Sen the Hon Amanda Vanstone
Ms Marg Hutton
21 Apr 2004
Dear Ms Hutton
I refer to your letters of 29 January 2004 and 15 March 2004 about an alleged crucial omission in my Department's evidence to the Senate Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident (CMI).
I am advised that the vessel Gelantipy to which you refer was the subject of a search and rescue in waters near Christmas Island in early March 2001. There is no information available to my Department to indicate that Abu Quassey was associated with this venture. My Department is not aware of the research to which you refer that established such a link.
My Department had no basis for concluding that any vessels with which Abu Quassey was associated later in the year would have threatened the lives of persons travelling on them or that a rescue by Australian authorities would have been required.
My Department reviewed the classified information that underpinned advice given to the Senate Select Committee by Deputy Secretary Killesteyn and Ms Siegmund concerning a reference in People Smuggling Taskforce Minutes to "some risk of vessels in poor condition and rescue at sea". Departmental officers were referring to an organiser other than Abu Quassey. The details of that organiser and his activities are classified and are not available for release.
There is no evidence that my Department withheld crucial evidence from the Senate Select Committee on a CMI during its inquiry.
The loss of the SIEV X and the consequent death of so many people is indeed tragic and highlights the insidious nature of the people smuggling business and the complete disregard that the people smugglers have for the lives of the people they exploit.
I have copied this response to Senators Collins, Cook, Faulkner, Kirk, Bartlett and Brown.
Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.