Ruddock says he does not know where smuggling boat sank ~ Rod McGuirk
DARWIN, Sept 20 AAP - Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock today maintained he did not know where a people smuggling boat sank with the loss of 353 lives last year despite an intelligence report stating a position.
A report indicating an overcrowded boat sank 60 nautical miles south of Indonesia's Sunda Strait appears to contradict claims the boat went down outside Australia's maritime surveillance zone. The report, dated four days after the tragedy, places the sinking inside the zone.
The boat, now known as SIEV-X (suspected illegal entry vessel - unknown), reportedly sank on October 19, 2001. Mr Ruddock said the briefing document was not certain. "It suggested a location, and it referred to it as being approximate, that had come from various reports that had been put together in Indonesia," Mr Ruddock told ABC Radio today. "Nobody was absolutely certain, the report indicated that it wasn't certain.
"But the one thing that was certain and the thing that the prime minister and I have pointedly said all the time is that wherever this vessel tragically sank, it was in the areas which were the responsibility for oversight by Indonesia."
Prime Minister John Howard said last October 23 - the same day the Department of Immigration Intelligence Note was drafted - that the vessel sank in Indonesian waters outside the defence surveillance zone.
The intelligence reports indicate the government agencies were unaware just when SIEV-X departed Indonesia and did not know it had sunk until at least four days later.
The report, prepared by the Immigration Department border protection branch, was one of six released yesterday by the children overboard inquiry.
Mr Ruddock described the debate about whether the boat sank in international waters patrolled by RAAF Orion aircraft as academic.
"We still don't know precisely where it sank," he said. "It's an academic exercise that is being pursued by certain people who are suggesting that in some way because we were patrolling and looking for vessels that might be seeking to come to Australia unlawfully, that we should have observed what was happening to this particular vessel. "It occurred in those areas adjacent to Indonesia which are Indonesian air and sea rescue zone responsibility." AAP
Report claims Ruddock knew boat sank in Australian waters (ABC)
The Federal Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock is maintaining an asylum seeker vessel that sank last year was in Indonesian waters.
More than 300 asylum seekers drowned in the incident.
Intelligence reports allegedly show Mr Ruddock knew last year that the boat, known as Siev X, sank in international waters within the zone patrolled by the Australian Navy and Air Force.
Mr Ruddock says nobody is certain about exactly where the vessel sank, but it was not in an area of Australian responsibility.
"The one thing that was certain and the one thing that the Prime Minister and I have pointedly said all the time, is that wherever this vessel tragically sank, it was in the areas which were the responsibility for oversight by Indonesia," he said.