STUNG BY GROWING EVIDENCE OF "SIEV X" MALPRACTICE, GOVERNMENT SENATORS LAUNCH BASELESS PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST TONY KEVIN
In the Senate Chamber on 26 September, Liberal Senators Brandis and Ferguson, under pressure of Senator Faulkner's statements of 23-25 September suggesting malpractice in the Australian Government's People Smuggling Disruption Program in Indonesia that may have contributed to the deaths of 353 people, resorted to unfounded personal abuse against me. Senator Brandis falsely described me as "the disgraced former ambassador who was recalled from the embassy in Cambodia under circumstances of great discredit". Senator Ferguson falsely said that "the fact that he (Tony Kevin) did not last very long contracted to the shadow minister for foreign affairs only reinforced how unreliable he really is". Both untrue allegations, made under Senate privilege, go to the credibility of my public stance on SIEV X. I therefore must respond.
I retired from DFAT at age 55 in March 1998 after a meritorious 30 year career involving important and challenging postings, which ran their full term. Attached is an unsolicited certificate of appreciation for my "loyal and dedicated service over 30 years" to DFAT, signed on 2 March 1998 by the then Secretary Philip Flood. Philip Flood publicly conveyed his appreciation of my work at a farewell reception which he hosted for me, attended by around 100 DFAT officers.
My posting to Cambodia 1994-97 involved complex challenges including the 1994 kidnapping and murder by the Khmer Rouge of Australian backpacker David Wilson. In 1966 the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Enquiry into Consular Services examined this tragedy exhaustively. It concluded (paras 7.48 and 7.49):
" . all the Australians involved . were fully committed to the case and gave their utmost . The embassy staff in Phnom Penh and in Kampot, in our experience, worked tirelessly and devotedly in very difficult conditions . the Committee finds that the officers concerned acted with integrity and commitment in very trying circumstances".
The second half of my posting in Cambodia was under Foreign Minister Downer. He thanked me personally for my management of the civil war emergency in Cambodia in July 1997 and the associated successful RAAF-assisted air evacuation of Australians from Phnom Penh soon after the fighting ended.
In July/August I worked for four weeks in Kevin Rudd's Parliament House office on a temporary relief secondment. There was no expectation of permanency on either side. I have great respect for Mr Rudd as he has for me.
It is in the public interest that I am raising serious questions about probable Australian Government misconduct in respect of SIEV X. That my career history should now be so misrepresented by Government Senators on the Select Committee, under protection of privilege, is a vain ad hominem tactic to try to divert public attention from the very important SIEV X issue.
Tony Kevin, Canberra, 27 September 2002