TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP
SENATOR THE HON. CHRIS ELLISON
MINISTER FOR JUSTICE AND CUSTOMS
FRIDAY, 7 NOVEMBER 2003
SENATE COURTYARD, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
Topics: Extradition of Khaleed Daoed; listing of terrorist organisations; excision regulations; Pauline Hanson; Melville Island vessel
MINISTER: Australia has successfully sought the extradition of Khaleed Daoed, an alleged people smuggler, and he is now in the custody of the Australian Federal Police in Brisbane. Mr Daoed faces 12 charges in relation to people smuggling matters and this is the result of very hard work by Australian authorities in securing his extradition from Sweden.
We're grateful for the cooperation we've had from the Swedish authorities in this matter and it demonstrates yet again Australia's determination to bring to justice those criminals behind the abhorrent trade of people smuggling.
Of course, Mr Daoed is an alleged accomplice with Abu Quassey, a man who is on trial in Egypt for his role in relation to people smuggling charges, in relation to Australia, in particular the vessel SIEV X which saw the tragic loss of life of 353 people. The Government of Australia is keen to have Mr Daoed be brought before an Australian court and for these matters to be dealt with.
These are serious charges. Upon conviction they carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and of course in Mr Abu Quassey's case we sought his extradition but the Egyptian authorities are trying him and we expect a decision on that on the 27th of December this year.
People smuggling is an abhorrent trade. We wont tolerate it and we will ensure that those people behind it are brought to justice.
REPORTER: Minister, how established are people smugglers in Australia? Obviously we know they are active outside Australian shores, but how many are actually here, do we know?
MINISTER: Well recently we've charged an Australian national in relation to another matter and of course we can't rule out that there are connections in Australia. But I can't go into it further than that for operational matters but in this case we're very pleased to have Mr Daoed in Australian custody and now in a position where he will face 12 charges related to people smuggling.
REPORTER: When did he actually arrive in Australia and do you know when he will be making his first court appearance?
MINISTER: Mr Daoed arrived in Australia this morning and he will be fronting a court today. He is in the custody of the Australian Federal Police and he faces 12 charges.
REPORTER: Do you know which court it is?
MINISTER: I understand it will be the Brisbane Court of Petty Sessions.
REPORTER: What do you make of today's Senate Hearing? Is it a waste of taxpayers' money?
MINISTER: Today the Senate is dealing with a very important issue and that is the issue of Australia's security. We are listing, seeking to list, two organisations which we believe pose a threat to Australia's security.
Unfortunately we have to go down the path of recalling the Senate because the Opposition would not allow us a more streamlined process for listing terrorist organisations and we've said that all along. We continue to say it. Other countries don't have this process that we have, this cumbersome process but while we are stuck with it we have to recall the Senate. Now, that has to be done in the interest of Australia's security.
REPORTER: But is there an immediate threat to Australia? Why couldn't it wait for another two weeks?
MINISTER: Well we've had information which requires that these organisations be listed. Now you couldn't possibly suggest that we sit around waiting for Parliament to recommence when we are dealing with Australia's security. We have a system which the Opposition has imposed on us that we have to recall Parliament and go through a legislative process and that's why we are doing it. We'd rather a much more streamlined process and we proposed that but the Opposition has rejected it.
REPORTER: Is there a current serious threat to Australia?
MINISTER: Well I can say that we've received sufficient information in relation to these organisations to have them listed as terrorist organisations. Now it would be irresponsible of the Australian Government to have this information, sit on it and do nothing. The Opposition would be the first ones to complain, yet they've saddled us with a cumbersome process where we have to go through this legislative process to have organisations, terrorist organisations listed.
REPORTER: Should the Senate deal with the excision legislation as well today?
MINISTER: Well the regulations which have been put in place to excise Melville Island, of course were ones which we sought earlier and the Opposition went soft and wouldn't let us have it because we've said all along that the excision of certain islands and territory is a part of our border protection for Australia. It provides a buffer for Australia.
We are resolute that no one should come to Australia illegally, we will not tolerate vessels arriving unannounced on our shores. We have a right to determine who comes to this country as any sovereign nation has. Now the excision of Melville Island is something which we believe is necessary for the protection of Australia's interests.
REPORTER: Is Pauline Hanson going to pose a political threat to the Coalition?
MINISTER: Look the court's made its decision in relation to Pauline Hanson and she should be allowed now to get on with her life as any Australian citizen in her position should. The court's made its decision and as the Prime Minister has said, we should now move on.
REPORTER: Minister there's a Customs vessel off Melville Island with the Navy at the moment, what's the role of Customs in this operation and what have they found?
MINISTER: Well Customs, of course are working with Navy as part of our border protection and we've got the Australian Federal Police involved as well. They're carrying out their enquiries as they normally do in these cases. The matter's an operational one and I can't comment further.
REPORTER: Can you tell us whether Customs officers are playing an active role or are they just bystanders, letting the defence forces do most of the work?
MINISTER: Oh no, Customs are involved actively in this whole matter, in fact what you must remember is that the Customs hotline was used to alert us to the situation and of course it was Coastwatch that put in place the exclusion zone. We've had a Customs vessel there in very short time along with a navel vessel. We work in very close co-operation with Navy, both Navy and Customs are working closely on this matter.
REPORTER: Are there any new people smugglers being looked at in relation to this particular boat?
MINISTER: Well we do have people of interest, there is no question about that and the Australian Federal Police are carrying out extensive investigations, particularly using their international network. I can't comment on that but we are resolute in our pursuit of those criminals behind people smuggling, it's an abhorrent trade and we've recognised that in our legislation with penalties which carry terms of imprisonment of up to 20 years.
REPORTER: Can you give any more details about, I think you said 12 charges that he is facing?
MINISTER: The 12 charges relate to two vessels in 2001. SIEV X resulted in the tragic loss of life of 353 people, the other vessel involved 147 people. We allege that Mr Daoed was involved in both of those and of course in relation to SIEV X he has a co-accused, Abu Quassey, who is on trial in Egypt for these matters.
REPORTER: Is he an Australian citizen?
MINISTER: Mr Daoed is not an Australian citizen.
REPORTER: Do you know what he is a citizen of?
MINISTER: He was found in Sweden. I am not aware of his nationality but the Swedes granted his extradition to Australia and we're grateful for that.
REPORTER: How big a role do you think he played in those operations?
MINISTER: Well it's alleged that he was involved in the organisation of those two vessels and I can't go into it any further than that, that's now a matter for the prosecution. Suffice to say that the 12 charges that he faces are serious and upon conviction can carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
REPORTER: Well was he a 'Mr Big' of people smuggling, is he one of the main guys do you think?
MINISTER: Well we allege that he is an organiser and I think that that is as far as I can go in relation to that. The matter is now for the prosecution, he will be facing an Australian court today and it's a matter now before the courts.
REPORTER: Do you know where he was based during those operations, was he in Indonesia?
MINISTER: Well Mr Daoed has been a person of interest for some time and we have been investigating this over a period of time. We located him in Sweden and successfully gained his extradition from that country. But I won't go into his whereabouts prior to that as that forms part of the background to the investigation which I can't comment on.