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The dark, unacknowledged truth of the children overboard scandal.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett

Parliamentary Leader and Democrats Senator for Queensland Australian Democrats spokesperson for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Dated: 29 August 2004

The Dark, Unacknowledged Truth of The Children Overboard Scandal

Australian Democrats' Leader, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said it was important to acknowledge the ignored and defamed participants in the false children overboard claim namely the refugees and the sailors who risked their lives to save them from drowning.

Senator Bartlett was speaking following a number of articles in weekend papers and coverage on Channel Nine's Sunday program.

"It is good to see the media this weekend giving a voice to some of the refugees who were so grievously defamed by the Mr Howard and his Ministers, and who have never even received any apology or expression of regret," Senator Bartlett said.

"These refugees and the sailors who bravely risked their lives to perform the impressive feat of rescuing hundreds of refugees from the water without the loss of a single life deserve to be able to tell their side of the story. They have been the silent political footballs in this saga for far too long."

"It has never been properly emphasised that the simple fact is the children and their parents would never have ended up in the water, requiring the crew of the HMAS Adelaide to bravely risk their lives to save them, were it not for the specific policy and orders of the Government," Senator Bartlett said.

"It was a specific policy decision of Mr Howard's Government not to rescue these refugees who were at risk in an unseaworthy boat. This callous disregard for human life is a far worse crime than the defamatory lies that were repeated stating that the refugees deliberately tried to drown their children."

"Previous practice was always to get the refugees to safety first and then examine their refugee claims. The most disgraceful of Mr Howard's many decisions in this sordid saga was to change this to give lesser priority to the lives of the refugees and only allow them to be brought to safety if their boat actually sank!"