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News ::
18 Oct 2003
Senator Andrew Bartlett leader of the Australian Democrats made history yesterday, October 16 2003 as he spoke in the Senate to the first motion of condolence for the 353 who died in the SIEV X tragedy.

    Senator Andrew Bartlett leader of the Australian Democrats made
history yesterday, October 16 2003 as he spoke in the Senate to the first
motion of condolence for the 353 who died in the SIEV X tragedy.

    His SIEV X motion of condolence was the first to pass into the
Australian parliament. He was the also the first politician, senator or
leader of an Australian political party to post a message of condolence on
the newly founded JANNAH THE SIEV X MEMORIAL in 2002 on it's original site

    Senator Bartlett has never wavered in his opposition to the Howard
Government's harsh immigration policies. He has consistently supported
refugees and asylum seekers suffering the insecurity and fear of detention,
the anxiety of TPVs or terror of deportation to likely death. A member of
the Senate CMI Inquiry, he continues to work for a full judicial inquiry
into the tragedy of SIEV X which brought about the deaths of 146 children,
142 women and 65 men.

    Senator Bartlett has always seen asylum seekers as people just like
us. Unlike some politicians he sees the desperate families on SIEV X in
human terms. Speaking in the Senate to his motion of condolence for the
victims of SIEV X in the Senate he made this absolutely clear.

    Founder and co-ordinator


    [Extracted from Senate Hansard, 16 October 2003]

    Immigration: SIEVX
    Senator BARTLETT (Queensland-Leader of the Australian Democrats)
(7.40 p.m.)-I would like to acknowledge what will be the second anniversary,
on Sunday, of the sinking of the vessel that came to be known as the SIEVX.
I am pleased to note that the Senate today, I think for the first time,
specifically passed a motion expressing regret and sympathy for the loss of
so many innocent lives. There have been a number of resolutions passed in
this place, moved by me and a number of opposition senators, in relation to
the SIEVX and various aspects of the situation surrounding the sinking of
that vessel and a lot of unanswered questions. I think Senator Collins, just
today, was speaking about that. It is certainly something that many of us,
including the Democrats, will continue to follow up.

    Tonight I simply want to focus on the tragedy itself and on what
I think is the welcome development of the Senate specifically expressing its
regret and sympathy for the loss of so many innocent lives-a total of 353.

    Whilst I do not in any way wish to compare tragedies, quite
appropriately a lot of focus in recent weeks in Australia has been on the
first anniversary of the Bali tragedy and on the number of Australians who
died there. At the service I attended today in the Great Hall of the
Australian Parliament House, the names of the 91 Australian residents and
citizens who died in that atrocity were read out. Again, I stress I am not
comparing or suggesting numbers make one tragedy greater than another but,
if you think of those 91 names that were read out and multiply by four, you
would be close to the 353 lives that were lost. Of those 353, 146 were

    I have spoken a lot in this chamber, as many senators would
know, about my strong disagreements with the government's policy in relation
to asylum seekers and refugees and the Labor Party's support for much of the
legislation that came forward in relation to that. I will not speak on that
tonight; I will certainly continue to express my views strongly over the
days and months to come. Tonight I simply want to reinforce the weight of
the Senate's resolution, noting that tragedy of 353 lives lost-of the 421
who were on that death boatand noting that many people who lost their lives
had and have close family members in Australia who are on temporary
protection visas now.

    A small number of the survivors of that vesselthere were fewer
than 70 survivors-are in Australia now on temporary protection visas. The
one who is probably most known to Australians is the mother of those three
little girls who were on the front page of Australia's newspapers in the
days after the tragedy was discovered-three very beautiful young girls, all
under the age of 10, who drowned in that tragedy. The mother survived,
having to endure the double tragedy of seeing her children drown beside her
in the water over a period of hours without anybody coming to rescue them,
then having to endure months being separated from her husband, who was
already in Australia on a refugee visa. She was kept in Indonesia. It took
months for her to be finally given permission to come to Australia. That
couple now have a new baby. I have had the privilege of meeting them and
their new child.

    The irony is that the father's visa-he was here already on a
temporary visa-will expire quite soon, if it has not already. The mother
arrived on a five-year visa that expires in about 2005 and the baby that was
born last year has a separate visa that expires on another date again. That
is the absurdity of the system. The motion specifically asked the new
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs to
consider the humanitarian reality of people who, like that family, had
family who drowned in that tragedy.

    The minister should recognise that situation and to give them a
permanent humanitarian visa so they can rebuild their lives.

    It will be a day and a date I will always remember, because 19
October 2001, the day that all those children drowned, was the same day that
my first and only daughter, Lillith, was born. She is, in my view, the most
beautiful girl ever born - I apologise to everybody else who might have
children, but that is just the way it is and to think that, at the same time
that she was being born and all the wonder that goes with that, there were
146 children whose lives were about to end as they struggled in the water in
such fear and terror. It is indeed a tragedy, and it is one that should be
remembered. They were all trying to seek a better life. I do not what to get
into the rhetoric about asylum seekers, queue jumpers, illegal immigrants or
anything like that.

    I have my strong views on that. Suffice to say, they were all
people seeking a better life, particularly those parents who were trying to
get a better life for their kids, and they paid a terrible price, and it
should be acknowledged. All people who seek to come to Australia do so for
freedom and for a better life. Many people, including so many children, did
not make it and I think the tragedy needs to be acknowledged. I am pleased
the Senate has expressed its sympathy for this tragedy, and I do hope the
new minister can examine ways to alleviate at least a little of the hurt
that continues for so many of those people.


Senator Bartlett to move on Thursday, 16 October 2003:

    That the Senate-

    (a)notes that:

    (i)on 19 October 2001, a boat known as the SIEV X, bound for
Australia and carrying 421 passengers and crew, sank with the tragic loss of
353 lives, including 146 children,

    (ii)a number of those who lost their lives had close family
members in Australia who are on temporary protection visas, which prevents
them from fully rebuilding their lives, and

    (iii)the Commonwealth Government has not responded to the report
of the Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident, which included an
examination of the SIEV X sinking;

    (b)asks the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and
Indigenous Affairs (Senator Vanstone) to grant those refugees in Australia,
whether they are awaiting a decision of their review or are on temporary
protection visas, who suffered a personal loss through the sinking of SIEV
X, permanent visas on humanitarian grounds;

    (c)calls on the Commonwealth Government to immediately establish
a comprehensive, independent judicial inquiry into all aspects of the People
Smuggling Disruption Program operated by the Commonwealth Government and
agencies from 2000 to date, including Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels, and
in particular the boat known as SIEV X; and

    (d)expresses its regret and sympathy at the tragic loss of so
many innocent lives.

    For more information, call the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator
Andrew Bartlett +61 (02) 6277 3645 or +61 (07) 3252 7101e-mail: senator.bartlett (at)

    Marg Hutton presents an independent, balanced and
comprehensive resource for future generations anyone wanting information on
the SIEV X tragedy, a reliable research tool for journalists, writers,
students and academics containing a comprehensive archive, scholarly
analysis, transcripts of the CMI inquiry and parliamentary papers, a
scholarly resource and research facility. ~ [NOTE: This site is archived by
the Australian National library - those wishing to know more about this site
should email owner-sievx-news (at)]
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