Truth Over Board  

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Truth Over Board

The Report
ALP Press Release on the report
ALP Press Release on the Minority Report

According 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 Liar, Liar.... Cartoon by Nicholson 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." 

   Cartoon 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",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,4057,5348499%255E421,00.htm(The political site Truth Overboard currently gives an outline of the whole sorry saga.)

The Pakistani site Dawn puts it like this: 

"Australia's 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 353 passengers.

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 people-smuggling ships.

"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 Service."

The worrying thing about all this is that Mark Phillips reported in the Advertiser that 

"The Federal 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.

Ministers Overboard

John Faulkner - Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Shadow Minister for Public Administration and Home Affairs

Media Statement - 23 October 2002 on Oct 27

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:

  • From 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.

  • From 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.

  • From the 7th October, Philip Ruddock's department never received any written advice from Defence indicating 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 unknown.

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 happened.



Children Overboard Inquiry

Peter Cook

Media Statement - 24 October 2002 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 overboard inquiry.

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 is innocent.



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