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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5007

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (3:01 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Justice and Customs (Senator Ellison) to questions without notice asked by Senator Faulkner today relating to people smuggling.

I have been asking questions for months about Australia's involvement in disrupting and dismantling people-smuggling syndicates in Indonesia. I am still not satisfied by the answers I have received. The disruption policy is undertaken by the Australian government and funded by the Australian taxpayer, yet the Howard government has so far avoided parliamentary scrutiny of this policy.

The government claims that its policy of disruption has had a significant influence on the decline in the numbers of people trying to get to Australia illegally. In March this year the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Mr Ruddock, cited the government's policy of physically disrupting the work of people smugglers as one of the main reasons for the decline in asylum seeker boats coming to Australia. We know disruption includes physically disrupting the people-smuggling syndicates and the asylum seekers who seek assistance. We know from the Sunday program and from evidence given by the AFP that an Australian by the name of Kevin Enniss was involved in the people-smuggling disruption program. We know that Enniss worked for the AFP and that he was paid over $25,000 by the AFP. We know Kevin Enniss admitted to reporter Ross Coulthart from the Sunday program that he had paid Indonesian locals on four or five occasions to scuttle people-smuggling boats with passengers aboard.

When these claims were made on the Sunday program, I called at the time for a full, independent judicial inquiry into those serious matters. The government have dismissed the calls. They still are ignoring the calls for a proper inquiry. But the denials of the government on these issues are not sufficient. It is not enough to say, as Senator Ellison and Mr Downer have said publicly today, that it has never been the policy of the Australian government to sabotage people-smuggling vessels. It is not enough to say that the Australian government has never sabotaged vessels or directed that they be sabotaged. There was the usual huff and puff—they denounced the opposition and criticised us for daring to ask what they described as `outrageous questions'.

I say that asking these sorts of questions and demanding answers is the responsibility of the opposition. It is the responsibility of the government to answer those questions. I want to know, and I intend to keep asking until I find out, about a number of things. How far does disruption go? What are the limits, if any? I want to ask, and I want an answer to, precisely what disruption activities are undertaken at the behest of, with the knowledge of or broadly authorised by the Australian government. I want to know, and I think the parliament and the Australian public are entitled to know, what directions or authorisations ministers have issued in relation to disruption. I want to know how the policy of disruption is funded. We would like to know who funds the policy of disruption. How much does it cost to fund the policy of disruption? Who actually receives those taxpayers' moneys for the disruption program? Who tasks the Indonesian officials or others to disrupt people smugglers or the clients of people smugglers?

We also want to know whether Australians are involved in disruption activities in Indonesia. And it is perfectly reasonable for us to ask about the accountability mechanisms that are in place in relation to these activities, particularly when the MOU governing these particular matters collapses: the commissioner for the AFP and the minister cannot say why; the commissioner cannot even say he asked why that occurred. We want to know whether Kevin Enniss was actually involved in the sabotage of vessels, as Kevin Enniss has claimed. We want to know if others were involved in the sabotage of vessels and we want to know why the government is avoiding an independent inquiry into these very important issues. Nothing else will suffice in these circumstances.