Canberra Times
Letters to the Editor
Saturday 28 September
(Lead Letter)

We must keep asking questions on SIEV X

Dr Allan Hawke, a diligent and effective senior public servant, led the Defence Department while the Australian Defence Force was under Government orders to deter and repel, by aggressive and dishonourable means, people who had fled persecution and were trying to reach Australia to lodge refugee claims.

Despicable things were done to people who were no military threat to Australia. The damage to ADF morale is profound.

In recent months the authority of Dr Hawke's position was misused in Government efforts to conceal truth from the Senate Committee enquiring into these matters.

His successor Ric Smith was Ambassador in Jakarta at the height of the Government's border-protection program, which included a secret People Smuggling Disruption Program in Indonesia. The disturbing extent of this program was revealed by Senator Faulkner, in his important three-part adjournment statement on September 23-25.

Ambassador Smith was responsible for the activities of departments and agencies at the embassy implementing the People Smuggling Disruption Program, including the Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Defence Department, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the Defence Signals Directorate, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

As Head of Mission, he would clear cables to ministers in Canberra on the program. He may have knowledge on the question Senator Faulkner has asked in our Parliament: whether disruption activities extended to the sinking of SIEV X.

As Senator Faulkner has observed, the secret-operations protocols of organisations like AFP or ASIS were not meant as a direct or indirect licence to kill.

Many people will keep asking such questions until full accountability is established for the huge tragedy that was SIEV X.

Tony Kevin

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