Extracted from Senate Hansard, 11 December 2002, pp. 7757-8
[Notice of Motion given in the Senate, 10 December 2002]


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (Victoria) (4.09 p.m.)

-On behalf of all opposition senators, the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Bartlett, and all Australian Democrat senators, and Senators Brown, Nettle, Lees, Harradine and Murphy, I move:

That the Senate (a) notes the evidence presented to the Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident regarding the central role played by the person known as Abu Quessai in organising people smuggling operations in Indonesia;

(b) welcomes the statement by the Australian Federal Police that they have issued a further warrant for the arrest of Quessai, in relation to his involvement in people smuggling specifically in relation to the vessel known as SIEV X;

(c) further notes that the issue of this warrant indicates the strength of evidence linking Quessai with the people smuggling aspects of SIEV X, including the procurement of the vessel, the recruiting of crew, the provision of passage on the vessel in return for payment, the loading of the vessel (including the gross overloading), and the departure of the vessel bound for Australia;

(d) further notes that Abu Quessai is currently in prison in Indonesia for unrelated immigration offences, and is due to be released on 1 January 2003, with a high risk of him remaining out of reach of Australian legal authorities after that time; and therefore

(e) calls on the Australian and Indonesian Governments to undertake all actions necessary prior to 1 January 2003 to ensure that Abu Quessai is immediately brought to justice:

(i) on all matters relating to the outstanding warrants relating to people smuggling, and

(ii) in relation to his involvement with the vessel known as SIEV X, including the foundering and sinking of that vessel with the resultant tragic loss of 353 lives.

I seek leave to make a brief statement.

Leave granted.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS-This motion welcomes the statement by the Australian Federal Police that they have issued a further warrant for the arrest of Abu Qussey in relation to his involvement in people-smuggling, specifically in relation to the vessel known as SIEVX. It also expresses concern that all avenues be exhausted. The Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison, assured me at the last round of Senate estimates that the Indonesian government was likely to introduce legislation making people-smuggling an offence which would be used to expedite Abu Qussey's extradition. This is now most unlikely. Whilst I accept that the parliament cannot scrutinise the brief of evidence against Abu Qussey at this stage, given the details about these warrants, several questions can still be answered and remain unaddressed.

Details of why the Australian Federal Police have been unable to establish the location of where SIEVX sank is one example. Details of limited progress with the Indonesian government despite our government's earlier confidence remain unanswered. Details of the Attorney-General's advice as to jurisdictional considerations remain unanswered. All of these questions were raised at the last estimates round and remain unanswered. The government must demonstrate to the Senate, to the parliament and to the Australian public that it has exhausted all avenues regarding this crime of such large magnitude.

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Western Australia - Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (4.11 p.m.)-by leave -The government welcomes Senator Collins's endorsement of the AFP's investigation into Abu Qussey in paragraphs (a) and (b) of her motion. Abu Qussey is believed to be an Egyptian national who it is alleged has been involved in peoplesmuggling from Indonesia to Australia since early in 2000. He was sentenced by Jakarta Southern District Court on 4 September 2002 to six months imprisonment for offences against Indonesian immigration law and he is due for release on 1 January 2003. The Australian government is working with other governments in the region to seek to apprehend Abu Qussey in relation to his alleged involvement in people-smuggling activities and bring him to Australia to face the charges. As people-smuggling is not currently an offence in Indonesia, the dual criminality required for Australia to request the extradition from Indonesia does not currently exist. Australian authorities are continuing to work towards criminalisation of people-smuggling in the region and Indonesian authorities have indicated that legislation would be introduced into the Indonesian parliament this year criminalising people-smuggling.

The government cannot support paragraphs (c) to (e) for the following reasons. Four first instance arrests warrants have been sworn in Australia in respect of Qussey for alleged offences relating to organising suspected illegal entry vessels, SIEVs. The first three warrants for his arrest were sworn on 3 June 2002 and span alleged offences that occurred between February 2000 and August 2001. The latest warrant for his arrest is in relation to his alleged involvement in organising SIEVX in which 353 people died when it sank in October 2001. The issue of the fourth warrant in Brisbane on Friday last week follows the compilation of a brief of evidence which was submitted to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution. This brief of evidence in relation to SIEVX includes evidence from interviews with survivors of SIEVX in Australia. The strength of the evidence supporting any warrant is a matter for the courts to determine. It is therefore not appropriate for the brief of evidence to be scrutinised by parliament prior to any legal proceedings and any public discussion could prejudice the investigation. Once an existing warrant is acted upon the matter becomes sub judice.

The swearing of first instance warrants means an Interpol alert can be issued and it will ensure that the Australian government can seek to extradite Abu Qussey should circumstances allow. The Australian Federal Police has not been able to establish the location where SIEVX sank. Therefore, it is not possible to establish the relevant jurisdiction for any prosecution relating to the deaths on board. Australia respects that Indonesia as a sovereign state must take its own decision whether or not to investigate any particular matter.

Question agreed to.

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