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The Australian Labor Party and SIEV X

A media release by Tony Kevin, and an open letter to Mark Latham

"...there is the unfinished national judicial business of SIEV X. Soon you will need to take a public position on the Senate's repeated motions ( three so far) calling for a full powers independent judicial enquiry into the Australian people smuggling disruption program and the sinking two years ago of this suspected illegal entry vessel on which 354 people - including 146 kids and 142 women - drowned in Australia's border protection zone, as their despairing husbands and fathers awaited them in Australia.

Related pages:

Tony Kevin, A Certain Maritime Incident5 August 2004: Tony Kevin's SIEV X book: A Certain Maritime Incident - With impressive courage and determination, Tony Kevin has unearthed the grim and deeply moving story he recounts in this remarkable book, an "always powerfully contested story" and one of "durable national significance" that has "crept into the hearts and consciences of many Australians" and must find its way to the hearts and consciences of many others...

30 October 2005: Tony Kevin's SIEV X 4th Anniversary Speech - "All of us who care - and there are many of us - can use our rights of free speech and free enquiry, and free debate on the internet, to keep the questions about SIEV X alive."

19 October 2005: The SIEV X Landmark of Conscience - "When the evening ended, senators, members of the ACT assembly, officials from museums and planning authorities, and most importantly the refugees themselves, all expressed the same view. You must build it."

18 October 2005: SIEV X four years on: still drowning in spin - Like all disasters in the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, the SIEV X affair will not finish until all questions are answered, all documents held in secret by the Howard government are released, and all those who know things they have not told the Australian people, have been subpoenaed to testify and also tell the full and unabbreviated truth about the SIEV X disaster.

20 March 2004: Tony Kevin still says: SIEV X: Lies, lies and more lies - We will keep on talking publicly about SIEV X and asking questions about it. In that way, the truth will out, new whistleblowers will come forward over time, and the guilty will finally be held to account. This is a major story that is a long way from over.

20 February 2004: The SIEV X National Memorial Project - The SIEV X National Memorial Project is an Australia-wide Young People's Art Collaboration, to design and build a memorial to the people of SIEV X, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, the national capital.

23 July 2003: John Faulkner, The Aftermath of the CMI Inquiry - "John Howard indicated that he was prepared to spend whatever money it took to deter boatpeople from arriving on the Australian mainland. But have there been other costs? What has been the cost of the Howard Government's disruption programme in Indonesia - not just the financial cost? I intend to keep asking questions until I find out. I intend to keep pressing for an independent judicial inquiry into these very serious matters."

22 May 2003: SIEV X and the DFAT cable: The conspiracy of silence - That such a large number of government officials .... were willing to co-operate in withholding the detailed, highly relevant information in the DFAT cable leaves little doubt that we are still far from the full truth concerning the sinking of SIEVX.

20 May 2003: An interview with 2003 Whistleblower of the Year Tony Kevin - Former Australian diplomat Tony Kevin is convinced the SIEV X asylum-seeker tragedy will become the Howard Government's Watergate. "...the public story was not true, it did not hang together..."

MEDIA RELEASE 2 December 2003: The Australian Labor Party and SIEV X: An open letter to Labor's new leader Mark Latham

- from Tony Kevin, SIEV X whistleblower
Email: tonykevin(at)webone.com.au
Website: http://www.tonykevin.com/

Dear Mark,

Warm congratulations on your victory. It was a wise choice by your Party and those who did not vote for you will soon be glad the vote went this way too. You do represent hope for change towards a more compassionate and law-abiding Australia, where the weak and defenceless in our community are not kicked in the teeth by a ruthless and uncaring government. Your concern for the poor and marginalised will in time be recognised as also extending to protecting the dispossessed and excluded who have sought refuge with us.

But meanwhile, there is the unfinished national judicial business of SIEV X. Soon you will need to take a public position on the Senate's repeated motions ( three so far) calling for a full powers independent judicial enquiry into the Australian people smuggling disruption program and the sinking two years ago of this suspected illegal entry vessel on which 354 people - including 146 kids and 142 women - drowned in Australia's border protection zone, as their despairing husbands and fathers awaited them in Australia.

The questions that the sinking of SIEV X raises go directly to questions of arrogant defiance of Australia's rule of law by our current national government and our highest national security agencies acting under that government's orders. Your own party has invested great political effort in the Senate in trying to get to the bottom of SIEV X, despite being fobbed off by a contemptuously arrogant Howard government which still considers that these asylum-seekers' lives were of no importance. SIEV X is about how 353 people were killed, whether our national security agencies have clean hands in that story, and whether under intense Ministerial pressure senior officials are still being forced to cover up the truth of what they know.

SIEV X is not going to fade away as an issue of potentially serious criminal accountability in Australia. It is firmly on the national agenda, and it has a lot of public history already. The three very clear motions passed by the Australian Senate in 2002 and 2003 were inspired in particular by the tireless investigative work of Senators Jacinta Collins, Peter Cook and John Faulkner.

Like the "Voyager" disaster, the sinking of SIEV X will have finally to be confronted.and dealt with by an Australian government in power: a government that will have the political courage to reopen the most highly classified files of the Australian people smuggling disruption program and Operation Relex and call on very senior witnesses to testify under the powers of a judicial inquiry, in order to reveal finally to the Australian people what is the full truth about the sinking of SIEV X.

Meanwhile, I hope that as the new leader of the Labor Party you will answer with a resounding and unequivocal Yes, if you are asked either of these two questions in days ahead :

"Do you support the series of passed Senate motions calling for a full powers independent judicial inquiry into the sinking of SIEV X ?

If you become Prime Minister, will you undertake to implement this Senate demand?"

- Tony Kevin, Canberra, 2 December 2003

A selection of what Labor Senators have said about SIEV X over the past year:

Senator Faulkner, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, on 25 September 2002, Senate Hansard page 4920:

"And what about the vessel now known as SIEVX, part of the people smuggling operation of the notorious people smuggler Abu Qussey? That vessel set sail on 18 October 2001 and sank on 19 October 2001, drowning 353 people, including 142 women and 146 children. Were disruption activities directed against Abu Qussey? Did these involve SIEVX?

I intend to keep asking questions until I find out. And, Mr Acting Deputy President, I intend to keep pressing for an independent judicial inquiry into these very serious matters. At no stage do I want to break, nor will I break, the protocols in relation to operational matters involving ASIS or the AFP. But those protocols were not meant as a direct or an indirect licence to kill."

And on 26 September 2002, Senate Hansard pages 5006-5007:

"I have been asking questions for months about Australia's involvement in disrupting and dismantling people-smuggling syndicates in Indonesia. I am still not satisfied by the answers I have received. The disruption policy is undertaken by the Australian government and funded by the Australian taxpayer, yet the Howard government has so far avoided parliamentary scrutiny of this policy.

The government claims that its policy of disruption has had a significant influence on the decline in the numbers of people trying to get to Australia illegally. In March this year the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Mr Ruddock, cited the government's policy of physically disrupting the work of people smugglers as one of the main reasons for the decline in asylum seeker boats coming to Australia. We know disruption includes physically disrupting the people-smuggling syndicates and the asylum seekers who seek assistance. We know from the Sunday program and from evidence given by the AFP that an Australian by the name of Kevin Enniss was involved in the people-smuggling disruption program. We know that Enniss worked for the AFP and that he was paid over $25,000 by the AFP. We know Kevin Enniss admitted to reporter Ross Coulthart from the Sunday program that he had paid Indonesian locals on four or five occasions to scuttle people-smuggling boats with passengers aboard.

When these claims were made on the Sunday program, I called at the time for a full, independent judicial inquiry into those serious matters. The government have dismissed the calls. They still are ignoring the calls for a proper inquiry. But the denials of the government on these issues are not sufficient. It is not enough to say, as Senator Ellison and Mr Downer have said publicly today, that it has never been the policy of the Australian government to sabotage people smuggling vessels. It is not enough to say that the Australian government has never sabotaged vessels or directed that they be sabotaged. There was the usual huff and puff-they denounced the opposition and criticised us for daring to ask what they described as 'outrageous questions'.

I say that asking these sorts of questions and demanding answers is the responsibility of the opposition. It is the responsibility of the government to answer those questions. I want to know, and I intend to keep asking until I find out, about a number of things. How far does disruption go? What are the limits, if any? I want to ask, and I want an answer to, precisely what disruption activities are undertaken at the behest of, with the knowledge of or broadly authorised by the Australian government. I want to know, and I think the parliament and the Australian public are entitled to know, what directions or authorisations ministers have issued in relation to disruption. I want to know how the policy of disruption is funded. We would like to know who funds the policy of disruption. How much does it cost to fund the policy of disruption? Who actually receives those taxpayers' moneys for the disruption program? Who tasks the Indonesian officials or others to disrupt people smugglers or the clients of people smugglers?

We also want to know whether Australians are involved in disruption activities in Indonesia. And it is perfectly reasonable for us to ask about the accountability mechanisms that are in place in relation to these activities, particularly when the MOU governing these particular matters collapses: the commissioner for the AFP and the minister cannot say why; the commissioner cannot even say he asked why that occurred. We want to know whether Kevin Enniss was actually involved in the sabotage of vessels, as Kevin Enniss has claimed. We want to know if others were involved in the sabotage of vessels and we want to know why the government is avoiding an independent inquiry into these very important issues. Nothing else will suffice in these circumstances".

Senator Cook, Wednesday 23 October 2002, Senate Hansard page 5753: (in presenting the CMI Report)

"SIEVX was a genuine tragedy. Many of the issues we are concerned about have not been fully resolved, but they need to be. We recommend that there be an independent inquiry into all the events surrounding SIEVX, including the extent of the so-called 'disruption activities'. Since our inquiry concluded, more information has come into the public domain through media reports. Senator Faulkner has spoken about this in the Senate. To do the job properly a full judicial inquiry is necessary."

Senator Faulkner, Wednesday 23 October 2002, Senate Hansard page 5762

"The committee also spent a considerable amount of time on the issue of the vessel now known as SIEVX. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister told the Australian people that nothing could have been done by Australia to save the people who drowned when that vessel sank, because it sank in Indonesian waters. We now know that the advice the government received did not support that claim. The People Smuggling Task Force notes on 23 October state that the vessel was likely to have been in international waters south of Java. The DIMA intelligence notes on 23 October noted that SIEVX sank in international waters and well within Australia's air surveillance zone, at approximately 60 nautical miles south of the Sunda Strait. Have we ever had a correction or an apology from the Prime Minister on that matter? Of course we have not. We have looked into the intelligence side of SIEVX and at how much Australian authorities knew about its departure and its condition.

But there are broader concerns that go beyond just those issues, go to the whole heart of the people-smuggling disruption program in Indonesia. Who exactly was involved? What accountability was there? Who funded this? How much was provided? Who was responsible for ensuring that this program was operated within reasonable constraints? What sorts of activities were involved in stopping those particular vessels from departing? I am pleased that the CMI committee recommends that a full and independent inquiry be held into those matters.

I hope the government does that; I hope the government takes up that recommendation and acts upon it. But if they do not, I can promise senators and the Senate that the Labor Party senators, at those forums available to us, will progress those issues. We will ask the questions. We will attempt to get to the truth of those particular matters and also find out why the MOU between the AFP and the Indonesian police collapsed. I have still been unable to establish that, but I will work on it; we will keep going."

Senator Faulkner, speech on SIEV X and the Australian government's people smuggling disruption program at Fabian Society in Melbourne, 23 July 2003:

"I believe the only way we can be certain that nothing illegal or inappropriate has occurred under the auspices of the disruption program is through a full and independent judicial inquiry. I have consistently called for such an inquiry to be established. The CMI Committee in its final report also called for such an inquiry. Its establishment remains a high priority."

Senator Cook, on SBS News, 24 July 2003:

"This is like a 747 full of people going down. 350-odd people drowned, and in horrific circumstances. Several were recovered. The stories of those recovered make terrible reading. It's the stuff of nightmare....

Because it is screaming for justice. This is a huge tragedy. This is 353 dead people on our watch, on our turf....

The fact now that it appears to have occurred in international waters and in a zone patrolled by the RAAF, suggests we should, I believe, look more thoroughly at what happened."

Tony Kevin, Canberra, 2 December 2003

For further information contact Tony Kevin.

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