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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5013

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (3:33 PM) —I seek leave to make a personal explanation on the grounds that I have been misrepresented.

Leave granted.

Senator FAULKNER —I have now had an opportunity to look at the AFP's media release which was referred to by the Minister for Justice and Customs in question time in the Senate today and which goes under the heading `Senator Faulkner has got it wrong'. On examination of this media release let me make a couple of points about where I have been misrepresented in the media release, which appears as a statement authorised by Commissioner Keelty. In that media release Commissioner Keelty makes a number of assertions. I will respond to them individually. The first is this:

The facts available to but apparently ignored by Senator Faulkner are:

I will go to these facts and deal with them. Dot point 1 is:

Kevin Enniss was operating out of Kupang some 1,300km from the departure point of SIEV X, and had nothing to do with either the vessel or its passengers.

So what? I have never alleged that Enniss was involved in sabotaging SIEVX. In fact, I have never alleged that SIEVX was sabotaged. I find it extraordinary that that statement appears in the commissioner's press release.

Senator Hill —So who briefed the Australian?

Senator FAULKNER —How would I know?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Hill, if you want to seek leave to speak, you can do so later.

Senator FAULKNER —Dot point 2 is:

Kevin Enniss ceased his operations with the Indonesian National Police at least two or three weeks prior to the departure of SIEV X.

Again, so what? I have never drawn any link between Enniss and SIEVX, and I do not know at this stage what other Australian agencies Kevin Enniss may have been working for. I do not understand why that dot point has been included by the commissioner in this release. Dot point 3 is:

Kevin Enniss has been formally interviewed since the Nine Network's Sunday Program alleged his involvement in the sabotaging of vessels. He emphatically denies any such involvement

All I can say is I am not aware of the content of any interviews of Kevin Enniss by the AFP. I am not aware of his denials. I can say this: Enniss's claims have not been contradicted on the public record.

Senator Brandis —They have now.

Senator FAULKNER —Let us deal with that. Let us go to the final two dot points, which go to the AFP and its concerns or complaints with the Nine Network and the Australian Broadcasting Authority. The first of these is:

There appears to be no recording of this allegation only the recall of the journalists who have refused to be formally interviewed as part of the AFP investigation.

I simply do not know the details of this. I have absolutely no intention of involving myself in some barney between the AFP and the Nine Network. However, I think a reasonable question to ask is: is Ross Coulthart of the Sunday program to be regarded as a less credible witness than Kevin Enniss? I think senators may care to ponder on that. Commissioner Keelty appears not to understand the seriousness of the allegations that have been made on the Sunday program.

Senator Hill —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I submit to you that this is now going beyond a personal explanation.

Senator FAULKNER —You haven't even heard a sentence yet—

Senator Hill —No, the right to give a personal explanation is strictly limited. It is not supposed to be an opportunity for a debate. Senator Faulkner is entitled to say where the misrepresentation has occurred, which he has done. He now wants to get into a debate in relation to the police commissioner.

Senator FAULKNER —You have not listened—

Senator Hill —I was listening to what you were saying and you were clearly going beyond making a personal explanation, which followed a claim that you had been misrepresented. I therefore respectfully suggest, Mr Deputy President, that you use the standing orders to bring Senator Faulkner to task.

Senator Brandis —Mr Deputy President, can I speak to the point of order?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Brandis, please resume your seat. At this stage I will just make a comment in respect of the point of order that has been taken by Senator Hill. Senator Faulkner should confine his remarks to the matter of the personal explanation, and I think it would be in the interests of this matter now if, having advised the chamber of that, Senator Faulkner continued his personal explanation.

Senator FAULKNER —As I was about to indicate, part of the reason that these inaccuracies are contained in the media release from the AFP today, which so badly misrepresents what I have said, is that the concerns that I have aired go well beyond the AFP.

Senator Hill —Your ruling is simply being abused, Mr Deputy President.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —You need to take a point of order rather than call out from your chair, Senator Hill. Senator Faulkner, I remind you that it is a matter of personal explanation. I draw you attention to that and I ask you to confine your remarks to that.

Senator FAULKNER —As I have said, this press release says:

Senator Faulkner's choice to ignore the facts is regrettable.

It goes on:

The AFP has never been involved in the sabotaging of vessels either directly or indirectly.

Those sentences are in the one paragraph. I indicate very clearly that I have said that these matters should be thoroughly investigated by a full independent judicial inquiry. These are matters of public concern—

Senator Hill —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Faulkner is clearly debating the issue. He is going well beyond the usual bounds of making a personal explanation, having claimed to have been misrepresented. There are times, under our rules, for debate. This is not the time.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —On that point of order: Senator Faulkner, I remind you that you should confine your remarks to the matter of personal explanation.

Senator FAULKNER —The commissioner has indicated that I could have clarified his position at a meeting of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee. He does indicate in his press release that he has offered a further private briefing. The fact is that these are matters of public concern. They ought to be dealt with in an open way.