Transcript of extract of radio interview:
Senator John Faulkner with Terry Lane
The National Interest, Radio National
15 December 2002
TERRY LANE: This week the Senate passed the ASIO Legislation with amendments which had been demanded by Labor and the other non- Government senators but they were amendments opposed by the Government. It has taken nine months, three committees of inquiry to get this far and now the Legislation goes back to the House of Representatives.
And another controversy with a long life that won't go away is the sinking of the SIEVX in October last year in which 353 people drowned. And Labor wants to know more about how the Government's secretive People Smuggling Disruption Program works because there is a persistent rumour that part of the program involves sabotaging boats. "Outrageous" says the Government, "But we want to know more" says the Opposition. And earlier this morning I talked with the Opposition Senate Leader, Senator John Faulkner and I said to him that I take it that he's not satisfied with the information that he has been given about the disruption tactics:
JOHN FAULKNER: I've certainly been keen to ask more questions about the People Smuggling Disruption Program and they go to the whole broad issue of accountability. I mean who was involved in this program? What were they able to do? Who was in charge of it? What funding was brought to bear? Where did the funds come from? There's an awful lot of questions about the People Smuggling Disruption Program. At the end of the day I wanted to know whether it was a matter of anything goes or whether there were constraints. And I think these are very important issue for the Australian Parliament to address and I'm going to continue to try and get answers to them.
TERRY LANE: The questions have already been asked by Committees of Inquiry in the Senate haven't they?
JOHN FAULKNER: Well I've certainly asked question like that in Senate Estimates Committees and also of course at the Senate Inquiry into A Certain Maritime Incident which is the wonderful name for the Kids Overboard Committee and certainly I've been progressing and asking questions about these issues in both those forums.
TERRY LANE: Well you know just on Friday [sic] there was a newspaper report that put forward the theory that part of the disruption program involved sabotaging boats in Indonesia in such a way that they'll start to leak before the boat is out of sight of land, the boat will turn around, go back to port and the people will be so frightened that they'll never try it again. And the theory is that in the case of SIEVX, things didn't go according to plan, it was well out to sea before it started to sink - is that plausible do you think?
JOHN FAULKNER: Well it's a theory and some would say it's a conspiracy theory. But you see my point Terry is I'm not interested in theories, I'm interested in the facts and I want to get to the facts because the issue has been raised in relation to the disruption program that it has included, or might have included the sabotage of vessels. That's one reason why answers to these questions are so important. But I'm not making that allegation, I've never made that allegation. But I do think its important that serious questions being asked in the National Parliament and the Committees of the National Parliament are answered.
TERRY LANE: I suppose that Government would say in its defence that you can't answer those questions without compromising the program itself. How do you do that, how do you balance those issues?
JOHN FAULKNER: Well I accept an argument that says we shouldn't impinge on current operational matters. I've always accepted an argument like that, that goes to the operations of Australian Federal Police and other agencies. I wouldn't want to see operational matters compromised in that way. But I'm afraid the sorts of questions I'm asking don't do that. They go to much broader issues of the planning of these operations, the responsibility for them, the accountability for them, what activities are acceptable and what are not, how they're funded and a whole raft of other questions like that, that I don't believe for one moment impinge on operational matters.
Interestingly enough, the Senate in the last couple of days of its recent marathon sitting, did pass a resolution - I think its an important one - calling for an independent judicial inquiry into events surrounding SIEVX so I think that is also a step in the right direction and I hope the Government treats that call very seriously.
TERRY LANE: Is there no bipartisan or multi-party sharing of information on these sorts of things so that without making public the methods used by the disruptors, nevertheless Opposition parties in Parliament can be satisfied that there is nothing done which is inhumane or a moral affront?
JOHN FAULKNER: Look the sum total of what we know about the People Smuggling Disruption Program comes about as a result of answers to questions that have been provided at Senate Committees. The sum total of what we know about the Children Overboard Incident comes about for precisely the same reason - that the Opposition senators have hammered away at it in what is the best accountability mechanism the Australian Parliament has - or any Parliament in Australia has for that matter - that is the Senate Committee system. We've hammered away at these issues, we've asked serious questions - questions that warrant and deserve a thorough and proper answer from Government. We haven't got all the answers yet - far from it, and I intend, for one, to keep asking them.
TERRY LANE: But does this strike you as adequate? As a citizen it doesn't strike me as satisfactory that there are issues like this where you would expect there is general agreement that we want to control the way in which people come to the country and the numbers of people who come and the sort of people who come and so on. Why can there not be some sort of sharing of information so that we are satisfied?
JOHN FAULKNER: Well there ought to be as much sharing of information as is proper without compromising those sorts of operations. I've said very clearly that I'm not implacably opposed at all to disrupting the activities of people smugglers. I'm not. I think that if we can disrupt those activities in other countries before people get on leaky boats and take that risky step of coming to Australia - all the better, and I've said so publicly and so have my colleagues. But my concerns go to the nature of the disruption program and I think its reasonable to have some of those concerns dispelled by the agencies involved and by the Government - and that's yet to happen.