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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5010

Senator BRANDIS (3:16 PM) —For the last three nights, Senator Faulkner has tried to set up a diversion by delivering a series of speeches—a trilogy of trivia—in which he has sought to cast doubts upon the integrity, the professionalism and the honour of the Australian Federal Police, the Australian security services and their role in SIEVX. This morning he scored the hit that he was looking for because he scored page 1 in the Australian. Notwithstanding what we have just heard from Senator Ray, we know precisely what Senator Faulkner has been up to when you see the page 1 story in this morning's Australian under the headline `Labor asks: was SIEV X sabotaged?' By innuendo—

Senator BRANDIS —Senator Collins interjects, good question. Senator Collins, do you adopt the allegation by innuendo that SIEVX was sabotaged and that the Australian government was responsible for it? Do you make that allegation, Senator Collins— do you or don't you?

Senator Cook —That's out of order.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Brandis, your remarks should be directed to the chair.

Senator BRANDIS —One of the most dishonest things a person can do is to cast innuendos and say, `I am not really making allegations; I am merely asking questions.' I remember very well when Mr Tony Kevin, who was the source originally of the allegations about SIEVX, said that. He is now, I might say, a Labor Party staffer, as I understand it.

Senator Jacinta Collins —You know that is not true.

Senator BRANDIS —I believe that it is true. He was a consultant with Mr Rudd, the shadow minister for foreign affairs. When Mr Tony Kevin, the disgraced former ambassador to Cambodia, first raised these allegations at the `children overboard' inquiry, I said, `Mr Kevin, what allegation do you make?' He said, `I am not making any allegations; I am merely asking questions.' This is precisely the same—raising doubt, casting innuendo and besmirching the good name of the Australian Federal Police and Australian security organisations in the process. In his cowardly way, Mr Kevin said to me, `I am not making any allegations; I am merely asking questions.' It reminded me of that remark by William Shakespeare—the definition of a coward is someone who is willing to wound but afraid to strike. That is the cowardly behaviour that we saw from the disgraced former ambassador who was recalled from the embassy in Cambodia under circumstances of great discredit. That is the same behaviour that we have seen today and over the last three evenings from Senator Faulkner.

Let us get the record straight. As Senator Mason has pointed out, these issues were trawled over ad nauseam by Senator Faulkner in his examination of Commissioner Keelty in the `children overboard' inquiry. I do not want to anticipate the findings of that inquiry—it would not be proper to do so— and I will not. The transcript will reveal that Senator Faulkner got precisely nowhere with Commissioner Keelty. Today, Commissioner Keelty issued a press statement, which was ridiculed in a disappointing way by Senator Ray, who is usually, I might say, very responsible on these matters. The points that Commissioner Keelty makes in his press release are these: firstly, that Mr Kevin Enniss was operating from a location, Kupang, 1,300 kilometres from the departure point of SIEVX at the relevant time and had absolutely nothing to do with it or its passengers; and, secondly, that Mr Enniss ceased his operations with the Indonesian National Police two to three weeks prior to the departure of SIEVX. But the most important point of the lot is that Mr Enniss has been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police and he has categorically denied making the statement to the journalist Ross Coulthard which is the entire basis of the innuendo and the slander that Senator Faulkner and the Labor Party are now seeking to raise.

People who put their lives in harm's way like the officers of the Australian Federal Police deserve to be treated better and they certainly deserve to be treated better by two senior senators, both of whom have held defence portfolios in the previous Labor government. The behaviour of Senator Faulkner and, I am sorry to say, Senator Ray today in giving fresh life to this innuendo is a disgrace.

Senator Jacinta Collins —Mr Deputy President, it was an adverse reflection and I ask him to withdraw it.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —My advice from the Clerk is that that is unparliamentary. I seek that you withdraw that, Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis —What?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I am not going to repeat it, Senator Brandis. Please withdraw the remark.

Senator Brandis —I am not sure what I am being asked to withdraw, Mr Deputy President. Which comment?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It related to the conduct of the senators that you referred to.

Senator Brandis —If it is unparliamentary to describe that conduct as a disgrace, I withdraw the unparliamentary remark.