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Gillespie search procedures grossly deficient: Hill



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MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR ROBERT HILL LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Thursday, October 8 87/92

CTT.T.RRPTE SEARCH PROCEDURES GROSSLY DEFICIENT; HILL·

The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Robert Hill, today said the search for the Gillespie children showed that Federal Government search procedures were grossly deficient and that there was no indication that the Government would move to stop similar failures from occurring again.

Senator Hill was commenting after the tabling in the Senate today by the Justice Minister, Senator Tate, of the Glenn report into the actions of Australian government authorities during the July search for the Gillespie children.

"The facts revealed by the Glenn inquiry are an indictment of the Federal Government's handling of the unlawful removal of children from Australia," Senator Hill said.

"A series of procedural failures occurred during the search for the Gillespie children in July, but two very serious issues stand out:

COASTWATCH may have been able to intercept the children in waters to Australia's north if the Australian Federal Police (AFP) had alerted Coastwatch that the children were missing and may be smuggled out through the region; and

THE CHILDREN may have been stopped from leaving Australia through Weipa in far north Queensland if the AFP had alerted local police and other authorities in Queensland - not just those in Victoria and New South W a les.

"Evidence produced by the Glenn inquiry shows that the procedures currently in place to deal with such incidents are grossly

deficient.

"But there are no indications that the Federal Government will do anything to improve and revamp these procedures to stop

similar failures occurring again.

"When Senator Tate announced the Glenn inquiry on September 8, I raised concerns about the scope of the inquiry - particularly that it had not been asked to assess and recommend changes to the practice and co-ordination of government agencies involved in

such searches.

COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH . . ./2

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"Regrettably, the report does not reach substantial conclusions on these critical issues, possibly because of the narrow terms of reference.

"Senator Tate must take immediate action on this issue.

"He must ensure that the procedures followed during such searches are revamped and improved to ensure that Australian children can never again be so easily removed from their country.

"The events involving the 'Pencheroboh' suggest that a Coastwatch aircraft may have inadvertently located on two occasions a vessel carrying the children.

"But because Coastwatch had not been told about the nationwide search for the children, it did not act decisively to determine whether they were on the vessel.

"The AFP's failure to inform Coastwatch of the search conflicts with the claim of Jacqueline and Iain Gillespie that the AFP had assured them that Coastwatch had been alerted.

"The AFP's failure to inform local police in Queensland and Queensland-based federal authorities seriously lessened the chances of the children being detected during the several days they spent in Queensland before they left Australia.

"Several other key issues arising out of the Glenn report need to addressed, including:

WHY the AFP was still telling the Government on July 24 that it believed the children were in Australia when they had in fact left nine or ten days earlier;

WHY the search was concentrated in southern Australia and on airports when it was obvious the Prince could reach Malaysia through Australia's northern waters and that he would seek to avoid detection at airports;

WHY a meeting of the principal agencies involved in the search did not take place until after the children had reached Malaysia; and

WHY the vessel which took the children from Australian waters was not discovered or checked when it was in Weipa before July 14 or 15."

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Enquiries: Senator Hill or Mark Batistich on (06) 277 3170