Faulkner Additional Comments
Recently the Federal Government
has credited its people smuggling disruption programme as having significantly
contributed to the decline in the numbers of people trying to get to Australia
Minister for Immigration, Philip
Ruddock, cited the government’s policy of
“physically disrupting the work of people smugglers” as one of the main reasons for the
decline in asylum seeker boats coming to Australia.
Minister for Justice and Customs,
also credited the Government’s disruption programme as a significant reason why
no boat had landed on the Australian mainland in almost 12 months.
However, from the evidence the
Government has given both the Certain Maritime Incident Committee and Senate
Estimates hearings, it is unclear exactly what activities occur in Indonesia
under the disruption programme.
Within a legal framework and
properly administered, disruption is a legitimate tool of Government. However
the Australian disruption programme in Indonesia
does not appear to have this kind of framework.
The Government has recently
provided insufficient answers to questions that go to the extent of the
disruption programme in Indonesia
and what exactly the programme entails.
Given that the disruption
programme in Indonesia
is undertaken by the Australian Government and funded by the Australian
taxpayer, the Federal Government and Commonwealth agencies must not avoid
Parliamentary scrutiny on this matter.
The Australian Government must
answer these questions:
- What are the limits to the implementation of the
disruption policy, if there are any?
- Precisely what disruption activities are undertaken
at the behest of, or with the knowledge of, or even broadly authorised by,
the Australian Government?
- What role have Ministers played in issuing
Ministerial directions or authorisations covering these activities, and
what knowledge do Ministers have about the methods employed, or the
outcomes of those activities?
- What sort of mechanisms are in place to ensure that
Australia is not breaching any laws, here in Australia or in other
- How is the policy of disruption funded?
- How much does it cost to fund, and who actually
receives this money?
- Who tasks the Indonesian officials or others to
disrupt people smugglers or their clients?
- Are Australians involved in disruption activities in
- What accountability mechanisms are in place in
relation to these activities, and what mechanisms ought to be put in
What is Disruption?
The policy of disruption aims to
disrupt the activities of people smugglers and their clients, asylum seekers
wanting passage to Australia.
The activities that occur under the disruption programme in Indonesia
appear to be quite broad. They range from information campaigns to more direct
activities such as preventing vessels from departing Indonesia.
Disruption, by way of an
information campaign, includes informing people in Indonesia
of the dangers or the risks associated with people smuggling. For example,
telling asylum seekers of the dangers of sailing in vessels to Australia,
or distributing T-Shirts to the local Indonesian fishermen that explain why
they should not crew people smuggler boats.
Department of Foreign Affairs,
Assistant Secretary, Geoff Raby,
told Senate Estimates that disruption was “collecting information, collecting
intelligence, meeting with local police in different areas and local governors,
raising the profile of the issue and expressing concerns”.
At the Senate Select Committee
into a Certain Maritime Incident (or CMI Committee), representatives from the
Department of Immigration said that the only disruption activity they were
involved in was information campaigns, for example, pointing out some of the
dangers in travel to potential passengers.
However the policy of disruption
is not only about information campaigns in Indonesia.
Disruption is also about
physically disrupting the people smuggling syndicates and the asylum seekers
who seek their assistance.
Minister Ruddock recently
outlined in general terms the more active element of disruption. This includes
the “detection and interception of the people smuggler's route” through
regional cooperation ranging “from information exchange to joint collaborative
action on illegal migration”. It also involves disruption at transit points.
The Australian Federal Police
(AFP) is also involved in active disruption in Indonesia.
AFP National General Manager,
Federal Agent, Brendan McDevitt,
told the CMI Committee that in broad terms the “primary objective” of
disruption is to “prevent the departure of the vessel in the first instance, to
deter or dissuade passengers from actually boarding vessels”.
The AFP agreed that there were a
whole series of methods that could be used to prevent the departure of the
vessel and that it was the “discretion of the liaison officer in Jakarta
as to the best method to apply”.
There may be disruption of the transport of the
passengers to the embarkation point, for instance, or the movement of the boat
to that embarkation point.
AFP Commissioner Mick
Keelty confirmed the more active nature of
the disruption activities, when he said that their purpose is to, “prevent the
departure of a vessel ... either by the arrest of individuals or by the detention
of individuals, or by ensuring that the individuals don’t reach the point of
embarkation if that was known”.
From the evidence received at the
CMI Committee and Senate Estimates, it appears that there are no current
guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when disrupting
people smugglers, asylum seekers and the people smuggler vessels. The
Government has refused to confirm if the disruption programme in Indonesia
ever extended to the physical interference of vessels and whether any
consideration is given, in the planning and implementation of disruption, to
questions of maritime safety – to the safety of lives at sea.
Channel Nine’s Sunday program has recently raised
serious questions about the nature of disruption operations in Indonesia.
The most concerning of these
allegations is that AFP informant Kevin
Enniss admitted, indeed boasted, to reporter
and two colleagues that he had paid Indonesian locals on four or five occasions
to scuttle people smuggling boats with passengers aboard. Mr
Enniss claimed the boats were sunk close to
land so everyone got off safely.
The AFP recently issued a press
statement indicating that “Kevin Enniss has been formally interviewed since the Nine Network's Sunday Program alleged his involvement
in the sabotaging of vessels. He emphatically denies any such involvement”. However the AFP did not indicate
if Mr Enniss had told the Sunday
crew that he had paid local Indonesians to scuttle four or five boats.
The AFP recently confirmed, as a
result of the Sunday Program
revelations in February, that Mr Enniss
was paid at least $25,000 by the AFP to be an informant. The AFP also admitted
that they were aware that Mr Enniss
purported to be a people smuggler and on at least one occasion took money from
asylum seekers who thought they were buying a passage to Australia. Commissioner Keelty
told Senate Estimates: “...we knew he was involved in people smuggling activities
because he was telling us what was going on”.
The Enniss admissions are not
consistent with statements by the AFP’s Director of International Operations, Dick
Moses, earlier this year. When asked by the Sunday program “Has the Australian Federal Police ever authorised
any informant to involve themselves in people-smuggling”, he answered “No
that’s categorically no, the Australian Federal Police has not done so”.
The Sunday program also put evidence on the record from a number of
asylum-seekers that Mr Enniss claimed to be an Australian policeman, and that
he had information about Royal Australian Navy ships which would ensure that
their boats would slip the net and reach Australia.
These admissions contradict
evidence given by Commissioner Keelty to the CMI Committee in which he claimed
“we obtain information from informants, but informants do not disrupt. They
have no power to disrupt”.
Commissioner Keelty also told the
CMI Committee that the AFP have no police powers beyond Australia’s borders.
Furthermore the AFP could not direct Indonesian Police or other Indonesian
authorities to disrupt people smugglers and asylum seekers. They could only
seek their assistance and cooperation.
But in the case of Mr Enniss this
is clearly not what is occurring in Indonesia. The AFP have admitted Mr Enniss
in conjunction with the Indonesian police agency POLDA “were engaged in strategies designed to interdict asylum seekers where
possible before they could depart for Australia”. This appears to be exactly what
the policy of disruption sets out to do.
Most information about active
disruption has come from AFP evidence at the CMI Committee and Senate
Estimates. But the AFP is not the only agency involved in these disruption
activities. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), the Australian Secret
Intelligence Service (ASIS), Defence, and the Department of Immigration and
Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) also play a role in Australia’s
people smuggling disruption program. As Minister Ellison told the Senate: “[W]e
have the Australian Federal Police and officials of the Department of
Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade working in the region for upstream disturbance [disruption]. We have had
some success with that. We are working at that end of the market”.
The evidence received by the AFP
at the CMI Committee and Senate Estimates, regarding active disruption has
been, at times, contradictory and misleading.
The AFP told the CMI Committee
that they work closely with the Indonesian National Police, Indonesian
Immigration, the Indonesian Navy and Indonesian Army and Marines when pursuing
organised people smuggling activities.
According to the AFP, no payment
is made to the Indonesian authorities for carrying out disruption activities.
Commissioner Keelty told the CMI Committee “We do not ask
them to carry out a task and then pay for them to do the task. There is a level
of cooperation that we have with them under the protocol”.
The AFP also indicated that they “paid no moneys to any government
agency in Indonesia to have them disrupt the activities of people-smuggling
However, Commissioner Keelty did
confirm that the AFP provides equipment, training and costs in travel to those
Indonesian authorities involved in disruption activities. For instance the
AFP’s Law Enforcement Cooperation Program provides training and equipment to
the Indonesian National Police. Five teams of the Indonesian National Police
have been established through this program and are directly involved in
Commissioner Keelty also informed
the CMI Committee that AFP informants are only paid to provide information
about the location of passengers and the activities of organisers and that “no
money has been paid to anybody specifically empowered to intervene” in people smuggling.
a result of an investigation into the activities of Mr Enniss, the AFP
confirmed they were aware Mr Enniss purported to be a people smuggler in
Indonesia. The AFP also admitted to knowing that Mr Enniss had taken money from
asylum seekers on at least one occasion.
According to the Sunday program, Mr
Enniss has also confessed to paying Indonesians to scuttle people smuggling
Keelty has told the CMI Committee that it has not come to the AFP’s attention
that “they were doing anything unlawful or inhumane”.
both the summary of the AFP’s investigation into Kevin Enniss, and the Sunday
program’s investigation, have clearly indicated that at least one Australian was
involved in disruption activities of a highly dubious and possibly criminal
Despite the assurance Commissioner Keelty gave to the
Senate Select Committee that nothing unlawful or inhumane would occur as a
result of the disruption programme, in the same day of evidence Commissioner
Keelty could not categorically rule out whether illegal and inhumane disruption
activities had occurred. These activities include encouraging fuel suppliers
not to supply fuel to vessels, not providing food for the vessels to sail, and
putting sugar in the fuel tank
or sand in the engine of a vessel. When Comissioner Keelty was asked if he
could categorically say whether any of these activities did not occur, he
replied “I have no knowledge at all of these things occurring, but it is like
anything else I have no knowledge about: I cannot deny that it exists”.
Legality and propriety
Government agencies involved in
the disruption programme have told the Senate Select Committee that they never
sought legal advice on these activities.
Commissioner Keelty claimed that
he was fully accountable for the disruption program, but it appears that no procedures
have been put in place to ensure nothing untoward or illegal is occurring or
has occurred. There appear to be no accountability mechanisms in place at all,
with most of this activity occurring outside Australian legal jurisdiction.
When Commissioner Keelty was
asked at the CMI Committee “so what accountability
controls and constraints are on those Indonesian agencies that are conducting
this activity? How are you satisfied ... that those activities are conducted in
an appropriate way?”, Commissioner Keelty replied, “[T]hat is not for me to
say. I don't have any power over the Indonesian authorities”.
Furthermore Commissioner Keelty
indicated “The AFP, in tasking the Indonesian
National Police to do anything that would disrupt the movement of people
smugglers has never asked, nor would it ask them to do anything illegal. If we
became aware that they were doing something illegal or something that was
inhumanitarian (sic), then it would be brought to our notice and we would ask
that they not do it that way. The difficulty is once we ask them to do it, we
have to largely leave it in their hands as how they best do it”. It is instructive to note
Commissioner Keelty’s words here in regard to the broad tasking the AFP has
requested of the INP: ”in tasking the Indonesian National Police to do
anything that would disrupt the movement of people-smugglers”.
earlier evidence, Commissioner Keelty claimed that the AFP couldn’t task the
Indonesians to disrupt people smugglers stating “We are not tasking them [INP] to do it...we can
seek their cooperation. We do not have a line of command over the Indonesian
authorities”. It is unclear if
the AFP did in fact task the INP to disrupt people smugglers or whether they
simply sought cooperation.
Commissioner Keelty has said that
he has not sought legal advice about the disruption activities in Indonesia. It
is therefore difficult to understand how Commissioner Keelty can claim to know
definitively that none of the disruption activities in Indonesia are illegal or
When the Department of
Immigration was asked if they had concerns about the nature or legality of any
disruption activities, Deputy Secretary Ed Killesteyn replied “None at all.
DIMIA is not an agency that has a role or a function or a mandate to be
involved in disruption activities that might invite some sort of question as to
its legality. That is not our role. We are not a law enforcement agency”.
Dr Raby from DFAT also indicated
that his department had not sought any legal advice about people smuggling
It is of concern that these
disruption activities are occurring in Indonesia at the request of the
Australian government and yet no legal advice has been sought nor are any
mechanisms in place to ensure nothing illegal or untoward is occurring in
Legal advice given to the Sunday program indicated that the
alleged behaviour of Mr Ennis in Indonesia is probably criminal, and that the
AFP has possibly acted outside the law.
Highly respected legal expert
Professor Mark Findlay said of Mr Enniss on Channel Nine’s Sunday Program: “Well, under Australian law if he’s a people smuggler
it’s a crime. If he’s not a people smuggler but purporting to be one, that’s a
misrepresentation. And to obtain a financial advantage as a consequence, that’s
a crime – you can’t have it both ways”.
Professor Findlay also rejected
Commissioner Keelty’s claim at Senate Estimates that informants like Mr Enniss
are protected by the controlled operations legislation.
Controlled Operations are defined
that: involves the participation of law enforcement officers; is carried out
for the purpose of obtaining evidence that may lead to the prosecution of a
person for a serious Commonwealth offence; and may involve a law enforcement
officer or other person in acts, or omissions to act, that would, apart from
certain exemptions, constitute a Commonwealth offence or an offence against a
law of a State or Territory”.
Professor Findlay argued that
there were possibly three reasons to suggest that Mr Ennis was not covered by
the controlled operations legislation: firstly, the legislation does not cover
controlled operations in Indonesia; secondly, informers are not covered by the
legislation, and thirdly the legislation does not cover individuals who are
involved in entrapment procedures which is the work that Mr Ennis appears to
have been doing in Indonesia.
suggestion made by Commissioner Keelty means that there are grounds to suspect
that the AFP itself may have been involved in, or may have authorised or
condoned, activities outside of the law, or even in breach of Australian law.
In this regard it should be noted
that amendments extending the controlled operations provisions of the Crimes Act 1914 to cover people
smuggling offences only entered into effect on 1 October 2001.
Role of Ministers
Beyond the activities of AFP
informant, Mr Enniss, there are serious questions about the disruption
programme and the behaviour of certain Australian agencies in Indonesia.
It is unclear to what extent
Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer,
Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison and Attorney General Daryl Williams,
had authorised, or had knowledge of or involvement in the disruption activities
At the CMI Committee, Assistant
Secretary Nelly Siegmund from the Immigration Department indicated that she had
specifically briefed Minister Ruddock about AFP reports relating to “Indonesian
involvement in being able to stop certain vessels from departing”.
However, generally Immigration
officials at the CMI Committee were vague about their knowledge of disruption,
mainly referring to information campaigns.
For instance Ed Killesteyn
described his knowledge of disruption activities on the ground as “only
generalities...about information campaigns and providing an opportunity for
people to be delivered to the IOM [International Organisation for Migration]
This contrasts with Minister
Ruddock’s Background Paper, released a few weeks after Immigration officials’
evidence to the CMI Committee, that outlined the policy of disruption including
“Disruption at Transit Points” which “can be either through apprehension of
those unlawfully in a transit country prior to their onwards travel or by
interception at the actual point of attempting to continue their journey,
either by sea or air”.
The CMI Committee’s work has
found that the Prime Minister established the People Smuggling Taskforce,
headed by PM&C, to share high-level information, and that this taskforce
discussed disruption activities on a number of occasions. It is unclear, however, what briefings this
taskforce provided the Prime Minister about the nature and extent of disruption
activities undertaken by, or condoned by, Commonwealth agencies.
On 27 September 2000, the
Minister for Justice and Customs, issued a ministerial direction that the AFP
“give special emphasis to countering and otherwise investigating organised
people smuggling. The AFP should also ensure that it provides an effective
contribution to the implementation of the Government’s whole of government
approach to unauthorised arrivals”.
Minister Ellison, who became the Minister for Justice and Customs in January
2001, has not indicated how this direction was put into operation.
Last year Minister Ellison told
the Senate that Australia’s upstream disturbance program (or disruption
programme) had successfully stopped 3,700 asylum seekers from embarking on
voyages to Australia:
period February 2001 to June 2001, due to the efforts of the Australian Federal
Police, Immigration and Foreign Affairs and, particularly, cooperation from the
Indonesian authorities, we have prevented a potential 3,700 illegal entrants
coming to Australia. That has been very good work that we have done overseas in
attempting to avoid this problem reaching Australia, and I want to place on
record our appreciation to the Indonesian authorities...What they have to look at
are the facts, because the facts demonstrate successes in relation to upstream
disturbance. We have set up a people smuggling Taskforce made up of the
Australian Federal Police and Immigration officials...We have tasked and
resourced the Australian Federal Police to work with Indonesian authorities in
relation to upstream disturbance in relation to people smuggling”.
Foreign Affairs Minister,
Alexander Downer, has also not confirmed whether he authorised the Australian
Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), either prior to or following the
commencement of the Intelligence Services Act, to engage in disruption
activities. If such authorisation occurred, the Minister should explain what
sort of disruption activities took place in Indonesia as a result of any such
Section 6(1)(e) of the
Intelligence Services Act, which commenced on 29 October 2001, requires the
Foreign Minister to put into writing any ministerial direction authorising ASIS
to engage in so-called “other activities”, that is any activities relating to
people or organisations outside Australia other than intelligence
Disruption activities would be
categorised as “other activities” for ASIS under the provisions of the
Intelligence Services Act.
The question of provision for the
authorisation of “other activities” was a government priority when the
Intelligence Services Bill was before the Parliament last year.
Direct Parliamentary scrutiny of
the role of ASIS is not possible. Nor is it possible for the Joint Committee on
ASIO, ASIS and DSD to examine these matters as they may be current operational
matters. It is also possible that such an examination falls outside the powers
of the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.
If ASIS has been involved, the
critical aspect would be the behaviour of its agents not its intelligence
officers. Ultimately supervision in this area, and responsibility in this area
lies with the Foreign Minister. If ASIS has been involved, then Minister Downer
should brief the Leader of the Opposition on this subject.
Response from Ministers
Australian Ministers who have
been questioned about the disruption programme have so far provided
unsatisfactory responses. It is not enough for Ministers to dismiss the
suggestion that illegal activities might be occurring, as a result of the
disruption programme, when there is obviously no system in place to ensure that
this is not occurring.
When Minister Ellison was
recently asked on ABC”s Radio’s AM programme if any Australian agents or their
informants had been involved at all in the sabotaging vessels, he replied “Well
it's not the policy of the Australian Government”. Again, when reporter Matt
Brown asked “But what about individuals? Has that happened?” Minister Ellison
replied “Well I can only speak for the Australian Federal Police and they have
said to me that the Australian Federal Police has never been involved in
Furthermore, Minister Downer has
not ruled out the possibility that someone may have sabotaged vessels in
Indonesia as a result of Australia’s disruption programme:
Australian Government certainly did not sabotage any boats. Did anyone every
sabotage a boat, I've no idea, but did the Australian Government ever sabotage
a boat, or was a boat sabotaged and sunk on the instructions of the Australian
Government, if I may say so, anybody would know that no Australian Government
would do that”.
When recently asked if anyone in
Indonesia had sabotaged people smuggling vessels as a result of the disruption
programme, would the Government want to know, Defence Minister, Robert Hill,
replied: “Well, if I'm confident that no law authority, no Australian institutional
body would act in this way, it's inappropriate to therefore speculate and
hypothetically ask me the next question”.
Minister Ruddock’s response to
questions about Australia’s disruption programme is also unsatisfactory:
and public servants are entitled to be angry about the way in which those sorts
of imputations are drawn when there is no evidence for them to be drawn in that
So far none of the Ministers
involved in the people smuggling disruption programme has categorically ruled
out if the disruption programme in Indonesia ever involved anyone sabotaging a
people smuggling vessel.
Australian Embassy in Jakarta
Questions also remain about how
much direction regarding disruption activities comes from the Australian
Embassy in Jakarta, and what sort of direction the Embassy is receiving from
officials or Ministers in Canberra.
DIMIA has three Compliance
Officers working out of the Jakarta Embassy. Two of these positions were
created in the last two years. Their major priority is to work on people
Two AFP agents also work from the
Embassy in Jakarta. These agents work closely with the Indonesian National
Police, Indonesian Immigration, Indonesian Navy and Indonesian Army and
Marines. They report directly to
the Director of International Operations – Mr Dick Moses and the General
Manager of International Operations – Mr Shane Castles.
Both Mr Moses and Mr Castles were regular attendees of the
Prime Minister’s People Smuggling Taskforce last year. They would inform the
Taskforce of the criminal
aspects of people smuggling - involvement with the people smuggling teams and
At the Australian Embassy in
Jakarta an Inter-Agency Co-ordination Group on People Smuggling has also been
established. The portfolios represented at these meetings are DFAT, DIMIA, AFP
and Defence. The purpose is to share information and assessments and to
represent the agencies’ view in relation to people smuggling matters. Geoff Raby from DFAT has indicated
disruption activities are a key focus of this group.
Australia’s Indonesian Ambassador
Ric Smith recently wrote a letter to the Canberra
Times ruling out the possibility that any official of the Embassy was
engaged “in any activity to disable or attempt to disable any vessel on which
potential illegal immigrants were embarked”.
However, it is unclear what
directions were given from the Australian Embassy to Indonesian or Australian
authorities involved in disruption activities and whether these directions came
from Canberra officials or Ministers and furthermore how any such directions
On the 13 June 2001 the Minister
for Immigration Philip Ruddock travelled to Jakarta. He had meetings with the
Australian Ambassador Ric Smith and the Inter-Agency People Smuggling Group. He
also met with the Indonesian Minister for Justice and Human Rights and the
Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
By September 2001 something
concerned the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Department enough to request the protocol
between the AFP and the Indonesian National Police be set aside.
Protocol – Memorandum of Understanding
AFP Commissioner Keelty told the
CMI Committee that on the 15th September 2000 a “specific protocol
under the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] to target people smuggling
syndicates operating out of Indonesia” was agreed to by the AFP and their
counterparts the Indonesian National Police.
The CMI Committee requested the Protocol and MOU but so far the AFP has not
provided a copy.
Under this protocol the AFP
provides equipment and training to the Indonesian National Police.
At the CMI Committee Commissioner
Keelty revealed that the Protocol under the MOU was set aside by the Indonesian
government in September 2001 – due to concerns the Indonesian Foreign Affairs
Department (DEPLU) had in relation to disruption.
Commissioner Keelty could not or
would not tell the committee why the Protocol was cancelled by the Indonesian
Despite the Protocol being set
aside, probably due to concern about the disruption activities that were
conducted by the AFP and the Indonesian National Police, Commissioner Keelty
told the CMI Committee he was not aware of the full detail of the Indonesian
Commissioner Keelty was asked at the CMI Committee the reasons behind the
What concerns did the Indonesians express in relation to the disruption
I do not have a briefing on that and I do not know that anyone in the AFP does.
I would be surprised—very surprised—if the AFP was not informed of what these
concerns might have been.
It was a decision by the Indonesian government in their DEPLU, so I would not
necessarily expect them to tell me why.
the CMI Committee, Commissioner Keelty was asked:
Commissioner, did you ask why the protocol was cancelled?
I do not specifically recall.
You do not know if you asked why?
I answered you. I do not specifically recall.
Despite the concerns the
Indonesian Foreign Affairs Department had about the Protocol, the AFP says it
continued to cooperate with the Indonesian National Police until June 2002.
The breakdown in the Protocol
doesn’t appear to have stopped disruption activities from occurring in
Indonesia. Between September 2001 and June 2002 the activities continued on a
case-by-case arrangement between the AFP and the INP.
In October 2001 the High Level
PM&C People Smuggling Taskforce notes indicate that disruption activities
were discussed on a number of occasions. For example on the 10th
October 2001 the Taskforce notes state “Discussion on
the ‘architecture’ – disruption, regional conference proposal, UNHCR positions” and on the 12th October
the Taskforce notes state “Discussion of disruption activity, and scope
for beefing up”.
At the CMI Committee the Head of
the People Smuggling Taskforce, Ms Jane Halton, indicated there were a “couple
of discussions” regarding disruption at the Taskforce meetings, however she
would not or could not elaborate further. Ms Halton had no memory of the
“beefing up” discussion except she thought it might refer to T-shirts. Ms Halton also told the committee that the Taskforce had never
tasked any agency to disrupt in Indonesia.
according to Ed Killesteyn from DIMIA, who attended the 10th
and 12th October Taskforce meetings, the “People Smuggling Taskforce
was concerned about the evidence of a surge and was, in a sense, giving a
direction to the responsible areas to look for further opportunities for
Commissioner Keelty also indicated that the People
Smuggling Taskforce was tasking agencies to beef up the disruption activities.
Commissioner Keelty thought it was an “operational call along the lines of ‘The
departure of the vessel is imminent; we’d be doing everything we can possibly
There are a number of people smuggling vessels that have
sunk en route to Australia, including the KM Palapa that was rescued by the
Tampa, the Norwegian cargo ship. Stories from survivors indicate that, on some
occasions, the Indonesian National Police were involved with the people
smugglers in organising the departure of the vessels. As journalist Lindsay
Murdoch in the Sydney Morning Herald reported last year, “boats [from Indonesia] carrying hundreds of
people have sunk, drowning all aboard...Some survivors say Indonesian authorities
have, at times, helped push boats out to sea knowing they are not seaworthy”.
Survivors from the KM Palapa recently told a court case in
Perth that Indonesian National Police were involved in the people smuggling
operation that organised the departure of the KM Palapa from Indonesia.
The vessel, now referred to as
SIEV X which was organised by notorious people smuggler Abu Quassey, sank on
the 19th October 2001, a day after it set sail, drowning 353 people
including 142 women and 146 children.
Survivors have provided
information about the condition of the vessel and the circumstances that led to
over 400 asylum seekers embarking on the voyage. This information raises
Survivors have indicated that
SIEV X before it departed was very low in the water and horribly overcrowded,
carrying four times the number of passengers that a vessel that size should
carry. Reports also suggest that the vessel was overloaded with fuel.
According to survivors, many
were forced by gunpoint onto the vessel. There were about 30 Indonesian police
present and police beat them and forced them by gunpoint to get on the boat.
The police appeared to be actively involved in the people smuggling operation.
SIEV X survivor Issam Ismail
“The Indonesian Police were
there. They were carrying automatic guns. They were so comfortable. They were
the ones who gave the signals with their torches. Turning on the torch was a
signal to send out people. Turning off the torch meant stop. That was how it
was done. We saw them with our own eyes. They had weapons we had never seen
before. The latest brands”.
Survivors from SIEV X have also
suggested that the vessel only took about 15 minutes to sink. Bahram
Khan, from Jalalabad in Afghanistan, said “The hull sprang a hole. The mechanic
could not fix it and the boat sank”.
On the 25 October 2001 Prime
Minister Howard was reported to be seeking more information about
whether the reports that Indonesian security personnel forced asylum seekers
onto SIEV X at gunpoint were true. Prime Minister Howard stated on regional ABC
radio “It has been an appalling tragedy, it really is a desperately sad event,
and if those allegations are true it reflects very badly on the authority to
allow that to happen".
Since then the Prime Minister has not made public what
information, if any, he received about the situation surrounding the departure
of SIEV X.
It is still unclear what
occurred in Indonesia before SIEV X departed. However, given the evidence from
survivors, the Government should make a public statement about their full
knowledge of the conditions surrounding the departure of this vessel.
Furthermore it should reveal whether disruption activities were directed at
this vessel and if so what those activities entailed. Other people smuggler
vessels that left Indonesia for Australia and sank en route should be included
in such a statement.
What is most concerning about the policy of disruption can
be seen in the statement made by Commissioner Keelty to the CMI Committee, “The
departure of the vessel is imminent; we’d better be doing everything we can
possibly do”. It begs the
question, how far has the policy of disruption gone?
An assurance from the government that illegal activities
have not occurred under the disruption programme is not enough.
So far the CMI Committee has not received clear answers to
questions that have been raised such as:
disruption activities are acceptable?
carries them out?
pays for them?
accountability and control mechanisms are
in place? Who authorises these activities?
is the effect of these activities?
if any, consideration was given to questions to the safety of lives at
The issue of the sabotage of people smugglers’ vessels has
been canvassed by the AFP informant Mr Enniss. Although Mr Enniss has
apparently now denied he was involved in sabotaging vessels, it is still
unclear whether he paid someone in Indonesia to scuttle people smuggling
vessels. Furthermore it is unclear what precise confessions Mr Enniss made to Sunday reporter Ross Coulthart and two
of his colleagues.
Beyond Mr Enniss, serious questions remain about the
disruption programme. For example, it is still unclear whether anyone, as a
result of Australia’s disruption policy, was directly or indirectly involved in
the sabotage of vessels in Indonesia and whether Australian Ministers,
officials or agencies have knowledge of such activities.
There are many unanswered
questions about the policy of disruption and what it actually meant for those
embarking on voyages to Australia.
An independent judicial inquiry into Australia’s
disruption programme in Indonesia is necessary to comprehensively investigate
what has actually happened in the disruption program, what the outcomes of the
program have been, the legality and propriety of the methods employed, and what
accountability mechanisms ought to be instituted for the future.