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How many of the 1500 asylum seeker lives lost at sea since 2001 could have been saved?
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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MEDIA

GOVERNMENT
Licence To Kill?

26 September 2002

Senator John Faulkner, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, John Faulkner, was prepared to lay his personal credibility on the line last night when he asked if there is a link between the People Smuggling Disruption Program in Indonesia and the sinking of SIEVX in October last year. In the climax to this strongly-worded, powerful three-part speech, [1, 2] Faulkner raised the spine-chilling possibility that the disruption program in Indonesia may have been used as a licence to kill:

[Click here to listen to this speech]

This is the third and last of the three speeches on the government's people-smuggling disruption program which I foreshadowed during the adjournment debate on Monday this week. How much ministerial knowledge is there of the disruption activities being directed out of the Australian embassy in Jakarta?

DIMIA has three 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 AFP agents also work from the embassy in Jakarta. These agents work closely with the Indonesian National Police, Indonesian Immigration, Indonesian navy, army and marines. They report directly to the Director of International Operations, Dick Moses, and the general manager of international operations, Mr Shane Castles. Both Mr Moses and Mr Castles were regular attendees of the Prime Minister's People Smuggling Task Force last year. They would inform the task force of the criminal aspects of people-smuggling, involvement with the people-smuggling teams and disruption activities.

At the Australian embassy in Jakarta an inter-agency 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 people-smuggling matters. Geoff Raby from DFAT has indicated disruption activities are a key focus of this group. I note that on 13 June 2001 the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Phillip 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. Mr Ruddock should now confirm whether he raised certain disruption activities during meetings at the embassy either in June last year or during his visit in September.

By September 2001 we know that something concerned the Indonesian foreign affairs department enough to request the protocol between the AFP and the Indonesian police be set aside. AFP Commissioner Keelty told the CMI committee that on 15 September 2000 'a specific protocol under the MOU to target people-smuggling syndicates operating out of Indonesia' was agreed to by the AFP and their counterparts the Indonesian National Police. We have asked the AFP for a copy of the protocol and MOU but so far it has not been released. Under this protocol the AFP provides equipment and training to the Indonesian National Police. At the CMI committee, Commissioner Keelty revealed that the protocol under the MOU was set aside by the Indonesian government in September 2001 due to concerns the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs, DEPLU, had in relation to disruption. Amazingly, Commissioner Keelty could not or would not tell the committee why the protocol was cancelled by the Indonesian government.

Despite this setting aside of the protocol - I believe because of concerns the Indonesians had about disruption activities between the two police organisations - Commissioner Keelty told us he was not aware of the full detail of the Indonesian complaints. Repeatedly, I asked Commissioner Keelty at the CMI committee the reasons behind the Indonesian authorities cancelling of the protocol. For instance, when I asked Commissioner Keelty, 'What concerns did the Indonesians express in relation to the disruption operation?' he replied, 'I do not have a briefing on that and I do not know that anyone in the AFP does.' I replied, 'I would be surprised - very surprised - if the AFP was not informed of what these concerns might have been.' Commissioner Keelty responded, 'It was a decision by the Indonesian government in their DEPLU, so I would not necessarily expect them to tell me why.' Later at the CMI committee, I again asked Commissioner Keelty the following question: 'Commissioner, did you ask why the protocol was cancelled?' He replied, 'I do not specifically recall.' I then asked, `You do not know if you asked why?' Again, he replied, 'I answered you. I do not specifically recall.'

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 2002. However, the breakdown in the protocol does not appear to have stopped disruption activities from occurring. Between September 2001 and June 2002 the activities continued on a case-by-case arrangement between the AFP and the INP.

In October 2001 the high level PM&C People Smuggling Task Force notes indicate that disruption activities were discussed on a number of occasions including a direction that disruption be 'beefed up'. On 10 October 2001 the task force notes state, 'Discussion on the "architecture"-disruption, regional conference proposal, UNHCR positions.' On 12 October the task force notes state, 'Discussion of disruption activity, and scope for beefing up.' At the CMI committee I asked Ms Jane Halton, DIMIA officials and the Australian Federal Police what exactly could be meant by these references? What was the task force asking agencies to do when they referred to it being 'beefed up'?

The head of the People Smuggling Task Force, Ms Halton, admitted there were a 'couple of discussions' regarding disruption at the meetings but she would not or could not elaborate further. Ms Halton had no memory of the 'beefing up' discussion except she thought it might refer to T-shirts. Ms Halton told the committee that the task force had never tasked any agency to disrupt in Indonesia. But Ed Killestyen from DIMIA, who attended the task force meetings on 10 October and 12 October, said:

'...the People Smuggling Task Force was concerned about the evidence of a surge and was, in a sense, giving a direction to the responsible areas to look for further opportunities for disruption.'

Commissioner Keelty also indicated that the People Smuggling Task Force was tasking agencies to beef up the disruption activities. Commissioner Keelty said:

'To me it is just an operational call along the lines of, "The departure of the vessel is imminent; we'd better be doing everything we can possibly do."'

Let me repeat Commissioner Keelty's words: '...we'd better be doing everything we can possibly do.'

This is the deeply concerning aspect of disruption. How far has it gone? What activities are acceptable; what are not? Who carries them out? Who pays for them? What accountability and control mechanisms are in place? Who authorises these activities? What is the effect of these activities? What, if any, consideration was given to questions of the safety of lives at sea?

The issue of sabotage of people smugglers' vessels has been canvassed by the AFP informant Kevin Enniss.

I ask these questions: was Enniss involved in the sabotage of vessels? Were others involved in the sabotage of vessels? Do Australian ministers, officials or agencies have knowledge of such activities? And what about the vessel now known as SIEVX, part of the people-smuggling operation of the notorious people smuggler Abu Quassey? That vessel set sail on 18 October 2001 and sank on 19 October 2001, drowning 353 people, including 142 women and 146 children. Were disruption activities directed against Abu Quassey? Did these involve SIEVX?

I intend to keep asking questions until I find out. And, Mr Acting Deputy President, I intend to keep pressing for an independent judicial inquiry into these very serious matters. At no stage do I want to break, nor will I break, the protocols in relation to operational matters involving ASIS or the AFP. But, those protocols were not meant as a direct or an indirect licence to kill.

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