to the Herald Sun of October 24 the
Senate select committee on
the children overboard affair has found that both the Prime Minister
John Howard and the former Minister of Defence Peter Reith
“perpetuated a lie that asylum seekers had thrown their children into
the sea.” Between them they were told 24 times that there were doubts
about the veracity of reports that children had been thrown into the sea
by asylum seekers. It says
“ministers made no attempt to correct the story once being told there
were doubts about it.”
“In a 522-page
report, it says the buck stopped at the top when looking for reasons
the public was misled during last year's federal election.
The Labor-controlled committee said Mr Howard, his office or his
department were told 13 times of doubts about whether children had
been thrown overboard when their boat, Siev 4, was intercepted by HMAS
Adelaide on October 6 last year. Mr Reith and his staff were told 14
times the story may not be true."
Copyright Peter Nicholson. Used by permission
But Mr Reith is reported
as saying the inquiry was a
kangaroo court. He has now retired from politics.
Predictably the Liberal members of the committee say there is no
proof of deliberate lies John Brandis George Brandis, a
barrister, was deputy chairman of the Senate Inquiry into a Certain
Maritime Incident. writes of people's rights being "rolled by
political theatrics" http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,5346167%255E7583,00.html
Senator John Faulkner, the
Labor leader in the senate is quoted as saying
"What has been
exposed in this incident is an extraordinary story of deceit and I
think the ministers responsible and the Government stand condemned for
not correcting the public record when they had the opportunity right
through the most sensitive period in our electoral cycle."
At he time of
writing this page a more full report, by Mark Phillips can be seen at http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,5348499%255E421,00.htm
political site Truth
Overboard currently gives an outline of the whole sorry saga.)
The Pakistani site Dawn
puts it like this:
government deliberately lied to the public during last year's
parliamentary election when it said that refugees had thrown their
children into the sea to attract the attention of an Australian naval
patrol, an inquiry has found."
Unfettered by any
Australian pressure Dawn goes on to say: "
The obtaining of
further evidence about how much senior political figures knew of the
deceit was frustrated by a government ban on the interrogation of
ministers and ministerial advisers. However, the inquiry leader,
Senator Peter Cook, said there could be little doubt that knowledge of
the deceit went to the top of government.
"If you look at this from a political perspective, it is
inconceivable that a defence minister would have done this sort of
thing without the knowledge and consent of senior politicians and the
prime minister," he said......
"Sen Cook also reiterated calls for a full judicial inquiry into
the sinking of another vessel between Indonesia and Australia less
than a fortnight after the children overboard affair, with the loss of
There have been persistent claims that the boat had been sabotaged by
Australian agents, or Indonesians employed by them, in a covert
"people-smuggling disruption programme".
Kevin Enniss, an Indonesian-based informer for the Australian police,
claimed he had frequently bribed Indonesians to scuttle
"The form of words that the government has employed in denying
this story has been so carefully calibrated that you have to ask what
else is there," said Sen Cook.-Dawn/The Guardian News
The worrying thing
about all this is that Mark Phillips reported in the Advertiser
Government is ready for severe criticism when a long-awaited report
into the children overboard affair is released today.
and yet not a thing
seems to have been said. It is in Dawn, it is on CNN, and yet the
silence in Australia so far, (October27) is almost total. A letter
in the Advertiser notes that an American president would be impeached
for lies like this, but that in Australia the report has "barely
raised a yawn." This is the scary thing for us in Australia.
The Labor party has been pathetically silent on refugees, falling in
line with the Howard rhetoric. Hopefully the press release below is more
than jut a point scoring exercise and says something about a concern for
truth and justice.
The Senate Select Committee on a Certain
Maritime Incident today tabled its report, after eight months of work,
15 days of hearings, and non-stop obstruction from the Government.
Despite John Howard's initial claim that he
wasn't afraid of the truth, he used a Cabinet directive to prevent key
staffers from giving evidence to the committee. It is clear he wanted to
keep as much of the truth hidden as possible.
The committee has found that:
the 7th October 2001, the Prime Minister, his office and
senior members of PM&C received, on at least thirteen
occasions, written or oral reports that indicated serious doubts
that children had been thrown overboard.
the 7th October, Peter Reith and his office received on
at least fourteen occasions, written or oral reports that
categorically denied, or indicated there were serious doubts, that
children had been thrown overboard.
All three Ministers, throughout the 2001
election campaign, allowed the lie, that children had been thrown
overboard, to remain fixed in the public imagination. This is despite
the efforts of several courageous members of the Defence Forces who
tried to get their Minister to correct the record.
Mr Howard was told before his election
address to the Press Club that there were doubts about the authenticity
of the photographs that Peter Reith released as evidence that children
had been thrown overboard. However, on the following day at the Press
Club, even when asked directly about the authenticity of the
photographs, Mr Howard chose not to mention those doubts.
The current Defence Minister, Senator Hill,
announced yesterday that Defence communications have now been
streamlined. But the fault did not lie with Defence communications. It
lay with the Ministers and their staff who ignored those communications
– who were not interested in the truth and even less interested in the
truth getting to the Australian people.
And even now, over a year later, no one has
been sacked or disciplined for allowing the lie to remain. No public
servant, no staffer, no Minister.
I have also included a statement on
disruption in Indonesia.
There were clear problems with the
intelligence flow and analysis regarding people smuggling activities,
and these must be addressed. However it is my strong view that if the
ADF knew that SIEV X was in distress, they would have rushed to the
rescue. What happened before SIEV X's departure from Indonesia remains
Only a judicial inquiry can get to the
bottom of the people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia.
The lives of 353 people were lost when SIEV
X sank on 19 October 2001. We owe it to them to find out exactly what
Children Overboard Inquiry
Media Statement - 24 October 2002 http://www.alp.org.au/media/1002/20002668.html
on October 27
"‘Intellectually deceitful' …
‘disreputable' and ‘sour grapes': These are the terms that should be
used to describe Senator Brandis' minority report in the children
The facts are;
Senator Brandis did not adhere to his
undertaking to show the non-government members of the committee his
report before it was printed as part of the tabling document. This
is despite the fact the committee agreed to put back the deadline
for its report in order to accommodate Senator Brandis' inability to
draft his remarks in time. The first any non-government committee
member saw of his dissenting report was minutes before we were given
a printed copy of the final report.
This was a properly conducted Senate
inquiry, according to Senate practice and within Standing Orders. To
describe it otherwise is disreputable. Senator Brandis participated
in all the decisions relating to the conduct of the inquiry. He
never raised the criticisms he now makes at any time during that
period. As for Peter Reith, he was invited to attend on at least
three occasions and refused the invitation every time.
On several occasions Senator Brandis
declared to the committee he was approaching the hearings as if he
were defence counsel for the government and Mr Reith. His distorted
view of the proceedings should be understood from that perspective.
The role of senators, he should be reminded, is to try to find out
what happened. It is not the role of senators to play defence lawyer
to particular vested interests into whom they supposed to be
conducting an inquiry.
The ‘pattern of conduct' defence he has
put up in his report is not credible. The document he attaches to
his report to verify the ‘pattern of conduct' argument was ordered
to be collected by the Navy by Senator Hill so the government could
get as much dirt as possible on the asylum-seekers. This is another
abuse of the defence forces for political purposes by the
government. But the remarkable thing about this document is how
little and insignificant is the dirt it actually dredges up. When
tested it fell apart. For example, the incident reported by HMAS
Arunta that an asylum-seeker ‘attempted to strangle a child', was
later established to be that of a father holding a child back from
joining a demonstration on another part of the boat.
Perhaps the ultimate comment on Senator
Brandis is that after sitting through fifteen days of hearings, sixty
witnesses and 2,181 pages of transcript, he still maintains Peter Reith