This is a key question at the heart of the SIEVX issue.
A number of theories have been put forward by commentators. Some believe that the sinking was the inevitable result of a greedy people smuggler grossly overloading a leaking hulk by more than twice its load limit in order to ruthlessly maximise profits. Others theorize that the boat was deliberately sabotaged as a deterrent to halt the people smuggling trade from Indonesia to Australia.
It can be difficult to imagine any Australian complicity in such a tragedy. But
it is important to note that at the time of the sinking Australia, with the assistance of special units of Indonesian police, was involved in a covert disruption program targetting people smugglers operating inside Indonesia. Disruption tactics included establishing 'sting' shipping companies in strategic locations and selling passage to asylum seekers on phoney voyages to Ashmore Reef & Christmas Island and keeping their money so they could not buy places on other boats.
One informant connected with the disruption program boasted to Channel 9 reporter, Ross Coulthart that he had arranged for Indonesian locals on four or five occasions to scuttle boats packed with asylum seekers. He claimed that as the boats were sunk close to land so everyone got off safely, there was no cause for concern!
To date no direct link has been established between the disruption program and the sinking of SIEVX. However, this possibility cannot be ruled out, given that SIEVX sunk at the height of this program and only a week after the People Smuggling Taskforce discussed 'beefing up' disruption.
The Senate is so concerned about this possibility that it has passed three resolutions calling for the government to set up an independent judicial inquiry into the people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia and the sinking of SIEVX.
To find out more about the disruption program see the sources listed in our SIEVX Reading Guide.
See in particular, Senator John Faulkner's three adjournment speeches on the disruption program. Also listen here to Senator Faulkner's chilling "Licence to Kill" speech.