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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7146

Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:22 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison. Minister, earlier this year the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mr Keelty, informed the Senate Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident that the AFP was conducting `ongoing investigations in relation to the criminal activities of those persons responsible for the organisation of the voyage of the SIEVX', which resulted in the deaths of 353 people. Can the minister confirm that the AFP is preparing a homicide case against Abu Qussey, the people smuggler widely identified as being responsible for organising the boat known as the SIEVX? The minister may be aware that Abu Qussey is currently in prison in Indonesia and is due to be released on 1 January. Have there been, or will there be, any attempts by the Australian government to ensure that charges are laid against Mr Qussey, or to request his extradition to Australia?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I can confirm that Mr Abu Qussey is a person of interest to Australian law enforcement and that, from current information, we understand he is in custody in Indonesia. There is a matter pending with the Australian Federal Police in relation to investigations in this matter. I will see what I can provide to Senator Bartlett without prejudicing any potential investigation or moves that we have afoot. Suffice to say that the government regards this as a serious matter, that Mr Abu Qussey is a person of interest and that we are monitoring this situation closely.

Senator BARTLETT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. Can the minister at least guarantee to the Australian people and to the Senate that those investigations will be concluded before Mr Qussey is released from jail and able to abscond from justice? In addition, given the positive cooperation that has occurred between the AFP and Indonesian authorities to bring those responsible for the mass killings in Bali to justice, can the minister outline what cooperation has been occurring to ensure that those responsible for the mass killings of those on board the SIEVX are also brought to justice?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I do not think I can take this matter much further than I have indicated. I will take this matter up with the Australian Federal Police and see what I can provide to Senator Bartlett; in fact, it may be that we can give him a briefing on the matter, albeit a confidential one.