Butt-covering Brief Finally Released!|
22 May 2003
by Marg Hutton and Tony Kevin
Yesterday, the infamous brief that went to the PM on 24 October 2001 confirming what he had been erroneously and emphatically claiming - that SIEVX sank in 'Indonesian waters', was finally received by the Senate - just one day after sievx.com published an in depth analysis of evidence pertaining to the sinking position, and ten months after Jane Halton was originally asked by the CMI Committee on notice to provide it.
We have waited a long time to read what Jane Halton's signed PM and C update status report to the Prime Minister would say in full about the sinking of SIEVX.
Now at last - an incredible 10 months later - we finally have the report in the public domain. This is what it says:
Boat sunk in Indonesian waters - a boat carrying 421 people (thought to be mainly Iraqis intending to join family members in Australia) left Indonesia in the early hours of Thursday, 18 October. We understand that a number refused to board the boat initially for safety and seaworthiness concerns, and that 24 people left the boat later that morning when it took shelter in the lee of an island to avoid bad weather. At around 3.00pm on Friday afternoon, 19 October, the boat capsized and sank quickly south of the western end of Java, with loss of possibly 352 lives. 44 of the 45 known survivors (including 5 children) have been taken to a camp near Jakarta. AFP is offering assistance to Indonesia to provide information and facilitate prosecution of the organisers.
(Complete version online at: http://sievx.com/documents/20030521PM&CSIEVX.pdf )
There were three authoritative official intelligence reports available in Canberra on 23 October (Jakarta Embassy cable; People Smuggling Taskforce minutes; DIMIA Intelligence Note), plus two specific, obviously Embassy-sourced, media reports from Jakarta, all indicating one agreed sinking area - in international waters, between 43 and 90 nautical miles south of the Sunda Strait - i.e., well inside Operation Relex's air surveillance area.
So we were all waiting with bated breath to see what new intelligence Jane Halton's updated status report of 24 October 2001 on SIEVX's sinking location was based on. And the answer is - one big fat nothing!
Jane Halton puts a signed updated status report to the Prime Minister's key advisers - Sinodotis, Jordana, and her boss Moore-Wilton - which on this question simply says:
'Boat sunk in Indonesian waters (title)...
The boat capsized and sank quickly south of the western end of Java'
(which means precisely nothing in this context, as it could be anywhere between Java and Christmas Island). Halton had actually quoted all the relevant text there was, to CMI on 30 July 2001. (See CMI 2125-2140)
All day long on 23 and 24 October 2001, the Prime Minister had been easing his own and the Australian public's conscience with his Big Lie, that 'the boat sank in Indonesian waters' and therefore was not in any way Australia's responsibility.
And on 24 October, Jane Halton obliges by retrospectively serving up a minimalist briefing to him - in a 'state of play brief', so that he could say if ever challenged on the point, that he had had updated 'departmental advice' on which he had based that Big Lie. Halton's note was nothing more than an arse-covering exercise for Howard. It contained no new intelligence, no new information.
For months, we waited to hear on what Halton had based the vague intimations in her CMI testimony on 30 July that the three solid reports of 23 October had in some way been overtaken or superseded by new updated information that came in from departments on 24 October.
But there never was any new information. The section falsely titled 'boat sank in Indonesian waters' is completely unsupported by any new facts in the ensuing text. 'South of the western end of Java' is simply a different way of expressing the advice in the previous day's three reports: 'south of Java' and 'south of the Sunda Strait'. And the Halton status report importantly left out the key material in these three reports, that put the sinking site in international waters in the range 60-90 nautical miles south of Sunda Strait. With the false title, this status report was all Howard needed: another outrageous case of making sure that Howard is not told what he or his advisers would rather he did not know.
Remember, readers, this issue is not trivial: it goes to vital questions of Australia's Rescue at Sea responsibilities in the avoidable deaths by drowning of 353 human souls in what we now definitely know - and, in any decent system of governance, that should have been openly admitted on 23 October 2001 - to have been our country's Operation Relex air surveillance area.
It isn't just our Government's manifest lack of integrity at issue here - it is the entire rotten no-questions-asked 'whole-of- government' border protection system co-ordinated in Canberra by the Prime Minister's Department. And it emphasises the re-emerging possibility that the system is still hiding much more of what it knew about SIEVX at the time when the boat sank, when lives on board might still have been saved.
If our country's governance system can lie so glibly for so long, and initially so convincingly that it snowed the CMI Committee, about SIEVX's sinking location - what other lies is it still concealing about SIEVX?
'Shit! said the King,
And fifty thousand arseholes squatted and strained.'
Note: For detailed further background to these questions, see Marg Hutton's recent exhaustive analysis (which predated this latest release of information from PM and C), 'SIEVX & the DFAT cable: The Conspiracy of Silence' - online at: http://www.sievx.com/articles/challenging/2003/COS.pdf