Calls For A Judicial Inquiry On SIEVX Continue|
17 November 2002
Two days ago, one of Labor's new voices in the Senate, South Australian Senator Linda Kirk, spoke on the SIEVX Affair and the People Smuggling Disruption Program (PSDP) in Indonesia after tabling a petition from her constituents on these matter earlier in the week.
Senator Kirk's statement is a welcome assertion that the SIEVX issue remains important in Parliament, and she has put down some important markers in the Senate Hansard. We do not agree with all her comments, but her statement is a useful advance on what Labor has said previously in Parliament to link the tragedy of SIEVX with the Australian Government's people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia.
Kirk has again called, as previously Senators Cook, Faulkner, Collins and Bartlett called, for an independent judicial inquiry into SIEVX and the PSDP.
It is heartening that she has responded to her 200 constituents' strong petition. This suggests that similar petitions organised by others to non-governmental Senators in other States may have similar positive outcomes. This is one way to keep up the parliamentary pressure on the issue, after a disappointing and seriously flawed majority Report.
Kirk said that the Committee Report 'raised serious doubts' about the government's role in the sinking of the SIEVX, and that there were 'several gaps in the chain of reporting of evidence'.
She pointed out that: 'Our border protection measures must take into account the international and domestic obligations that Australia has to ensure safety of life. It is for these reasons that there is a growing community sentiment against the way the government handled the SIEVX problems'.
She emphasised that the South Australians who signed this petition are angry, and seeking answers.about government intelligence on a boat that was overcrowded and had potential for disaster.
She challenged the uncontrolled nature of the people-smuggling disruption program in Indonesia. She said it is unclear exactly what people smuggling disruption activities happen on Indonesian territory:
'There are no costings, no legislative mechanisms and no accountability. Recently, a Federal Police informant, Kevin Enniss, admitted to Channel 9 Sunday reporter Ross Coulthart that he paid Indonesian officials to scuttle boats on four or five occasions. It is also claimed that he claimed to be a people smuggler, often taking money from asylum seekers'.
It is important to have this on Hansard, enjoying the protection of privilege, in the context of a petition linking SIEVX and the PSDP.
She concluded her strong statement with these words:
'The parliament and the Australian public do not know specifically what is involved in the disruption of boats departing Indonesia. We do not know what is and what is not acceptable, how much the exercise costs, whether or not the activities are illegal, These questions need to be put before an independent judicial inquiry, because at this stage there is so much Australians do not know and so many unanswered questions that remain... A judicial inquiry can only serve the interests of truth and justice. It has the potential of revealing to the Australian people the true state of intelligence and disruption, the legality of the policies and the improvements that are necessary'. [Click here to read Senator Kirk's full statement