Joint media release:

  • Senator Claire Chandler, Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs

The Coalition does not support the Albanese Labor Government decision to release $6 million in paused funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) ahead of, and without coordination with, key partners especially the United States.

The Hamas attacks of 7 October 2023 saw the largest loss of Jewish life on a single day since the Holocaust, have precipitated a humanitarian catastrophe for Palestinians in Gaza used as human shields by Hamas, and nearly six months later continues to see hostages held by Hamas.

No Australian taxpayer dollars should go to support any organisation whose staff or operations may support, incite, or undertake terrorist actions the likes of which we saw on 7 October.

Allegations of failings within UNRWA are longstanding but took on even greater consequence when UNRWA employees were stood down as a result of potential involvement in the October 7 attacks. The Albanese Government was correct to pause Australian funding to UNRWA and is acting in a premature and reckless way by restoring it ahead of the finalisation of the UN-initiated reviews.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s decision to refuse to release the advice on which this decision was reached is completely unsatisfactory and lacking in transparency.

Many questions have been left unanswered including which “partners” were consulted and what verifiable undertakings have been secured to guarantee Australian dollars go to genuine need, not terrorist sympathisers.

The Prime Minister promised to “make sure that every dollar Australia contributes, as would the other contributors like the US and Canada, goes to helping people on the ground who really need it.”

So why has the Albanese Labor Government made this decision, directly contradicting the approach of the United States who await the outcomes of the investigation into UNRWA and in the interim are pursuing alternate means of delivering more humanitarian assistance?

Minister Wong’s responses today of “I don’t know, what I don’t know” gives no reassurance that this Labor Government has undertaken the necessary work to ensure that any reinstatement of funding to UNRWA comes with stronger and verifiable accountability conditions. Such conditions should be applied in concert with a major partner like the United States, whose leverage is essential to achieve change in UNRWA operations and mandate.

The Coalition supports the other additional assistance and international cooperation announced today that seeks to secure more effective delivery of more assistance to innocent civilians in Gaza facing dire needs.

Ultimately, the Albanese Labor Government should have continued to withhold funding from UNRWA until investigations are complete, redirected this funding to other aid mechanisms and only moved to reinstate UNRWA funding with strong and verifiable conditions that are applied in lockstep with partners like the US.

The Coalition reinforces the call for hostages taken by Hamas on 7 October to be immediately and unconditionally released. The ceasefire the world seeks in this war that Hamas started on 7 October could be swiftly secured if Hamas released the hostages and surrendered its terrorist operatives and infrastructure.