Extracted from Senate Estimates Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee Hansard, 4 November 2003, pp. 38-40
CHAIR-Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. Senator Kirk is going to try and bowl you out at middle stump.
Senator KIRK-Thank you, Chair. I have some questions for you, Mr Davidson, arising out of some questioning by Senator Faulkner last year in relation to a visit that I understand was made to you by Mr Moore-Wilton in August or September 2001. I know it is going back a bit, but I have a few questions arising out of that.
Mr Davidson-Senator, did you say a visit made to me? Senator KIRK-I wondered whether or not Mr Moore-Wilton visited AMSA on 29 August or 4 September 2001.
Mr Davidson-No, he did not.
Senator Ian Campbell-Just another handsome-looking bloke must have walked in the front door.
Senator KIRK-What about a visit to AMSA earlier on in 2001?
Mr Davidson-I have no recollection of Mr Moore-Wilton visiting the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at any stage.
Senator KIRK-Would anyone else at the authority have perhaps met with Mr Moore-Wilton, that you would be aware of?
Mr Davidson-To my knowledge he has never visited the authority.
CHAIR-Does that mean there is something wrong with the authority?
Mr Davidson-I think Mr Moore-Wilton had many better things to do than to come-
Senator Ian Campbell-I have never visited-
CHAIR-Nor have I. I do not know whether that means anything.
Mr Davidson-You are certainly invited, Senator.
Senator KIRK-Possibly a telephone conversation, then, between you and Mr Moore-Wilton during that period?
Mr Davidson-Yes, I probably did have some conversations with Mr Moore-Wilton during that period.
Senator KIRK-Would you be able to recall the nature of those conversations? Or are we pushing it?
Mr Davidson-I just do not have that information with me, or the means to honestly turn my mind to that issue.
Senator KIRK-Would you perhaps take that on notice, and check the diary records and see if you could find something for us.
Mr Davidson-Yes, I can look at that.
Senator KIRK-So, as far as you recall, there were no directions of any description given by Mr Moore- Wilton to AMSA on its activities?
Mr Davidson-None at any stage.
Senator KIRK-I also have some questions in relation to a paper prepared by Dr Feeney, who I believe is an AMSA officer. Am I correct there?
Mr Davidson-Dr Feeney is now an AMSA officer, but at the time the paper would have been prepared it would have been in his capacity in the department as a first assistant secretary there.
Senator KIRK-Could you perhaps give the committee some details as to the nature of the paper that he prepared at the time I am referring to-that is, August-September 2001.
Ms Briggs-Senator, I am not sure the nature of that paper has been discussed or released publicly. I would need to take some advice on that.
Senator KIRK-Would you like to take the advice now?
Ms Briggs-I do not think I could take that advice now.
Senator KIRK-I understand that the paper was in relation to search and rescue arrangements between Australia and Indonesia. Is that correct?
Senator KIRK-I understand also that he was asked to write a separate protocol for SIEVs-suspected illegal entry vessels-in distress.
Ms Briggs-Certainly Dr Feeney coordinated the development of that protocol, yes.
Senator KIRK-Who initiated that? You said that at the time Dr Feeney was not an AMSA officer, so I am wondering who it was who commissioned him to write that section of the paper.
Ms Briggs-I did, Senator, as acting secretary at that time.
Senator KIRK-I am wondering why it was that this separate section had to be prepared. As I understand it, under international maritime law Australia's obligations are already quite clear in relation to such vessels.
Perhaps you could elaborate for the committee why it was that Dr Feeney was commissioned to prepare this section of the paper.
Ms Briggs-If I may clarify the nature of Dr Feeney's activities in regard to the protocol: I think the work that Dr Feeney did indicated that there was an area of some confusion as to how arrangements might operate, and the Tampa had in some ways drawn light to those issues. Certainly the context in which we operate, however, is the international law of the sea.
Senator KIRK-You said that there was some confusion. In whose minds was there this confusion?
Ms Briggs-The maritime sector itself was raising these issues, and had raised them direct.
Senator KIRK-So the purpose of Dr Feeney's paper was to look into that, to clarify whether or not the international maritime law applied, or whether or not-
Ms Briggs-Not whether or not international law of the sea applied; clearly it did apply. But the industry were asking for some help in these circumstances, which were new circumstances-namely, the illegal activities of people-smuggling.
Senator KIRK-When you say `the industry', who sought the clarification in relation to this matter?
Ms Briggs-I do not have that information with me. Certainly I was not approached personally-
Senator KIRK-So it was somebody external to AMSA?
Ms Briggs-Yes, somebody external to the department, absolutely.
Senator KIRK-You could take that on notice, though, and give me the information?
Senator KIRK-Thank you. The other questions I have relate again to Dr Feeney. I understand that he established, or it was proposed that there be established, a cross-portfolio SIEV emergency group. Is that correct? CPSEG I believe is the acronym.
Ms Briggs-This is taxing my memory, Senator. I think I need to take that on notice, I'm afraid.
Senator KIRK-Okay, perhaps you would take it on notice. My interest was in the nature of that body and what it was asked to do.
Ms Briggs-Sure. I will check that out and I will get that for you.
Senator KIRK-Please do. Thank you. Those are all the questions I have for the moment, Chair. I may pass over to-
CHAIR-Do you feel better now?
Senator KIRK-Do I feel better? Enormously, since visiting here. Thank you.