24 July 2003

Nearly a year after delivering a series of three powerful short adjournment speeches to the Senate last year on the people smuggling disruption program and its possible relationship to the sinking of SIEVX, Senator John Faulkner returned to the issue when he addressed a meeting of the Australian Fabian society in Melbourne last night.

About 100 people braved the cold and rain to cram into the meeting room of Melbourne's New International Bookshop to hear the Senate Opposition Leader speak. Below is a transcript of the speech as delivered - checked against the original text on Margo Kingston's Web Diary. (See ALP website for complete paper including references)

Senator Faulkner spoke for about forty minutes and spent another forty minutes fielding questions. Included below are all questions asked relevant to SIEVX.

GARY JUNGWIRTH (Chair of Fabian Society): ...Tonight I'm very pleased to welcome Senator John Faulkner, the ALP Senate Leader, to our discussion night tonight.

'SIEVX and after' is the broad topic that John will speak about - the Senate Inquiry into the Tampa and SIEVX Affairs - some of those issues are issues about morals and ethics, what type of Australia we are - issues which in previous eras would have brought down an Australian government and a Prime Minister... but Howard and the government seem to have escaped from some it. But people like John Faulkner and others are taking a hard line within the Senate Inquiry and trying to get the truth to the community so that we are able to debate it and see the true facts of it.

When you read a little about the SIEVX affair - and I'm very grateful to one of the Fabian Executive members - 'Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel' - I got to the bottom of what it actually meant last night. When that boat came sailing along, while we've been told that it sank in Indonesian waters in fact it was most likely in international waters and what does that say about our reputation in terms of rescuing innocent people. Without further editorial, again I'm very grateful for Senator John Faulkner to come here tonight...

SIEVX & After
by John Faulkner

Well thanks Gary, and its my pleasure to be with you.

In February last year the Labor Party, with the agreement of the minor parties in the Senate, established a Senate Select Committee to examine fully the children overboard incident. We wanted that inquiry, called the Certain Maritime Incident Committee or CMI Committee, to uncover the truth about the children overboard lie - the how, when and why of the Howard Government's deceit.

While the CMI Committee enabled us to investigate the children overboard lie, it also allowed us to scrutinise many aspects of the Howard Government's asylum seeker policy.

Today, because of the work of that Committee - especially the work of my colleagues Jacinta Collins and Peter Cook, we know a great deal more about the Government's response to asylum seekers than otherwise would be the case. David Marr, who co-authored Dark Victory, available I note outside in the bookshop, believes that if it were not for the CMI Committee most of this information would not have been revealed to public scrutiny until 30 years after the event. The exhaustive cross- examination of witnesses would not have taken place.

The response to boat people or asylum seekers was the main focus of the Howard Government in the lead up to the last federal election. The Government's strategy was based on politicising the asylum seeker issue for electoral advantage. It wasn't just the Tampa episode, or the bald faced lies about kids being thrown overboard, it was a systematic campaign to engender public fear about asylum seekers and the need to protect our borders against those asylum seekers at all costs.

But, what has interested me most of all about the Howard Government's asylum seeker policy is the largely unknown element of the policy - to deter and disrupt asylum seekers in Indonesia [sic] - the so called disruption program.

And tonight I want to mainly focus on the disruption program - the most clandestine part of the Howard Government's people smuggling policy. Very substantial resources in the Australian Embassy in Jakarta have been used to support this policy and yet we still know little about the program. What we do know raises serious questions and warrant serious answers.

Now it may surprise you to know that it was actually the Liberal Senators on the CMI Committee who wanted to expand that Committees' terms of reference so that all aspects of the Government's anti- people smuggling policy could be examined. Originally the CMI Committee was only going to look to the kids overboard issue.

Labor agreed to their proposal. The Liberals thought that this expansion would be politically expedient. They thought they could expose the behaviour of desperate asylum seekers and "dehumanise" them. And how wrong they were. I believe this was a real political own goal because it gave us a capacity to raise questions regarding the Tampa, SIEVX and the Government's disruption policy.

Now what the Government has claimed that Operation Relex - and Operation Relex was an operation which aims to deter asylum seeker vessels approaching Australia through constant sea and air surveillance between Australia and Indonesia - while it claimed that operation had a significant impact on deterring asylum seekers from taking risky voyages to Australia by boat, I'm sure the SIEVX also had a very great impact.

The people smuggling vessel now referred to as SIEVX was organised by people smuggler Abu Quassey. On the 19th October 2001, a day after the SIEVX set sail for Australia, the vessel suddenly sank. Three hundred and fifty three people, including 142 women and 146 children drowned. After a night in the water, two fishing boats rescued just 44 survivors from the SIEVX.

The news that SIEVX had sunk killing around 350 passengers received worldwide coverage. This coverage did send a clear message about the high risks of such a voyage.

Much has been written about the SIEVX disaster since that time. The CMI Committee investigated why the Australian Defence Force, who were surveilling the area where SIEVX sank - they did it by air and by sea - did not sight the vessel.

Even the question of where SIEVX sank has been extraordinarily difficult to nail down. I think its worth briefly examining the evidentiary record.

Two pieces of evidence support claims SIEVX sank in Indonesian waters:

The Defence Department Operation Gaberdine/Op Relex report dated 23 October 2001 stated SIEVX "is suspected to have sunk inside ID TS [Indonesian Territorial Seas]";

Secondly, Defence Head of Staff Brigadier Millen at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta phoned through to Canberra on the 23rd October that SIEVX had "sunk in Indonesian territorial seas".

But four pieces of evidence claim or show that SIEVX sank in International waters:

Firstly, the People Smuggling taskforce notes from the 23 October 2001 state the "Vessel likely to have been in international waters south of Java";

Secondly, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade cable dated 23 October 2001 indicates "The exact position of the vessel at the time of sinking is unknown but it is judged as no further south than 8 degrees south latitude on a direct line from Sunda Strait to Christmas Island";

Thirdly, a Department of Immigration Intelligence Note,the same day - 23rd October states "At about 1400 hours on Friday [the 19th of October], when approximately 60 Nautical Miles south of the Sunda Strait, the boat began taking water and finally capsized and sank at about 1500 hours"; and

Fourthly, a report from the Harbourmaster's office at Sunda Kelapa in North Jakarta dated the 24th of October 2001 indicates that the fishing boats who rescued the survivors did so from international waters.

Now given this evidence how could John Howard have claimed during the election campaign that SIEVX "sank in Indonesian waters, not in Australian waters. It sunk in Indonesian waters and apparently that is our fault". John Howard's words.

Now as far as the Australian Defence Force is concerned I'm sure that it would be in their interest to end the public debate over Operation Relex surveillance at the time of SIEVX's sinking. And the best way to do that is to have as much information on the public record as possible about the ADF's operations.

I note the ADF worked assiduously to cooperate with the CMI Committee - even when the Government and Defence Minister Robert Hill were deliberately obstructive.

That said, and I want to make this clear, we have seen no evidence to support claims that the Australian Defence Force ignored the plight of those onboard SIEVX. And without any evidence I will draw no such conclusions.

But Labor Senators won't shirk from seeking answers to questions on these issues. We have not done so in the past and we will certainly not do so if further questions arise.

But regardless, I believe the circumstances surrounding the departure from Indonesia of SIEVX warrant further and closer investigation.

SIEVX survivors themselves have provided information about their voyage that raises serious concern.

Before SIEVX departed it was very low in the water and horribly overcrowded, carrying four times the number of passengers a vessel of its size should carry. About 30 Indonesian police were present. They beat some of the passengers and forced asylum seekers aboard at gunpoint. The police appeared to be actively involved in the people smuggling operation.

SIEVX survivor Issam Ismail's account is a very disturbing one:

"The Indonesian Police were there. They were carrying automatic guns. They were so comfortable. They were the ones who gave the signals with their torches. Turning on the torch was a signal to send out people. Turning off the torch meant stop. That was how it was done. We saw them with our own eyes. They had weapons we had never seen before. The latest brands".

It only took minutes for SIEVX to sink. Bahram Khan, from Jalalabad in Afghanistan, said: "The hull sprang a hole. The mechanic could not fix it and the boat sank."

On the 25th of October 2001 Prime Minister Howard was reported to be seeking more information about whether the reports that Indonesian security personnel forced asylum seekers onto SIEVX at gunpoint were true. Since then the Prime Minister has not made public what information, if any, he received about the situation regarding the departure of SIEVX.

SIEVX was not the only people smuggling vessel to get a send off from Indonesian authorities.

As journalist Lindsay Murdoch from the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2001:

"Boats [from Indonesia] carrying hundreds of people have sunk, drowning all aboard. Some survivors say Indonesian authorities have, at times, helped push boats out to sea knowing they are not seaworthy."

These boats include the KM Palapa which sank heading for the Australian coast. Those on board the KM Palapa were rescued by the Tampa, the Norwegian cargo ship. Passengers on the KM Palapa last year told a court case in Perth that the Indonesian National Police were involved in the people smuggling operation that organised the departure of their vessel from Indonesia.

But there is an untold story of the Howard Government's anti-people smuggling policy - the disruption program - the policy to deter and disrupt people smugglers and asylum seekers from reaching Australia by boat from Indonesia.

Last year I was able to explore the Government's disruption policy to some extent through the CMI Committee and at Senate Estimate hearings.

The people smuggling disruption program can take a number of forms, for example through Australian officials informing people in Indonesia of the dangers and risks associated with people smuggling and the penalties they might face.

I've go no problem with this at all - but there was a more active element.

The Australian Federal Police explained last year, in broad terms, that the primary objective of disruption is to:

"... prevent the departure of the vessel in the first instance, to deter or dissuade passengers from actually boarding a vessel."

The Department of Immigration goes further, indicating that disruption involves the "interception at the actual point of attempting to continue their journey, either by sea or air".

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty informed the CMI Committee that once the Indonesians are tasked to disrupt then the AFP must leave it in their hands "as to how best they do it" .

AFP witnesses at the CMI Committee could not categorically rule out whether, as a result of the people smuggling disruption program:

  • fuel suppliers had been encouraged not to supply fuel to people smuggling vessels;

  • food had not been provided to people smuggling vessels;

  • sugar had been put in the fuel tank of a people smuggling vessel, or that;

  • sand was put in the engine of a vessel .

But what is deeply concerning about the disruption program is that there appear to be no accountability mechanisms - nothing to ensure that Australia's disruption policy does not lead to illegal or life threatening events, either directly or indirectly.

We still do not know if disruption extends to physical interference with vessels, nor do we know what consideration has been given to questions of maritime safety.

Last year AFP informant Kevin Enniss, who admitted to taking money from asylum seekers, also, according to Channel Nine's Sunday program, bragged that he had paid Indonesian locals to scuttle people smuggling boats with passengers onboard on four or five occasions. Mr Enniss claimed that boats were sunk close to land so everyone got off safely. Mr Enniss has since denied involvement in sabotaging vessels in Indonesia .

We do know a number of Australian agencies are involved in the People Smuggling Disruption program. Along with the Australian Federal Police - the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) - they all have a role.

Slowly but surely, details about Government funding and resources to support the disruption program in Indonesia are coming to light.

Specifically in relation to ASIS, Dark Victory reports one Canberra source claimed that the Abu Quassey boat (SIEVX) was a target of ASIS - Australia's Foreign Intelligence Service - which by this stage had been instructed by the Australian Government to disrupt people smuggling operations in Indonesia.

Thanks to our questioning in Senate Committees we now know of the establishment of the Canberra based Joint Agency People-Smuggling Strike Team, consisting of fifteen officers from the AFP and Department of Immigration.

We know of the creation of a PM & C - Prime Minister and Cabinet led People Smuggling Task Force that met on a daily basis before the last election.

We know of a specific protocol between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian National Police to target people smuggling syndicates operating out of Indonesia.

We know of two Immigration positions at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta created to primarily work on people smuggling matters.

We know of two AFP agents working out of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and reporting back to the people smuggling taskforce in Canberra on disruption activities.

And we know of an Inter-Agency Co-ordination Group on People Smuggling at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta involving the Ambassador and the representatives of the Foreign Affairs, Immigration Departments, Defence and also the AFP. We know that disruption activities are a key focus of this group.

Now ladies and gentlemen, last year I began asking questions about Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock's trip to Jakarta in June 2001 and I received very little information in answer to those questions.

But according to - again - Dark Victory, when Ruddock met with the Inter-Agency People Smuggling Group on the 13th of June 2001 at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta he raised the issue of piracy, and why pirates were not targeting asylum seeker vessels.

Dark Victory sources claim that some present at the meeting thought Mr Ruddock might be "thinking of some covert action involving pirates". AFP officer Leigh Dixon expressed frustration at Mr Ruddock's line of questioning and eventually cut him off saying he was unaware of the actions of pirates.

Asked for a response to these allegations Ruddock appeared to confirm the conversation about pirates to the authors of Dark Victory David Marr and Marian Wilkinson when he stated, and I quote:

"There had been a great deal of public comment on that topic around the time of several meetings I had during visits to Indonesia."

Mr Ruddock also provided Marr and Wilkinson with a copy of an article dated the 19th of July 2001 about the issue of piracy. However this article explains little as it simply indicates that piracy was a growing problem in the region, and that pirates primarily target cargo ships not people smuggling vessels. I alos note the article was published a month after Mr Ruddock's visit to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, so it sheds no light on why he would have raised the issue of piracy at the Embassy meeting.

In fact a search for media articles about the issue of piracy before Ruddock's visit to Jakarta in June 2001 just draws a complete blank.

It is unclear why Mr Ruddock raised the issue of piracy at the Jakarta meeting - it is clearly time for Mr Ruddock to explain himself.

According to one of Wilkinson and Marr's sources who attended the same meeting, Mr Ruddock also asked whether people smuggler boats could be stopped by physically interfering with them. Mr Ruddock allegedly asked in a joking tone: "Well could we interfere with the boats?" Apparently in response Federal Agent Dixon reminded Mr Ruddock of obligations under Australian law. The conversation ended when Ruddock laughed the matter off and said it was just a concept in the air.

Now Mr Ruddock has not said whether the issue of sabotage was raised at this meeting. Mr Ruddock has told David Marr and Marian Wilkinson: "I have no formal recollection of any of those discussions which I am prepared to discuss". Again, we say Mr Ruddock should come clean and say what he knows, or knew, about any covert operations involving people smuggling vessels in Indonesia.

Since the publication of Dark Victory Commissioner Keelty has confirmed that AFP Officer Leigh Dixon, who was present at the June 2001 meeting, discussed this matter with his superiors. Commissioner Keelty has told a Senate Committee that when he heard about the June meeting in Jakarta involving Mr Ruddock he "expressed concern".

Well let me say I have serious concerns about what took place at that meeting on 13 June 2001 at our embassy in Jakarta. I can assure you that we will continue to investigate what transpired at the meeting and what resulted from it.

In September 2001 the Indonesian Government cancelled the protocol on people smuggling between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian National Police. We still don't know why the protocol was cancelled. I have been informed by highly placed sources that the cancellation was at least in part due to the Indonesian Government's concerns about the disruption program.

Despite the cancellation of the protocol, the Australian Federal Police and their Indonesian counterparts agreed that disruption activities could continue, on a case by case arrangement.

From documents tabled at the CMI Committee it is clear that such activities did continue after the protocol was cancelled. According to the Government's People Smuggling Task Force notes on the 12 October, just a week before the SIEVX sank, the taskforce discussed ways of "beefing up" disruption activity in Indonesia. According to Commissioner Keelty this was probably an "operational call along the lines of: 'The departure of the vessel is imminent; we'd better be doing everything we can possibly do'" to stop the vessel."

What I want to know about the disruption program in Indonesia is what precisely Australian or Indonesian authorities were doing in order to disrupt vessels? What activities were acceptable or sanctioned; what were not? What were the checks? What were the accountability measures? How can we be satisfied that lives were not put at risk?

It is all very well for Australian authorities to assure us that everything done in Indonesia to disrupt people smuggling vessels was legal. But given that no accountability mechanisms appeared to be in place, how can we be sure?

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 called for such an inquiry. Its establishment remains a high priority.

Now while the Howard Government was beefing up its disruption program in Indonesia, the world was beginning to focus on the very real threat of terrorism after the attacks in New York on September 11.

September 11 was more than just a wake up call to the nations of South East Asia. It became clear very quickly that al Qaeda was active in our region. In December 2001 the Singapore Government's Internal Security Department arrested and detained 13 members of the al Qaeda- affiliated group Jemaah Islamiah who were planning to bomb a number of sites in Singapore possibly including the US and Israeli Embassies and the Australian High Commission.

The Singapore High Commissioner Ashok Mirpuri, in a letter to the Financial Review in April 2002 indicated "only the blind would have missed the increased religiosity and radicalism of Islam" in South East Asia and went on to say even his Government had been surprised to find that "jihad terrorism" could win converts in Singapore .

It is interesting to note that according to Dark Victory, that while intelligence chiefs in Canberra after September 11 switched their focus and priority to the terrorist threat at home and abroad, Australia's intelligence effort in Jakarta remained strongly focused on people smuggling. This was despite the warnings the United States Embassy in Jakarta gave to the Australian Embassy about the activities of al Qaeda in Indonesia.

Marian Wilkinson has claimed that there's a serious question mark over whether the Government gave the al-Qaeda threat in Indonesia the attention it demanded before the Bali bombings. An intelligence expert even told Wilkinson: "Those of us who believed the threat was there were called alarmists and pessimists, but we called ourselves realists."

Research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at St Andrews University in Scotland, Rohan Gunaratna, has expressed similar concerns. I quote him:

"Despite a dozen Australian citizens and residents having participated in JI and Al Qaeda training camps from Mindanao in the Philippines to Afghanistan, the Government's assessments and operational agencies did not believe that the threat was 'significant' until the Bali bombings happened."

So there is an issue here, because although the Howard Government announced a number of counter terrorism initiatives after September 11 Australia's focus in Indonesia appears to have remained well and truly on the electorally sensitive issue of people smuggling.

Well, could we have been done more in the fight against terrorism in our region?

Let's look at the record. Let's compare the initiatives the Government has taken in our region on people smuggling to those it has taken in the fight against terrorism, particularly after September 11.

In 2000 the Howard Government signed a specific protocol under the existing MOU with Indonesia to "target people smuggling syndicates operating out of Indonesia".

In 2002 Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia to counter terrorism.

In February 2002 and in April 2003 Australia and Indonesia co-chaired a Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. In two to three years time there will be another regional conference on people smuggling.

In March 2003 Alexander Downer announced that the Howard Government would organise in the next year an ASEAN regional workshop on managing the consequences of a terrorist attack as well as arranging with the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific a regional conference on security issues including terrorism. However to date the Australian Government has not organised a regional conference specifically focused on fighting terrorism - despite long and loud calls from Labor to do so.

In early 2002 Australia created the new position of Ambassador for People Smuggling "to promote a coherent and effective international approach to combating people smuggling, particularly in the Asia- Pacific region" according to the government.

In early 2003, almost six months after the Bali Bombings, the Government created the new position of an Ambassador for Counter- Terrorism. Last weekend it was announced that the Counter-Terrorism Ambassador Nick Warner, who had only been in the job for a few months, would now lead the Australian intervention force in the Solomons. What does this mean for Mr Warner's role as Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism?

And don't forget that the Howard Government has tried to link the terrorism and asylum seeker issues. During the last election campaign the Howard Government made the false claim that asylum seekers arriving on boats might be terrorists.

It was the then Defence Minister Peter Reith who first made this outrageous claim in a blaze of publicity - of course without any evidence to support this claim at all.

In the final week of the 2001 election campaign John Howard told the public and I quote:

"I mean you have to be able to say that there is a possibility that some people having links with organisations that we don't want in this country might use the path of an asylum seeker in order to get here." The Prime Minister.

Again, there was no truth to this claim. As ASIO Director-General Dennis Richardson indicated last year, none of the illegal immigrants arriving in Australia by boat to date had and I quote Dennis Richardson "received any adverse security assessment in terms of posing a direct or indirect threat to Australia's security". Richardson debunked the idea at a conference in Hobart in May last year when he said:

"Why would people use the asylum seeker stream when they know they will be subject to mandatory detention?"

The Government's claims that asylum seekers might be terrorists were really low rent politics from a low rent Government. What else would you expect from the same Government who were directing the Defence Department during the 2001 election campaign not to take "personalising or humanising images" of asylum seekers. Put simply, suggesting asylum seekers might be terrorists was just another way to fudge the facts, debase the political process right at the most sensitive time of the electoral cycle during the election campaign.

So when another asylum seeker boat arrived off the West Australian Coast a couple of weeks ago with about 50 Vietnamese people onboard seeking asylum, Mr Howard indicated that he was prepared to spend whatever money it took to deter boatpeople from arriving on the Australian mainland.

Well already an awful lot of taxpayer dollars have been spent. But I ask this question: have there been other costs?

What has been the cost of the Howard Government's disruption program in Indonesia - not just the financial costs?

I said recently in Parliament and I have no reason to change my view:

That the issue of sabotage of people smugglers' vessels has been canvassed by AFP informant Kevin Enniss. I ask these questions: was Enniss involved in the sabotage of vessels? Were others involved in the sabotage of vessels? Do Australian ministers, officials or agencies have knowledge of such activities? And what about the vessel known as SIEVX, part of the people-smuggling operation of the notorious people smuggler Abu Quassey? 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 Quassey? Did these involve SIEVX?

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.

Ladies and Gentleman, I hope you agree that although this issue may not be popular, although these matters may not win many votes, a serious Opposition cannot resile from pursuing them and holding the Howard Government and its Ministers accountable for their decisions and their actions.


ARNOLD ZABLE:I have a question about the continuing agonies of survivors of SIEVX. In Australia there are I think eight survivors. [sic] Three live in Melbourne and all of them are on Temporary Protection Visas. One of the Melbourne survivors is in touch with some of the survivors who live in Norway, Denmark, Canada and Finland and envies them because they all received permanent protection. And the agony of having gone through that trauma has been compounded by the agony of the fact that they still have an uncertain future. Add to it 8,000 others on temporary protection visas. So surely if we are concerned about SIEVX which is unfortunately something we can't do much about then why can't show a bit of compassion to those survivors?

FAULKNER: Well I agree with you. Of course I believe we should show compassion to those survivors and I don't think anyone could imagine the absolute horrors that those people have suffered. I think personally that the survival of 44 people in the circumstances that we now know about is nothing short of remarkable, nothing short of remarkable. In the circumstances, as you know in relation to any of those who find themselves in Australia they are subject to Australian law, they are subject to the current legal framework that exists in relation to any asylum seeker who comes to this country. They are not treated as I understand it, they have not been treated differently to any other individual.

In this particular circumstance I must say that I accept though that their suffering has been extraordinary and almost I think beyond our capacity to comprehend. But the government has made very, very clear in relation to all these people [indecipherable] remain in Australia [indecipherable] depending on that situation. And as I understand it there is no difference between the government's approach in relation to any of those remaining survivors in Australia or the other 8,000 people.

QUESTION: ... Are all people smugglers evil or do we have to look beyond this characterisation... Should we keep on characterising all people who are involved in helping desperate people move around the world at a time when governments are putting up walls... as criminals and demons?

FAULKNER: Well I can only say this to you - what I've seen of this issue - and its mainly focussed on those who are organising and running people smuggling syndicates particularly in Indonesia I consider them evil people, I do consider them evil people. These characters are willing to put ordinary people, human beings, on leaky boats, massively overcrowded, often unfuelled, without adequate provisions, not giving a damn whether the things actually reach their proposed destinations or not, knowing full well what the risks are to human life and limb, I think are properly characterised as evil people, that's just my opinion.

QUESTION: And the Vietnamese man who brought his relatives in a boat...?

FAULKNER: No, I'm not saying that he was evil. I'm not saying the Vietnamese man who brought his relatives in a boat is evil. What I am saying is that those people who are organising those people smuggling syndicates who put people's lives at risk - characters like Abu Quassey. Let's be clear - he and his ilk are responsible for the drowning of 353 people on SIEVX, and whatever other activities may have taken place in relation to authorities having been [indecipherable] whether they be Indonesia, Australia or anywhere else - you have to be consistent in relation to those who organise these people smuggling syndicates. They are in my view, evil. Abu Quassey is in my view a mass murderer - he's a mass murderer and he ought to be identified as such and I don't resile from that, not one inch.

PAMELA CURR: You talked about evil people smugglers. In January 2001 at the request of people here I was asked to make a complaint and pass information to Immigration Compliance Officers and I did so and that information was about Abu Quassey - phone numbers, [indecipherable], accomplices, details about his whole operation. (see 1 & 2) It is information that the Australia [indecipherable] would have had [indecipherable] That was in January 2001 and the reason I was asked to do that was because people told me that Abu Quassey was an evil man and that he will kill a lot of people. How prophetic they were! And these were people who had come to Australia on one of his boats. Now can you explain to me why the Australian government with all this information had not sought to do anything about it. They could have stopped Abu Quassey but they didn't.

And can you explain to me why the Senate Inquiry did not ask one single, solitary asylum seeker to give evidence when these are the very people to whom these things have happened? The 'Children Overboard' boat - I've spoken to a fourteen year old girl who was on that boat and was [indecipherable] for four hours waiting for the navy to pick them up. Why were these people not asked? What is the Senate afraid of? Why don't they go to the source of the information - the people to whom those things happened.

FAULKNER: They're reasonable questions - the first one I can't answer...

PAMELA CURR: But remember that Australia knew about Abu Quassey - they let it happen!

FAULKNER: Look I don't doubt what you're saying to me at all about the information you provided in relation to Abu Quassey. I'm well aware of the fact that Abu Quassey is off the hook. Abu Quassy's back in Egypt and he ought to be in jail and there's absolutely no doubt about that. And we are in the process of trying to understand how that could have occurred. I obviously wasn't aware that you supplied that information to Australian officials at the time. But there are a lot of questions about why Abu Quassey escaped the net and they are very important questions and I'm happy to follow with you privately the information that you provided.

The second issue I can respond to, I do know the answer to that question and that's because there was no jurisdictional capacity for us to do so. At the time none of those people were in Australia - none, not one, none. And there was no capacity for us to hear from them. We did however accept, and created a precedent in doing so, certain written information from people at that time some in Nauru and on Manus Island and other information that came via people who had had contact with some of the survivors on SIEVX. They weren't in Australia and weren't able to come before the Committee and give evidence. It was simply a matter of jurisdiction and logistics and the capacity of Senate Committees to deal with them. Having said that it is important to remember that a range of submissions were made to that Senate Committee that did field evidence [indecipherable] but information that had been provided by those people and I myself certainly followed a great deal of that through as best I could without having had any direct contact with the people involved but having some information from them in an indirect sense including written information before us...

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