first point I would make to the senator is that UNRWA has been funded by Australian governments of both stripes since 1951 and is also funded by our closest partners—the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. We also know—and this is relevant—that currently about 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering in UNRWA facilities. Thousands of its staff are involved in the humanitarian response.

I would make the point that the government, as DFAT said in estimates, have agreements with UNRWA that prohibit Hamas or any other terrorist organisations from receiving funding. These requirements are closely monitored and applied by DFAT. I also would say to you—and I'll provide further information when I find it—that further consideration by the department did occur in the context, I think, of the 2022-23 budget.

What I would say to you is this: there are two very clear facts about UNRWA. The first is that UNRWA is the only organisation capable of delivering assistance into Gaza. And, in a context where you have 400,000 Palestinians starving, a million facing starvation and 1.7 million people displaced, that does matter. The other irrefutable fact is that serious allegations have been raised, which is why the government has paused funding and is engaging with UNRWA and with partners, including in the context of the investigations which have been raised. (Time expired)


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