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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7757


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (4:11 PM) —by leave—The government welcomes Senator Collins's endorsement of the AFP's investigation into Abu Qussey in paragraphs (a) and (b) of her motion. Abu Qussey is believed to be an Egyptian national who it is alleged has been involved in people-smuggling from Indonesia to Australia since early in 2000. He was sentenced by Jakarta Southern District Court on 4 September 2002 to six months imprisonment for offences against Indonesian immigration law and he is due for release on 1 January 2003.

The Australian government is working with other governments in the region to seek to apprehend Abu Qussey in relation to his alleged involvement in people-smuggling activities and bring him to Australia to face the charges. As people-smuggling is not currently an offence in Indonesia, the dual criminality required for Australia to request the extradition from Indonesia does not currently exist. Australian authorities are continuing to work towards criminalisation of people-smuggling in the region and Indonesian authorities have indicated that legislation would be introduced into the Indonesian parliament this year, criminalising people-smuggling.

The government cannot support paragraphs (c) to (e) for the following reasons. Four first instance arrests warrants have been sworn in Australia in respect of Qussey for alleged offences relating to organising suspected illegal entry vessels, SIEVs. The first three warrants for his arrest were sworn on 3 June 2002 and span alleged offences that occurred between February 2000 and August 2001. The latest warrant for his arrest is in relation to his alleged involvement in organising SIEVX, in which 353 people died when it sank in October 2001. The issue of the fourth warrant in Brisbane on Friday last week follows the compilation of a brief of evidence which was submitted to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. This brief of evidence in relation to SIEVX includes evidence from interviews with survivors of SIEVX in Australia. The strength of the evidence supporting any warrant is a matter for the courts to determine. It is therefore not appropriate for the brief of evidence to be scrutinised by parliament prior to any legal proceedings and any public discussion could prejudice the investigation. Once an existing warrant is acted upon the matter becomes sub judice.

The swearing of first instance warrants means an Interpol alert can be issued and it will ensure that the Australian government can seek to extradite Abu Qussey should circumstances allow. The Australian Federal Police has not been able to establish the location where SIEVX sank. Therefore, it is not possible to establish the relevant jurisdiction for any prosecution relating to the deaths on board. Australia respects that Indonesia as a sovereign state must take its own decision whether or not to investigate any particular matter.

Question agreed to.