SIEV X 2003 Memorial Rally
Kate Reynolds
Australian Democrats
Member of the Legislative Counci

Glenelg, Saturday 1st November, 2003

We are here today to remember the 146 children, 142 women and 65 men whose lives were lost in the sea on 19th October 2001, and to pay tribute to those who survived and continue to struggle for their freedom and their future.

Some people have described this tragic event where 353 people died and many more lives were scarred forever in the search for sanctuary, as nothing less than mass murder.

Just two weeks ago the Senate agreed to finally acknowledge and express 'regret and sympathy' over the tragedy, which as well we remember, occurred in the final weeks of the fateful 2001 Federal Election campaign.

We don't know who, or even if anyone, will be held accountable for the deaths of these 353 people, but the fact that the federal parliament has, finally, acknowledged the tragedy means the Government must extend compassion to those most affected.

And it can do that very simply by, as a first step, allowing the survivors and their families to find lifelong sanctuary in this country - the one that supposedly has 'boundless plain to share with those who come across the seas'.

Some of those people who lost their lives on this leaky, overcrowded little fishing boat had close family members in Australia who are on temporary protection visas. Two years on, those family members are still living a precarious existence, unsure of their future and haunted by their past.

Many voices, including of course, ours, have called on the Immigration Minister to grant to those survivors who remain in Australia on temporary protection visas, and to those who suffered a personal loss through the sinking of SIEV X, a permanent visa on humanitarian grounds.

And we've renewed our calls on the Government to establish an independent judicial inquiry into all aspects of the People Smuggling Disruption Program operated by the Commonwealth Government and its agencies from the year 2000. We too want to know exactly what role the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force played in the betrayal and ultimately the deaths of these 353 desperate people.

Through our government's stubborn refusal to release key information I don't know even the names of all those people who lost their lives. But I will not forget them, or their hopes for a new life, or the shameful, immoral way in which Australia deserted them, and our government sought to cover up their very existence.

These people were not the first to die seeking sanctuary in this country, and as the government hardens its heart, and its policies, and is supported by the ALP to harden its laws, we fear they will not be the last.

The Democrats don't care if it was a cover up or a stuff up - the friends and families of the people who drowned, the Australian public, and the world, deserve to know what role our nation played in this shameful event.

With apologies to my animal activist colleague Senator Andrew Bartlett, I note with sadness that the fate of 50,000 sheep has stirred the nation to outrage. Ten million dollars later, the sheep are safely stowed in a starving nation and the PM can once more turn his attention to treating refugees like criminals and keeping refugee children imprisoned behind bars and razor wire.

The same month that we remember the victims of the SIEV X tragedy, the nation came almost to a standstill to remember those who died in the Bali bombings. Sadly, our memorial today, and those around the nation, are not as well attended or well covered by the media.

The SIEV X tragedy caused the most horrendous loss of life in modern Australian history. And we will not forget this, or forgive it.



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