27 October 2002
Joanne Murray-Smith, writing in today's Age, and George Brandis, speaking on the ABC national affairs program Insiders, both referred to SIEVX - though each from different viewpoints:
- No flowers beyond the border of compassion ~ Joanne Murray-Smith
This week, a respected former diplomat, Tony Kevin, wondered in the pages of The Age how it was that John Howard's Government would accept no responsibility in the events that led to the drowning of 353 people south of Java. It's hard to take in. More than double the Bali toll, who drowned, possible in part because of our government's refusal to go to their aid. I find I have to go over it to take it in. Our government, the same government that expresses with such articulate sadness the horror of the Bali bombing, the importance of humanity triumphing over corrupt ideologies.
I'm not concerned about whether it was a Liberal or Labor government, but that it was our government that allowed 353 people to drown a year ago.
Somehow, the story of the drowning people has hovered but never quite leapt from newspaper page to public horror. Can it be that our compassion is confined to our own nationality? Can it be that we cannot stretch our own sense of loss, injustice, misery, across the divide of economics, race or religion? They were mothers, brothers, sisters, wives - not ours, but they might have been. Our politicians must look to their consciences, but our people must ask, where are the flowers?
- George Brandis
The Children Overboard Inquiry reported last week: 56 witnesses, 138 hours of evidence, 2181 pages of transcript and a bundle of documents you couldn't jump over. And what did it all prove?
Well, I suppose it proved one of the iron laws of politics, that if you've got the numbers you can do whatever you like. In this case, it meant that Labor senators were able to announce conclusions that had nothing whatever to do with the evidence, comfortable in the knowledge that busy journalists up against deadlines wouldn't have time to get into the detail of a 500 page
But funnily enough it did achieve one thing: Labor and Government senators were in complete agreement that there was no negligence by any Australian agency leading to the loss of life following the sinking of the so-called SIEVX. So the conspiracy theorists can go back in their burrows.
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