Senators must have all facts on SIEV-X
Letter to SMH
28 June 2002
Defence Minister Robert Hill's remarkable letter (Herald, June 27) raises more questions.
His assertion that "there is no evidence ... that SIEV-X had left Indonesian waters and entered the ADF surveillance zone" is extraordinary. My Senate testimony on May 1, substantiating that it sank in international waters and in the Australian border protection surveillance zone, is consistent with Coastwatch's May 22 testimony.
This estimate was not rebutted by either the Prime Minister or Mr Ruddock, who both said recently that they don't know where it sank. The Prime Minister's Task Force had intelligence on October 23 that it was "likely to have been in international waters south of Java".
As to RAAF surveillance: senators have heard inconsistent and unclear testimony from admirals Smith and Ritchie on this. Hill told senators on June 5 that a review he commissioned into SIEV-X was being finalised and that he expected results within a few days. Yet he cancelled Admiral Gates's scheduled June 21 Senate testimony. Now Hill offers selective details on air surveillance activity in the press, details of which have not in the past three months been put before Senate committees investigating these matters. If this is not contempt for the Senate, what is?
It is vital now that senators see surveillance flight path maps, and have an opportunity to question official witnesses, to test this latest official version of what happened.
Letters to the Editor should not substitute for correct investigative procedure on an issue that has already seen many evasions, inconsistencies and corrections of earlier sworn testimony. This is about 353 deaths - no trivial matter.
Tony Kevin, Forrest (ACT), June 27.