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SIEV X: still drowning in spin

Today four years ago a boat on its way through the sometimes treacherous waters off the Indonesian coast sunk within the Australian Government's Search and Rescue Zone for ships in distress. Some people were rescued - but not by Australian authorities. Several people cancelled their plans to board the massively overcrowded vessel - and are alive today as a result. Three hundred and fifty-three people, mostly Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers, including 146 children, drowned.

Related pages:

The Sinking of SIEV XA Certain Maritime Incident joins the dots for the first time to reveal a disquieting record of government misconduct, including Australian Federal Police involvement in a people-smuggling disruption program, and an extraordinary combination of stone-walling and professed ignorance by a government dedicated to micro-managing the deterrence of asylum-seeker voyages. Click here for more....

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."

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.

2 December 2003: The Australian Labor Party and SIEV X - An open letter to Labor's new leader Mark Latham, by Tony Kevin, SIEVX whistleblower. "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?"

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..."

SIEV X: still drowning in spin

From Margo Kingston's Webdiary
by Jack H Smit
18 October 2005

Click here to comment on the article

Today four years ago a boat on its way through the sometimes treacherous waters off the Indonesian coast sunk within the Australian Government's Search and Rescue Zone for ships in distress. Some people were rescued - but not by Australian authorities. Several people cancelled their plans to board the massively overcrowded vessel - and are alive today as a result. Three hundred and fifty-three people, mostly Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers, including 146 children, drowned.

The fact that many Australians today know about this massive maritime disaster can be largely attributed to Webdiarist Tony Kevin, who coined the phrase "SIEVX". Tony persistently raised questions around the sinking of the 19-metre vessel and any assumed and avoided government responsibilities around the disaster. It was his initial work, with a small number of subscribers to his emailed notices, that kept the issue alive. One of those subscribers, Marg Hutton, has now gone on the record with her massive internet archive of everything connected with the voyage, the sinking, the media reports and the aspects of the Senate Inquiry dealing with the SIEV X issue.

Tony Kevin's award winning book about this leaky boat, one of the many refugee boats given that Orwellian tag Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels (SIEV), A Certain Maritime Incident - the sinking of SIEV X, outlines all the issues.

Below is what Marg Hutton wrote last Monday on the SIEV X website - and following her remarks are comments from today's press releases from Democrats' Senator Andrew Bartlett, and myself. Readers may want to note from my press release that Howard still tries to tell Australians that his government was "exonerated" by the Senate Inquiry, as recently as two weeks ago in a letter to Robin Rothfield of Labor for Refugees VIC. He's still trying to spin the facts around SIEV X.

And the folks who are trying to get a memorial up on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, have been rebuffed by a Commonwealth veto. The ABC reported this week about the SIEVX Memorial Project facilitated by men's and children's issues author Steve Biddulph:

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says he is disappointed the Commonwealth Government has ruled out erecting a SIEV X memorial on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. A group of artists had approached the Federal Government with the idea of building a memorial to the 353 asylum seekers who died when their boat sank in the Java Sea four years ago. Mr Stanhope says the memorial is more appropriate as a national, not a local, project.'s web mistress Marg Hutton writes this week on her website:

In the last twelve months hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been lost in the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the recent earthquake in India and Pakistan. So why four years after the event does the loss of 353 lives aboard an asylum-seeker vessel enroute to Australia's Christmas Island, still burn in our hearts?

SIEVX was not a 'natural' disaster...

If a government is in the business of both 'beefing up' disruption (ie increasing the danger in embarking on a people smuggler's boat) and scaling back SOLAS (ie providing second class maritime safety response to the boats of asylum seekers) then how can that government not have blood on its hands when a boat sinks and hundreds drown inside its border protection surveillance zone?

Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett said today

The Australian Democrats today acknowledge the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV X where the lives of 353 people were lost.

The SIEV X incident is another reminder of the deliberate attempts by the Howard Government to mislead the Australian public.

The period around the time of the children overboard affair was one of cover ups, lies and a general disregard for human life and suffering, perpetuated by the Federal Government.

The Democrats were responsible for broadening the scope of the Select Committee Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident to investigate not only allegations made in 2001 by the Federal Government regarding children overboard, but also the detail of the expensive and inhumane Pacific Solution.

I met and spoke with husbands in Perth last year who lost their wives and children on the SIEV X and was greatly saddened by their loss and the grief they continue to suffer.

The fact that they are still on TPVs and Bridging Visa E's only adds to their suffering and their inability to get on with rebuilding their lives.

In the light of promised rhetoric from the Government on a culture change in DIMIA, I repeat our call for TPVs to be abolished and for permanent visas to be given to refugees.

Take a moment to remember those three hundred and fifty-three people - fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandparents - our brothers and sisters in the human race - who perished. They needn't have.

Four years on, an "Aussie" missing boat sparks massive search

Project SafeCom Inc.
Media Release
Wednesday October 19 2005 11:15am WST

Today, on the fourth anniversary of the sinking of the unknown refugee boat, dubbed SIEV X by former diplomat Tony Kevin, a boat is once again missing in waters close to Australian maritime territory, but this time the missing boat has sparked a massive search, where thirteen planes, two choppers and two ships are frantically trying to locate four adults and one child since last Saturday.

This week's nervous but appropriate search for the missing Immigration Department vessel off Indonesia, not far from where SIEV X disappeared four years ago, paints a cruel contrast with what many have seen as a shameful lack of action by the Australian Government in locating the refugee boat, perhaps even a deliberate avoidance of responsibilities, or perhaps even sabotage," WA Rights group Project SafeCom spokesman Jack H Smit commented this morning, "and we are reminded of the discriminatory treatment of Australian search and rescue authorities when government department officers themselves are on the receiving end of a distress situation.

While the government was alerted about the possibility of the boat in distress, the Prime Minister lied about the SIEV to the Australian people, and using spin and manipulative statements, Houdini-ed himself out of the range of attacks.

Even a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister lied to the group Labor for Refugees in Victoria in a letter, in which he suggested that the government had been fully exonerated by the Senate at the conclusion of the Inquiry into the SIEV X affair.

This government is far from exonerated. The then Senate leader John Faulkner in a most furious speech in the Senate, and elsewhere, vowed to pursue the unanswered questions and demanded that in future a judicial inquiry should take place into the SIEV X disaster.

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.

Tonight the ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope will open the exhibition of designs for a national memorial for SIEV X (suspected illegal entry vessel). Over the past two years, schools across Australia have been invited to design a memorial to the SIEV X, and more than 200 entries will be on show despite the Acting Immigration Minister, John Cobb, saying the memorial would would not be supported by the federal government.

In memoriam...