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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5011

Senator COOK (3:22 PM) —I must say I am extremely disappointed this afternoon to hear Senator Mason and Senator Brandis. I am extremely disappointed because it was Senator Mason who moved in this chamber to expand the terms of reference of the certain maritime incident inquiry to be able to investigate what happened in the case of safety of life at sea in incidents other than SIEV4. The inquiry was to look at SIEV4. Senator Mason, with the enthusiastic support of Senator Brandis and others, asked to look at all such incidents. Some cynics may think that was because they wanted to trawl through every one in order to try to find in some case an allegation that children were thrown overboard. If those cynics were right, that was a dry well; they never found any such thing at all.

What did come forward was SIEVX. SIEVX was a boat in which 353 people drowned—142 of whom were women and 146 of whom were children. That is a major catastrophe in human terms and a major maritime tragedy in the international waters bordering on our littorals. It is something that ought to be properly investigated. These two senators were instrumental in ensuring our terms of reference enabled us as a committee to investigate those things. Now that the investigation is coming down to some very hard questions that require frank answers which so far we have not got, they are defending the position and attacking those who are asking the questions. Not only that, but the last contribution was one that sullied the reputation and attacked the standing of an individual who of course cannot defend himself in this place. The louder the shouting down of reputation, the louder the attack on individuals and the louder the ad hominem attack to try to divert the issues that these individuals are asking questions about, the more curious we become about the questions and the answers to those questions. So I want to say now—and I want to make it very clear—that the more this behaviour goes on, the more these questions will be asked and the more determined we will become to pursue the answers to them.

There is a lot of information in the public domain that the Australian government has devoted very considerable resources to its program to disrupt people-smuggling in Indonesia. What do we know about the nature and deployment of these resources? We know that the program is based in the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. We know, for example, that there are three DIMIA compliance officers working out of the Jakarta embassy. Two of these positions were created in the last two years. Their major priority is to work on people-smuggling matters. Two Australian Federal Police agents also work from the embassy in Jakarta. These agents work closely with the Indonesian National Police, Indonesian Immigration and Indonesian navy, army and marines. They report directly to the Director of International Operations, Mr Dick Moses, and the General Manager of International Operations, Mr Shane Castles, both of the AFP. Both Mr Moses and Mr Castles were regular attendees at the Prime Minister's People Smuggling Task Force last year. They would inform the task force of criminal aspects of people-smuggling and involvement with the people-smuggling teams and, importantly, with the disruption activities that have been the subject of this debate.

At the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, an interagency coordination group on people-smuggling has also been established. The portfolios represented at these meetings are DFAT, DIMIA, AFP and Defence. The purpose is to share information and assessments and to represent the agencies' view in relation to the people-smuggling matters. Dr Geoff Raby from DFAT has indicated in evidence that disruption activities are a key focus of this group. On 13 June last year, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Mr Ruddock, travelled to Jakarta. He had meetings with the Australian ambassador, Ric Smith, and the interagency people-smuggling group. He also met with the Indonesian Minister of Justice and Human Rights and the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

We would like to know from Mr Ruddock if he raised certain disruption activities during meetings at the embassy either in June last year or during his visit in September. We know that Australian disruption activities in Indonesia were conducted under a specific protocol under the MOU to target people-smuggling syndicates operating out of Indonesia which was agreed by the AFP and their counterparts, the Indonesian National Police, on 15 September. Commissioner Keelty revealed that the protocol under the MOU was set aside by the Indonesian government in September last year due to concerns the Indonesian foreign affairs department had in relation to disruption. We still do not know what those concerns were. We have asked the AFP for a copy of the protocol and MOU but so far it has not been released. Despite the concerns the Indonesian foreign affairs department had about the protocol, the AFP says it continued to cooperate with the Indonesian National Police until June this year. (Time expired)