Last week, Greens Senator Christine Milne put two pages of SIEVX related questions to the Justice Minister, Senator Ellison. Some of these questions are following up on questions asked by previous Senators; others are opening up new lines of inquiry.
This is the fifth year that questions have been put to the government in connection with SIEVX.
Last June, two of the Labor Senators who sat on the CMI Committee that first investigated SIEVX left the Senate (Collins & Cook). Any hope that the government had that SIEVX would subsequently slip completely off the political agenda has been dashed by the new Greens senator from Tasmania stepping into the breach.
It is apparent that SIEVX is a high priority for Senator Milne.
This isn't the first set of questions that she has asked about the issue. In December she also put questions to Ellison, Truss & Hill concerning earlier voyages by Abu Quassey that showed his history of placing asylum seekers' lives at risk. She also put questions to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in Senate Estimates in November.
Some of the latest set of questions are nearly four years old. Over the years since the sinking of SIEVX many questions have been asked by Senators but the Government continues to obfuscate, ignoring questions for a year at a time, eventually providing partial or misleading responses. What is it concealing?
For example, if there is nothing to hide about Australia's covert people smuggling disruption program operating in Indonesia then why has there been a deafening silence from the AFP since 2003 when it finally agreed to seek permission of the Indonesian police to release details of the AFP/INP protocol? [see QoN 133]
The only hope of finding answers to this and other key questions lies with Senators continuing to pursue the government.
The Senate has passed three resolutions calling for a judicial inquiry into the people smuggling disruption program and the circumstances surrounding the sinking of SIEVX [1, 2, 3]. There is a stench pervading these issues. The air will not clear until there is a full powers independent judicial inquiry.
1. Six months later, in December 2005, the former Chair of the CMI Committee, Peter Cook died in Perth after a long battle with cancer.