[Transcript. Original date stamped: Received 4 July 2002]
Senate Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident
Dear Senator Cook,
Reference was made at the recent Senate Estimates Committee hearings for Defence of an internal review being undertaken by Defence of Intelligence material relating to SIEV X.
I have enclosed a declassified summary of this review for the information of your Committee members (attachment A).
Due to concerns relating to incorrect media reporting of Defence evidence to your Committee regarding the level of aerial surveillance being done at the time of the SIEV X incident, my office requested Defence to review the flight data from P-3 Orion flights on the key days.
From this, they have been able to chart indicative flight paths and provide additional information relating to weather conditions, coverage of the 34,600 square nautical mile surveillance zone, time spent in the zone, and vessels identified by radar and subsequently visually identified.
I trust this information (attachment B) will be of use to the Committee in rejecting the spurious allegations that the Australian Defence Force turned a blind eye to the plight of this vessel.
On a separate issue, I have previously written to the Committee regarding Defence's concerns abut the PM&C notes of the meetings of the People Smuggling Taskforce. In particular I brought your attention to their incorrect reference to SIEV X as SIEV 8 and highlighted that some media outlets had reported this mistake as fact. You would be aware that the covering letter of 6 June 2002 submitted with these notes clearly notes that this reference was an error on the part of PM&C. PM&C restated this in a letter to your Committee dated 21 June 2002.
I would draw your attention to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 2 July 2002 (page 11) in which Margo Kingston states, 'The task force is so confident it later gives SIEV X a name - SIEV 8.' She makes no reference to the PM&C correspondence of either 6 June or 20 June which notes this was a mistake made in reconstructing the notes. This continued incorrect reporting emphasises the importance of my request of 25 June 2002 that the Committee makes a public statement at its next hearings clarifying this matter. It would also be appropriate for the Secretariat to provide Ms Kingston with copies of the PM&C correspondence of 6 and 21 June in the hope that she will report it accurately in future.