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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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Tony Kevin Speaks On The Australian Government's Secret War Against Asylum-Seekers

26 November 2002

Tonight Tony Kevin is appearing at a public meeting in Brisbane on the SIEVX Affair. He will be sharing the stage with Senator Andrew Bartlett, Leader of the Australian Democrats and Queensland Labor Senator, Claire Moore. Below is an extract from his speech:

Last weekend, Paul Kelly concluded in the Weekend Australian ('PM's power of one', 23-24 November) that John Howard's prime ministership has evolved to the stage where it constitutes the most formidable concentration of power we have ever seen in Australia.

Kelly cited last year's 'children overboard' scandal as a prize exhibit. He endorsed the view of Professor Pat Weller of Griffith University:

'This affair revealed a consciousness running throughout the system of government about what the Prime Minister really wanted'.

Kelly added:

'This consciousness transcended orthodox procedures. The point is that it suited the Prime Minister not to know. That's real power: not being told what will embarrass you, when such decisions will definitely embarrass those who take them.'

Kelly suggested that this power structure deserves more attention than it gets. I agree. I am not afraid to apply the same analysis to the sinking of SIEVX and the death of 353 of its passengers - an infinitely more serious matter than the children overboard scandal. Our serious political commentators have so far been reluctant to address what might be John Howard's relationship to a crime of mass murder. I'll come back to why that might be so later.

There is increasing circumstantial evidence that two or three Australian federal police liaison officers who were running the Australian people smuggling disruption program out of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta during October 2001, are likely to know a great deal about how 353 asylum-seekers, mostly women and children, were killed by a ruthless Indonesian disruption operation that achieved its intended result - the capsizing of a deliberately grossly overloaded boat with great loss of life - on 19 October 2001.

But it would not be fair to simply blame these two or three men who did the job expected of them in their positions. Others further up the line of authority know enough of what may have happened to take care not to know more. This is the Weller-Kelly principle, and it has a terrifying and growing credibility as evidence builds on the SIEVX tragedy.

Ambassador Ric Smith and AFP Commissioner Keelty would each know much in general terms about the inter-agency relationships arising out of which SIEVX was sunk. Ministers Ellison, Hill, Ruddock and Downer would know less, but something. Max Moore-Wilton and the Prime Minister would take care to know less still, but they would still know a little.

Read these powerful figures' carefully phrased denials of knowledge of any wrongdoing by AFP. Read between the lines of what their denials do not deny. That is how power is exercised these days - give the Prime Minister what you know he wants, without telling him chapter and verse how you intend to do it... [Click here for the text of this speech.]

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