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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 4998

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (2:15 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Ellison, the Minister for Justice and Customs. Can the minister confirm that Kevin John Ennis was paid at least $25,000 by the AFP as an informant on people-smuggling activities? Is the minister aware that Mr Ennis admitted to reporter Ross Coulthart of the Sunday program that he had paid Indonesian locals on four or five occasions to scuttle people-smuggling boats with passengers aboard? What action has the minister taken to investigate these specific allegations and what was the outcome of any such investigations?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —Of course the answer to Senator Faulkner's question has been answered at Senate estimates in relation to the $25,000 fee, because the Commissioner of the Federal Police has said that fee was paid and that Mr Ennis was an informant. I make it very clear that the Australian Federal Police have said very clearly that they did not authorise people-smuggling in any way. They did say that Mr Ennis was a person who was endeavouring to gain information in relation to people-smuggling in order to assist the authorities, and that he was doing this in relation to a joint operation by the Indonesian National Police and the Australian Federal Police. It was not a situation where he was authorised to engage in that.

Senator Faulkner touches on the Sunday program and the journalist concerned. At the outset let me say that it is well known that the Australian Federal Police have complained to the Australian Broadcasting Authority in relation to the conduct of this whole matter by the Sunday program. In fact the Sunday program made some outrageous allegations and, shortly thereafter, had to make a partial retraction. On 12 May this year the Sunday program was forced to issue a retraction of the allegations that Mr Ennis had landed a number of boatloads of illegal immigrants on the Australian mainland. This was done only after Sunday became aware that the Australian Federal Police investigations disclosed that Sunday's principal informants, who formed the basis for the first program, had lied.

There were a number of programs. The first program was in February and we saw this retraction on 12 May. After AFP investigations we have a program having to retract a very serious allegation that was made. So we start with the premise that we do not give much credit to the allegations that they have been making.

The other aspect that Senator Faulkner raises is the question of Mr Ennis and what Mr Ennis has told the Sunday program and whether we have investigated this. The Australian Federal Police have conducted not one but two investigations into this matter and these investigations have been oversighted by the Ombudsman. I have received a letter from the Ombudsman, dated 3 September 2002, which states:

In summary, I am satisfied that both AFP investigations were thorough and properly undertaken.

That is as a result of the Ombudsman oversighting two investigations into this matter by the Australian Federal Police.

The Australian Federal Police have also received legal advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Damien Bugg QC, who has rebutted Sunday's claims that the AFP's actions, or those of Mr Ennis, may have been unlawful. We have advice from the DPP, we have the Ombudsman oversighting two investigations by the Australian Federal Police into the matters that have been raised by the Sunday program and touched on by Senator Faulkner, and we have questions at the Senate inquiry into a certain maritime incident. We have questions asked of the Australian Federal Police at estimates, which have been highly distorted and misquoted by the opposition and in particular Senator Faulkner. And yesterday we had the outrageous allegation by Senator Faulkner that in some way Australian authorities were involved in endangering life. (Time expired)

Senator FAULKNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question, and it is a specific supplementary question. Has the minister or, for that matter, the Ombudsman investigated the claim made by the AFP's paid informant, Kevin Ennis, that he, Mr Ennis, paid Indonesian locals on four or five occasions to scuttle people-smuggling boats with passengers aboard? Has that claim been investigated? If not, Minister, why not? If so, can the minister inform the Senate whether those claims are true or false?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I am obliged to Senator Faulkner for that supplementary question because this matter—because of the distortion by Senator Faulkner—has resulted in absolutely scurrilous statements being made both in this chamber and outside. I challenge Senator Faulkner to make those statements that he made yesterday outside this chamber. The Australian Federal Police are issuing a statement shortly on this very matter and I invite Senator Faulkner to read it. It is being issued now as we speak.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! Interjections from both sides are disorderly. Senator Bartlett has the call.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator Alston —I wouldn't leave the building, if I were you.

Senator Jacinta Collins —That was a threat. Senator Alston made a threat!

The PRESIDENT —Senator Alston, if you did make a threat, I would ask you to withdraw it.

Senator Alston —I didn't make a threat.

The PRESIDENT —I will review the Hansard.