I have read with considerable concern articles written by Margo
Kingston about the loss of SIEV-X. In "Navy did all it could to find
doomed ship: PM" (Herald, July 1) I was accused of giving false
evidence to the Senate committee and retracting it to avoid
contradicting with evidence from Coastwatch. This is untrue, and I
take personal offence at the accusation.
Hansard records my words on April 4: "We had some information
that a boat might have been being prepared in the vicinity of Sunda
Strait but we had no real fixed information as to when it was going
to sail. Indeed, the first time that the navy knew [it] had sailed was
when we were advised through the search and rescue organisation
in Canberra that [it] may have foundered in the vicinity of Sunda
Ms Kingston has given distorting emphasis to the latter part of my
statement, portraying it as a denial that the navy had any
information about SIEV-X. In my evidence I explained that
unconfirmed intelligence had been received, and later added a letter
of clarification that she absurdly labelled a "retraction".
The letter made the essential point that our intelligence reports
come from sources of greatly varying reliability. Often these reports
conflict, and cannot be solely relied upon to determine air
surveillance patterns or the stationing of ships. This was the case
Those of us charged with the responsibility of sending Australians
into harm's way are prepared to weather criticism of our decisions.
But Ms Kingston's allegations about ordinary sailors ("Mass
drowning case could sink Navy's reputation once and for all",
Herald, June 4) are unjustified. She accused them of deliberately
turning their backs upon people in peril, which is unfair.
The Royal Australian Navy is a highly professional service which
places the highest importance on the safety of life at sea and,
whenever we are able, we will always respond to those in distress.
RAN Maritime Commander Australia,