[Extracted from Estimates, Senate Legal & Constitutional Legislation Committee Hansard, 26 May 2003, pp. 116-124]
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-The minister will not be surprised that I would like to explore the issues of Australia's recent success with a provisional arrest warrant in Sweden. Firstly, what was the nature of the warrant with respect to, and correct my pronunciation if it is wrong, Khaleed Daoed?
Ms Blackburn-I understand the case you are referring to but I cannot understand precisely what information you are seeking from us.
Senator Ellison-It is a provisional arrest warrant which we issue in any extradition situation. It is a warrant in the first instance to secure the person being detained whilst you prepare a formal request for extradition.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-In relation to which charges?
Senator Ellison-The charges are breaches of sections 232A and 233(1)(a) of the Migration Act 1958 and section 81 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987. The first section, 232A of the Migration Act, provides the offence of organising the bringing into Australia of groups of non-citizens and carries a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $A110,000. The second section, 233(1)(a) of the Migration Act, provides the offence of taking part in the bringing into Australia of non-citizens in circumstances in which it could be reasonably inferred that the non-citizen intended to enter Australia in contravention of the act and related offences. It carries a penalty of 20 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $A220,000. The third matter I mentioned, section 81 of the Proceeds of Crime Act, provides for the offence of money laundering and carries a penalty of 20 years imprisonment. Those are the matters for which Mr Khaleed Daoed is being sought for extradition and the subject of Australia's request for him to be surrendered to Australia.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Minister, was Sweden the country of refuge for Khaleed, with the assistance of the UNHCR?
Senator Ellison-Are you asking had he gone there as a refugee?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Yes.
Senator Ellison-I would have to check on that; I will take that on notice.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-My other question is: since the Indonesians had arrested Khaleed and then released him to the care of the UNHCR, where he then presumably achieved refuge in a European country, are you aware of what has changed in relation to the investigations in respect to those crimes?
Senator Ellison-The premise of your question is that the Indonesians had arrested Mr Daoed and then released him to the UNHCR. I am not aware of that, so I would have to take that aspect on notice because that is something which I would have to check and get back to the committee on. But are you asking if that is a fact to be considered?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-No, what I am asking is, with regard to his arrest in Indonesia in January 2002, I think it was, what has changed in relation to the prosecution of this man that he was released in January 2002 or thereabouts but now we can succeed with a provisional arrest warrant in relation to such crimes?
Senator Ellison-I know that this has been the subject of a longstanding investigation by the Australian Federal Police and the department of immigration and that evidence was being obtained, and it could well be that the evidence obtained founded the basis for these charges. But really I cannot go any further in relation to that because it is operational.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Minister, you may want to take this on notice, but could one of the factors be the absence in Indonesia of the people-smuggling legislation that we are still waiting, are we not, for them to implement?
Senator Ellison-Certainly, the fact that Sweden has anti people-smuggling laws makes our prospects of extradition much stronger. But I thought you were referring in the first instance to the case against Mr Daoed, whether there had been a change in the strength of that case or, in fact, whether there had been a change in circumstances for us to found the charges in any event.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-I am asking about both.
Senator Ellison-I guess that is something for the Australian Federal Police and the department of immigration to answer. I really do not think it is appropriate for me to answer that.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-I will leave that for the AFP when we come to them. As I understand, when Mr Daoed was arrested in Indonesia, so was a man by the name of Miythem Kamil Radhia, one of two brothers, it was reported, who was also involved with Abu Quassey. Is there any provisional arrest warrant in relation to this individual?
Senator Ellison-Madam Chair, we did not publicise our interest in Mr Daoed prior to his arrest. I really feel that to answer that question may well, one way or the other, prejudice any action that we might want to take. I am not saying yes or no, but I think that is something that you should really direct to the Australian Federal Police. They are really the people who should answer that question.
CHAIR-Thank you, Minister. For the rest of the committee's benefit, we appreciate your caution, and Senator Collins will continue to seek the information and we will see how we go.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Minister, I appreciate those aspects of it. I will continue to ask and continue to accept that operational factors may preclude this information being appropriately made public. I also accept your advice that the AFP might be in a better position to make that judgment than perhaps even yourself in this circumstance. A further report has been that some of the group of Mandaean Christians that departed from SIEV-X are now in Australia. Can you advise the committee whether you understand that to be the case?
Senator Ellison-That is something which I think is best directed to the department of immigration who will be giving evidence on Wednesday.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-We move now to the question of Abu Quassey. I understand that he is detained in Egypt now until 15 June. Are you aware of what the charges are?
Ms Frost-Senator, we have not received any information as to any charges that have been or may be laid against Mr Quassey in Egypt as yet.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-How long is it now since he went to Egypt?
Ms Frost-I understand that he was removed from Indonesia on 24 April.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Have we instigated any attempt at extradition from Egypt at this point?
Ms Frost-Yes, we are seeking his extradition from Egypt.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-We have formally done so at this stage?
Ms Frost-We have formalised an extradition request to Egypt, yes.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-What is the progress of that at this point?
Ms Frost-My understanding is that we have yet to receive any notice from Egypt as to whether they will agree to our request or not.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-And they have not yet responded. Have we sought from them the nature of the charges under which he is currently being held?
Ms Frost-My understanding is that our embassy in Cairo has been in quite close contact with the Egyptian authorities and has sought that information, but we have not received any information as yet.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Do we know how, on 24 April, he made his way to Egypt?
Ms Frost-I do not think we have actually ever received formal advice as to how he made his way to Egypt. My understanding is that he may possibly have transited through Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-In relation to Saudi Arabia, is that one of the countries through which our alert notice would have had no impact?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Did we receive any prior warning that he would be leaving Indonesia on 24 April?
Ms Frost-I would have to take that on notice.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Are you aware of whether the Australian Federal Police made any attempt to intercept his journey to Egypt?
Senator Ellison-That is a matter best answered by the Australian Federal Police. They are coming to give evidence-
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Tomorrow night.
Senator Ellison-And the best evidence rule is direct.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Indeed. I know the minister has made public comments to the extent that we will seek the extradition of Abu Quassey, but if that fails we will assist and cooperate with the Egyptians on whatever charges they might proceed with. Minister, would that include waiving the standard conditions on temporary protective visas in relation to potential witnesses who are currently in Australia?
Senator Ellison-Are you saying that, if there was someone in Australia who could give evidence, we would allow them to stay in Australia in order to assist in the inquiry?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-No. Would you let them travel to Egypt?
Senator Ellison-That is a matter for both the minister for immigration and myself. I would certainly be willing to look at anything of that nature, but I would have to discuss that with the minister for immigration.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-But you are aware that it would be a restraint in the way the current temporary protective visas apply?
Senator Ellison-In what way?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-A condition of the visa, as it currently is, is that the person concerned cannot leave Australia.
Senator Ellison-If that were a condition of their visa, I would certainly look at that myself, and I am sure that the minister for immigration would be wanting to assist in whatever way possible as well.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-My final question is for A-G's generally. I hope that the officers who are able to assist me are present. If they are not, you may need to take this on notice. Recently, we received a copy of the brief that went to the Prime Minister on 24 October 2001 in relation to SIEV-X sinking. In that brief there was a section heading, 'Boat sank in Indonesian waters'. We have since been advised that that heading was based on information provided by the agencies listed in the consultation section of that brief. A-G's was one of the agencies listed in that consultation section. Can you advise the committee whether any information that A-G's provided in this process led to the section heading 'Boat sank in Indonesian waters'?
Mr Cornall-Are we able to see the brief you are referring to?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Certainly.
Senator Ellison-Chair, whilst I appreciate that there may be some broad ranging questions in budget estimates 2003-04, and that we have taken questions in relation to that in relation to current matters, there has been extensive Senate inquiry in relation to this matter, in both the certain maritime incident inquiry and previous estimates. Is this matter not old ground which has been traversed before? The secretary is looking at that now, but there really should be some sort of limit to the range of questions put to us in relation to matters which have been investigated elsewhere over a long period of time.
CHAIR-That is a point I made on another matter earlier today, so I was listening with interest to the progress of the questions. Senator Collins, we are obviously trying to confine our interest to matters pertaining to the budget estimates 2003-04. I understand that these are matters which you have been pursuing over a series of committees in recent times. I will seek a response from Mr Cornall, if he wishes to make one now, and then we will see how we go.
Mr Cornall-It is only that, to ensure that any answer we give Senator Collins is completely accurate, we would need to take the question on notice and get a copy of the memo.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Thank you. I appreciate that. I have some other questions in relation to Abu Quassey. We might avoid some duplication if I can scan these for a moment.
CHAIR-Senator Collins, in relation to the matters that you were pursuing?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Yes, I have about three questions further in relation to the provisional arrest warrant with respect to Abu Quassey.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Minister, is it not true that the extradition requests made to Abu Quassey included many countries with whom Australia has no extradition relationship, including China, Iran, Syria and Jordan?
Senator Ellison-Madam Chair, for a start we did not make extradition requests as outlined by Senator Collins so let us get that straight. What we did do is issue provisional warrants which, I mentioned earlier, would have enabled the person concerned to have been detained. That at least would have been a mechanism for us to restrict Mr Abu Quassey's movements and then take appropriate action.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Minister, is it usual for Australia to issue provisional warrants with respect to countries with whom we do not have a general extradition relationship?
Senator Ellison-It is certainly possible to do that. Whether or not it has been done before is a question I would have to take on notice.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-I am interested in what either the general policy or practice is in that respect. Whilst I can see significant advantages to us getting our hands on Abu Quassey, I also understand that there are significant risks involves in terms of reciprocal relationships in such matters which has been part of a practice regarding those countries with whom we might seek either extradition or provisional warrants from. Am I erring in my understanding of such matters?
Ms Blackburn-The making of a provisional arrest request does not of itself enliven a reciprocal obligation on the recipient of the request or, indeed, the maker of the request.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-What would?
Ms Blackburn-Conclusion of an extradition treaty.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Are you suggesting that the process of seeking, in its preliminary stages, through something like a provisional warrant, in no way encourages other countries to believe there could be reciprocal obligations?
Ms Blackburn-The making of a provisional arrest request of itself does nothing more than ask the country to consider whether, in the event that they locate the person to whom the warrant relates, they might take him into custody pending further discussions with the government making the request.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Has this been our practice in the past?
Ms Blackburn-We have taken that question on notice. I cannot answer that question.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-With the question on notice, whether it is a practice or a policy, I would appreciate having that response dealt with. We may well find that it is not a formal policy, but if in the past the practice has been not to seek either extradition or provisional warrants from countries with whom we do not have a general extradition relationship, I would like that addressed on notice. Perhaps you may be able to deal with this in terms of our discussion of the risks involved here: has any one of the countries to whom we made the provisional warrant sought a reciprocal response in relation to a request for extradition?
Ms Blackburn-I will take that on notice.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Does that mean you cannot answer that at the moment?
Ms Blackburn-That is correct. I cannot answer that question.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-You do not know if this has occurred?
Ms Blackburn-I do not have sufficient information with me to enable me to answer that question. I do not know and I will take it on notice.
Senator Ellison-It is not really something which comes out of budget estimates 2003-04. It is understandable that Ms Blackburn does not necessarily have that information at her fingertips. I might just add that the policy is very much that, if we are seeking someone who is charged with offences in Australia, we do employ whatever lawful means we can to secure their attendance in Australia to face justice. Of course, it has been said, unfairly and wrongly, that the government has not done everything possible to get Mr Abu Quassey into Australia because we are fearful of the evidence he might give. It seems that if we do not do one thing we are damned, and if we do the other we are damned. We will take those questions on notice, but I would remind the committee that we are dealing with budget estimates and we are tending to stray a bit.
CHAIR-I appreciate the point, Minister. As we adverted to earlier, when Senator Collins indicated that she had three further questions in this area, I thought it was probably more efficient to deal with them than not.
Senator Collins, how much more do you have?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-I can pretty much wind up that point. The only issue that I am seeking to explore here relates directly to the budget estimates, and that is our policy in relation to seeking extraditions. I am mildly surprised, though, that an officer is able to respond not 'not to my knowledge but I will take it on notice' but rather simply does not want to respond to the question.
Senator Ellison-It is not 'does not want to'-
CHAIR-Ms Blackburn indicated quite clearly that she did not have the information with her, Senator Collins. I think it is unfair to cast it in that light.
Ms Blackburn-Perhaps if I could just add: the question, in terms of the policy, is one that we will take on notice in terms of advising you on whether or not it has been used in the past.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Thank you.
Senator Ellison-I might remind the committee that policy is, of course, in the domain of the minister.
CHAIR-Quite. Senator LUDWIG-I think that has finalised 2.1.