Asylum boat sank in international waters: cable
5 February 2003
CANBERRA: A DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs and Trade cable proved a boat carrying 353 asylum seekers was in international waters when it sank killing all on board, federal parliament was told tonight.
Peter Cook (ALP, WA), who headed the Senate inquiry into the children overboard affair, said the cable raised questions about whether Australia could have done more to save those on board.
The federal government has maintained the people smuggling vessel, allegedly arranged by Abu Quassey, sank in Indonesian waters.
But Senator Cook said the October 23, 2001, cable revealed the boat sank in international waters.
"The Siev is believed to have foundered in rough seas to the south of Sunda Strait within the Indonesian maritime search and rescue area of responsibility," the cable said.
But Senator Cook said that did not amount to Indonesian territorial waters.
"Indonesian territorial waters are close to the borders of Indonesia ," Senator Cook said.
"The Indonesian maritime search and rescue area of responsibility extends deep into the Timor Sea and abuts Australia.
"It covers what would in layman's terms be called international waters."
The Senate committee had sought to establish what Australia knew about where the Siev X went down.
Evidence from public servants pointed to it sinking in Indonesian territorial waters.
But the cable now disputed that.
"This is a significant piece of information because it goes to whether Australian search and rescue capability could have intruded into the area concerned to rescue people who were on that ill-fated ship," Senator Cook said.
A copy of the cable was provided to Senator Cook in response to a question on notice from last year.