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Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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It's Not Over Until Admiral Gates Sings!

by Marg Hutton
5 August 2002

When Raydon Gates broke his silence last Friday and spoke to the media about SIEVX and the unthrown children, it seemed that finally the truth was about to be told. Here was the person who knows the most about classified intelligence related to SIEVX, who Robert Hill has 8 times refused to allow to testify to the Senate Inquiry, finally speaking out. Further the headlines suggested that he was blowing the whistle on Defence: 'Navy slammed over overloaded boat' and 'Navy "did nothing" about boat'.

But in fact when one reads these articles it is apparent that Gates is far from a whistle-blower - he is supporting the Government line that the Navy had nothing to do with the sinking of SIEVX. Gates is just following a pattern established by the Minister for Defence back in June of leaking vital evidence to the media prior to or instead of presenting it to the Senate Inquiry in a deliberate strategy to prevent rigorous examination.

This is at least the fourth occasion where Defence has ridden roughshod over the Senate in this way.

First there was Hill's infamous letter to the editor of several newspapers on 27 June in which he included previously unheard details of Operation Relex flight surveillance carried out last October that had direct bearing on SIEVX.

This was quickly followed by a leak to the Australian newspaper of the flight maps of the P3 Orions during the time that SIEVX sailed and sank.

Then last Monday another leak resulted in selective details of Air Commodore Philip Byrne's evidence appearing in the Australian the day before he testified at the Inquiry.

Gates' soiree with the media on Friday continues this pattern.

As Senator Cook said on Saturday:

'It's an odd situation in which the admiral can talk openly in public, but the Minister for Defence, Senator Hill, refuses to allow him to appear before the Senate Inquiry'

Speaking to the media is quite a different thing from appearing at the Inquiry and submitting oneself to Senate questions and public scrutiny.

It is imperative that Minister Hill follows correct investigative procedure and allows Admiral Gates to testify.

This is no trivial matter. 353 people lost their lives when SIEVX foundered. We owe it to the victims, their families and ultimately ourselves to continue with this investigation until we are certain that Australia was not complicit in these deaths.

Cameron Stewart wrote on Saturday that when the Committee reports:

'members are likely to criticise the flow of intelligence between government agencies during the time of the Siev X tragedy after testimony revealed that not all information was fully shared.'

But worse than this, until proved otherwise, the suspicion will always remain that government agencies deliberately withheld information in order to create a disaster which would act as a disincentive to people smugglers.

Unless Gates testifies there will always be the fear that this is a deliberate coverup.

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