I’ve already written heaps on Labor’s cop out on the unthrown children inquiry. Labor closed it down without using the indisputable power of the Senate and its committees to call key witnesses, one result of which is that it is unknown whether or not John Howard was complicit in the children overboard lie.
To this day, Labor has never said publicly why it did what it did. Their reasons are too awful to see the light of day. They might be in government one day and don’t want to be accountable when they are, and most Australians don’t care about the truth anyway and might resent a tough approach.
Labor’s itself damns its gutless failure to call Reith to account in the inquiry report released today, making these findings against him:
The former Minister for Defence (Mr Reith) was, on several counts, in breach of the requirements of the Prime Minister’s Guide on Key Elements of Ministerial Responsibility. In particular:
*Mr Reith undermined public confidence in himself and in the government by his handling of the ‘children overboard’ controversy during the period October-November 2001, and in the course of various inquiries related to the matter conducted by Defence, PM&C and the Senate.
* Mr Reith was not honest in his public dealings in that, having placed inaccurate statements on the public record, he persisted with those statements having received advice to the contrary, and did not seek to correct any misconceptions arising from his statements.
* Mr Reith engaged in the deliberate misleading of the Australian public concerning a matter of intense political interest during an election period. Mr Reith failed to provide timely and accurate advice to the Prime Minister concerning the matters associated with the ‘children overboard’ controversy.
* Mr Reith failed to cooperate with the Senate Select Committee established to inquire into the ‘children overboard’ controversy, thereby undermining the accountability of the executive to the parliament.
* Mr Reith failed to respect the conventions of the relationship between a department and a minister as specified in the Prime Minister’s Guide. In particular, Mr Reith required the Department of Defence to act in ways which called into question their political impartiality – in express contravention of the Prime Minister’s Guide.
* Mr Reith bears responsibility for the haranguing interventions of his ministerial staff into the Department of Defence, and for their failure to adequately assess and give proper weight to advice from the department. Mr Reith therefore failed to maintain the standards specified in the Prime Minister’s Guide with respect to the conduct of ministerial advisers.
* Mr Reith and his staff frequently acted in ways which undermined the establishment and maintenance of trust between public servants and the ministerial office, thereby contravening the provisions of the Prime Minister’s Guide.
* Throughout the Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident, the actions of the government have militated against the efficient and comprehensive conduct of the Committee’s activities. In particular:
# The government directed Commonwealth agencies not to provide submissions to the Committee. Such an action is almost unprecedented and contravenes the accountability obligations of the executive to parliament.
# The Minister for Defence refused to agree to the appearance of certain Commonwealth officials in breach of a government undertaking that officials other than MoPS Act employees would not be prevented from appearing before the Committee. The Minister’s refusal hampered the Committee in fulfilling its obligations to the Senate.”
Laughably, Labor committee members dare to make loads of recommendations for improving the accountability of public servants and ministerial advisers. Those same members, under the instructions of their political leaders, utterly failed to use their powers to get that accountability through the Senate inquiry process. They’ve got to be joking.
My detailed criticisms of Labor’s decision to blink when the government bluffed are in Labor backdown opens black hole of accountability (smh).
Simon Crean’s misrepresentation to concerned constituents on Labor’s close-down is in SMH Connect. His standard form email, sent in July and August, read:
Please check your facts before you accuse us of being craven. We have pressed, and are continuing to press for the truth at the children overboard inquiry. The public hearings have ended, at the committee’s decision, not ours, and if necessary the committee can reopen them. The committee is now continuing its consideration of the issues and its conclusions, and the Labor members will continue to press for the truth to be told.
It is obvious that you feel strongly about this, as do we all, but this does not mean you can malign honest and hardworking Labor members of this committee.
My last word on the matter was in SMH Connect on August 20:
Here’s the rotten rub. Labor Senator John Faulkner worked hard earlier this year to convince journalists that Labor hadn’t walked away from the big call – to subpoena Peter Reith and key ministerial and prime ministerial staffers to give evidence. You’ll recall there were several media reports that Labor was ready to subpoena Reith and co to get the truth. Instead, Labor came up with an unprecedented ploy.
It asked the Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, to recommend an independent expert to assess the evidence, decide whether any of the reluctant witnesses had a case to answer and, if so, to set out that case. Labor argued that the independent report would put pressure on the witnesses to front up and defend themselves. If they didn’t, Labor would have the moral authority to go in hard, as the Government could not claim that the case against the witnesses was only political.
Faulkner specifically told me and others he did not rule out subpoenas if Reith and co maintained their refusal to account for their actions after the independent report was completed.
I bought the line. Sucker punched. Now, the draft report is ready BEFORE the expert, Stephen Odgers SC, has even sent in his report.
So the last word should go to Liberal Senator George Brandis, who, it must now be said, has brilliantly led the defence team at the inquiry.
“The independent report was a completely confected excuse which you were silly enough to swallow – that this was a bona fide attempt to advance the committee’s work,” Brandis told me today. “It was nothing but a red herring to get the Labor Party over the embarrassment of not being prepared to exercise the subpoena power when it had insisted for months that these people must give evidence.”
“One the Liberal Senators called their bluff, they ran away at a million miles an hour.”
Brandis called their bluff when Dems Senator Andrew Bartlett moved a motion at a private meeting of Senate inquiry members that the reluctant witnesses be subpoenaed to appear. Brandis specifically conceded that the committee had the power to do this, and the three Liberal committee members abstained. Labor voted against, so Bartlett, and the Australian people, lost.
Brandis reminded me today that the inquiry “opened the batting between Crean and Howard after the election – look at how comprehensively Crean has wrong-footed himself.”
Personally, I just don’t believe that John Faulkner caved in off his own bat. He’s put too much hard work and passion into it – particularly on the SIEV-X tragedy – to do so. I reckon he’s been rolled.
A detailed analysis by public service expert John Neathercote on the terrible precedent Labor has created for Governments to avoid accountability by banning just about anyone they like from giving evidence to Parliamentary committees is in What servants are for (smh).
The children overboard report contains no surprises. The major players who’ve escaped Parliamentary scrutiny are flying high, as is the man they may or may not have been protecting, John Howard. Peter Reith: Lobbyist for a multinational defence firm and new chairman of the Liberal Party’s elite fundraising group the 500 club. Ross Hampton: Media adviser to health minister Brendan Nelson. Peter Scrafton: Senior defence department executive. Peter Hendy: Head of one of Australia’s most powerful business lobby groups.
I stopped believing Labor stood for anything apart from getting power – including courage, principle, or vision – quite a while ago. The Senate Committee report is just another testament to its betrayal of itself, its supporters and the Australian people. To read the report, go to aph.
Published below is the independent assessor’s report – a conservative, extremely credible document which Faulkner had pledged to use to put the pressure on the missing witnesses to turn up, but which instead has become documentary proof of Labor cowardice. It’s long, so I’ve published it in two parts.
REPORT OF INDEPENDENT ASSESSOR TO SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON A CERTAIN MARITIME INCIDENT
S. J. Odgers SC
21 August 2002
1.1 On 13 February 2002 the Australian Senate established a “Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident” to inquire and report on a number of matters, including the so-called “children overboard” incident of 7 October 2001. In June 2002 I was briefed to assist the Committee in a number of respects. This Report is the result of that brief.
Nature of Brief
1.2 I was briefed to assist the Select Committee in the following terms:
“To assess all evidence and documents relevant to the terms of reference of the Committee, obtained by the Committee or by legislation committees in estimates hearings, to:
(a) determine what evidence should be obtained from former minister Mr PK Reith and advisers, Peter Hendy, Michael Scrafton, Ross Hampton and Miles Jordana, and what questions they should answer, to enable the Committee to report fully on its terms of reference; and
(b) formulate preliminary findings and conclusions, which the Committee could make in respect of the roles played by those persons with the evidence and documents so far obtained.”
Senate Select Committee Terms of Reference
1.3 The terms of reference for the Select Committee are in the following terms:
“For inquiry and report on:
(a) the so-called ‘children overboard’ incident, where an Indonesian vessel was intercepted by HMAS Adelaide within Australian waters reportedly 120 nautical miles off Christmas Island, on or about 6 October 2001;
(b) issues directly associated with the incident, including:
(i) the role of Commonwealth agencies and personnel in the incident, including the Australian Defence Force, Customs, Coastwatch and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority,
(ii) the flow of information about the incident to the Federal Government, both at the time of the incident and subsequently,
(iii) Federal Government control of, and use of, information about the incident, including written and oral reports, photographs, videotapes and other images, and
(iv) the role of Federal Government departments and agencies in reporting on the incident, including the Navy, the Defence organisation, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Office of National Assessments; and
(c) operational procedures observed by the Royal Australian Navy and by relevant Commonwealth agencies to ensure the safety of asylum seekers on vessels entering or attempting to enter Australian waters;
(d) in respect of the agreements between the Australian Government and the Governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea regarding the detention within those countries of persons intercepted while travelling to Australia, publicly known as the ‘Pacific Solution’:
(i) the nature of negotiations leading to those agreements,
(ii) the nature of the agreements reached,
(iii) the operation of those arrangements, and
(iv) the current and projected cost of those arrangements.”
1.4 I have been briefed with transcript from the Select Committee hearings, as well as transcript from hearings of a number of Senate estimates hearings. In addition, I have been provided with copies of two earlier reports into the ‘children overboard’ affair (the Powell and Bryant reports) and associated documents. I did not attend any of the hearings nor have I communicated in any way with any of the persons involved in the affair.
2. BACKGROUND TO REPORT
2.1 The background to the Select Committee inquiry, and to this Report, may be expressed in brief and relatively uncontroversial terms.
2.2 On 6 October 2001, in Australian waters in the vicinity of Christmas Island, HMAS Adelaide made initial contact with an Indonesian vessel (sometimes referred to as “SIEV4”) which was suspected to be carrying a number of persons intending to make an illegal entry into Australia. This contact was part of a defence force operation called Operation Relex.
2.3 On 7 October an incident occurred in which a number of persons on the Indonesian vessel went overboard and were rescued by crew from the Adelaide who returned them to the vessel. The precise nature of this incident is discussed below, but the overwhelming weight of the evidence now available indicates that only one of these persons was a child (13 years or older) and that no children were thrown into the water. Some of this incident was video-recorded from the Adelaide. Some hours after the incident, the Minister for Immigration, Mr Ruddock, was informed that “children had been thrown in the water” by other persons on the vessel and he released that information to the media.
2.4 On 8 October SIEV4 began to sink and a number of passengers, including women and children, entered the water. All were rescued by crew from the Adelaide. During that rescue, a number of photographs were taken showing, among other things, children in the water.
2.5 On 10 October, two of these photographs were released by the then Minister for Defence, Mr Reith, as evidence of the incident on 7 October. Mr Reith also stated in a radio interview that a video existed of the incident on 7 October which showed children being thrown into the water. In fact, it did not.
2.6 On 7 November an article appeared in the Australian which reported that officers on the Adelaide had told Christmas Islanders that no children had been thrown into the water. On 8 November, Vice Admiral Shackleton, Chief of the Navy, was interviewed by the media and made a statement that included the words “Our advice was that there were people being threatened to be thrown in the water, and I don’t know what happened to the message after that.” Later that day, Vice Admiral Shackleton issued a clarifying statement to the effect that Defence had initially advised Mr Reith that children had been thrown into the water. The Federal election was held on 10 November 2001.
2.7 In October and November 2001, three of the staff in Mr Reith’s office were Mr Peter Hendy, Mr Michael Scrafton and Mr Ross Hampton. Mr Hendy was Mr Reith’s Chief of Staff. Mr Scrafton was Mr Reith’s Senior Adviser (Defence). Mr Hampton was Mr Reith’s Media Adviser. Mr Miles Jordana was a member of the Prime Minister’s staff.
3. APPROACH TO REPORT
3.1 It is apparent from this background that the primary aspects of the Committee’s terms of reference which require to be addressed for the purposes of my brief are (b)(ii) and (iii).
3.2 The rules of evidence do not apply to the inquiry or my Report. Nevertheless, they provide some assistance in the approach to be taken to evidence before the inquiry. For example, hearsay evidence, and particularly remote hearsay evidence, should be approached with great caution.
3.3 Equally important, the nature of my brief and the material briefed necessarily circumscribes the proper approach to this Report. Because I have not attended any of the select committee hearings or communicated with any of the persons involved in the affair, great caution is required in drawing any factual conclusions.
3.4 Another important point is that none of the specified persons (Mr Reith, Mr Hendy, Mr Scrafton, Mr Hampton and Mr Jordana) has given evidence before the Select Committee, although the first four persons made statements to the Bryant Inquiry. All were given the opportunity to contribute to the Select Committee in writing and in person. All declined, as was their right. As a result, I do not have their (full) account of events. Further, they have not had the opportunity to test or challenge the evidence relating to them. Accordingly, no firm conclusions should be drawn on factual issues relating to them where any possibility of controversy exists.
3.5 For the most part, only factual conclusions which are entirely uncontroversial will be drawn. Where uncertainty or dispute exists and it is necessary for a some factual determination to be made in order to comply with the brief, only tentative or provisional views will be expressed. The brief requires only “preliminary findings and conclusions” and that requirement will be rigidly adhered to.
4. THE 7 OCTOBER INCIDENT AND INITIAL REPORTS
4.1 In order to comply with the brief it is necessary to come to a preliminary conclusion on the question of whether any children were thrown into the water from SIEV 4 on 7 October 2001. As indicated above, the overwhelming weight of the evidence now available indicates that only one of the persons who entered the water on that day might be regarded as a child (aged somewhere between 13 and 20 years) and that this person jumped into the water voluntarily.
4.2 It is true that one of the crew of the Adelaide who was operating the Electrical Optical Tracking System (EOTS), which produced the video partially recording the incident, subsequently stated that he witnessed persons “jumping off the siev by their own choice, and I believe one child also went overboard”. However, whatever was intended to be conveyed by this statement, no other member of the Adelaide crew reported a child being thrown into the water, there is no other direct evidence tending to suggest that it happened and it may now safely be concluded at least on a provisional basis that no children were thrown into the water.
4.3 There is no doubt that, some hours after the incident, the Minister for Immigration, Mr Ruddock, was informed by Mr Bill Farmer, the Secretary of his Department, that “children had been thrown in the water” by other persons on SIEV4. Mr Ruddock was informed that the information came from “Defence”. At the time Mr Farmer conveyed this information, he was attending a meeting of the “People Smuggling Taskforce” Inter-Departmental Committee. The information had been passed to the Chair of the Taskforce (Ms Halton) by Air Vice Marshal Titheridge (Head of the Strategic Command Division). The information was recorded in a written note prepared by the Taskforce for the Prime Minister later that day. Air Vice Marshal Titheridge also passed on the information to Mr Hendy and Mr Reith. On the same day, the Maritime Commander, Australia (Rear Admiral Smith), passed on the information to Dr Brendan Nelson, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence.
4.4 The source of the information for both Air Vice Marshal Titheridge and Rear Admiral Smith was Brigadier Silverstone (Commander Joint Task Force 639) who had spoken to the captain of the Adelaide, Commander Banks, on the morning of 7 October and understood from that conversation that a “child” had been thrown over the side of SIEV4. It is not clear whether that was said by Commander Banks, or whether there was some misunderstanding. For the purposes of this brief, it is not necessary for me to attempt to resolve the issue. Equally, it is not necessary to determine how it was that “child” became “children”. It is sufficient to conclude that senior Defence personnel did in fact communicate to the Government on 7 October that children had been thrown in the water.
4.5 On 9 October 2001, the Office of National Assessments issued a report which stated that “asylum seekers wearing lifejackets jumped into the sea and children were thrown in with them”. No source was identified in the report but it was subsequently established that it was based on media statements by Mr Ruddock, Mr Reith and Mr Howard.
5. THE TWO PHOTOGRAPHS AND THE “EOTS” VIDEO
5.1 During the sinking and rescue on 8 October, a number of photographs were taken showing, among other things, children in the water. On 9 October, these photographs were sent electronically by email from the Adelaide to a number of addresses. The emails included explanatory text which made it clear that the photographs were taken during the rescue on 8 October. The explanatory text read:
“ABBM Laura Whittle was recently photographed as the Navy value ‘COURAGE’. During the 08 Oct rescue of 223 SUNCs from a sinking Indonesian fishing vessel, Able Seaman Laura Whittle again typified this true quality through her immense courage in leaping 12 metres from the ship’s 02 deck into the water to drag women and children to the safety of a liferaft. Selflessly she entered the water without a lifejacket and without regard for her own safety to help others in need.
“LSCK Jason ‘Dogs’ Barker shows dogged determination as he helped rescue women and children by dragging them to safety during the rescue of 223 SUNCs from a sinking Indonesian fishing vessel. The big hearted Leading Seaman also demonstrated Navy’s core value of COURAGE.”
5.2 However, on 9 October, the two photographs subsequently released by Mr Reith were sent to his Media Adviser, Mr Hampton, without the explanatory text. On 10 October, Mr Reith called the Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Barrie, to discuss whether the photographs could be released. Admiral Barrie stated that Air Vice Marshal Titheridge would call back with advice. Titheridge advised that he had no objection to release and, later on that day, the two photographs were released by Mr Reith as evidence of the incident on 7 October.
5.3 In relation to the “video”, some of the incident on 7 October was video-recorded by the EOTS system from the Adelaide. Rear Admiral Ritchie testified before the Select Committee that he was advised on 10 October that the video “showed that there were no children thrown overboard” or, at least, it did not provide evidence that children had been thrown overboard. A copy of the video was sent from the Adelaide to Rear Admiral Smith on 14 October. The video was released on 8 November and it is clear that it does not show any children being thrown into the water.
6. CORRECTION OF THE 7TH OCTOBER INCIDENT REPORT WITHIN THE DEFENCE FORCE
6.1 On 7 October an operation report sent by Maritime Command stated: “Fourteen SUNCs have jumped or have been thrown overboard.”
It was based on a situation report sent from the Adelaide on that morning. On 8 October, in an “update brief”, Strategic Command reported that persons on the ship “threaten or throw themselves overboard” , and did not state that children had been thrown overboard. This report was distributed throughout the Defence Force and, according to the distribution list, the Government (although not, apparently, to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet ). The copy addressed to the Chief of the Defence Force was sent to his Chief of Staff but it was not shown to the Chief of the Defence Force.
6.2 On 10 October, the captain of the Adelaide sent a signal to the Maritime Commander, Australia (Rear Admiral Smith) containing a “list of chronological events”. It referred to threats to throw children overboard but did not contain any statement that a child was thrown into the water. Equally, it did not contain a clear statement that no child was thrown into the water. However, by the middle of the day, the captain of the Adelaide had concluded that no children had been thrown overboard and he communicated this conclusion to Brigadier Silverstone and Rear Admiral Smith. It was also communicated at some stage to Rear Admiral Ritchie.
6.3 On the same day, 10 October, Strategic Command produced a chronology of events which concluded with the statement: “There is no indication that children were thrown overboard. It is possible that this did occur in conjunction with other SUNCs jumping overboard”. This statement has been referred to in the Select Committee hearings as the “footnote” and this expression is used in this Report, although the Head of Strategic Command emphasised to the Select Committee that it “was in no sense a mere ‘footnote’.”
6.4 On the morning of 11 October, the Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Barrie, was telephoned by Rear Admiral Ritchie and a conversation took place in which Admiral Barrie was at the very least informed that there were doubts about whether children were ever thrown overboard. Later that day, Brigadier Silverstone notified Rear Admiral Ritchie that no one on the Adelaide had seen children being thrown overboard. By this stage, Rear Admiral Ritchie was satisfied that no children had been thrown overboard. However, this information from Brigadier Silverstone may not have been passed on to Admiral Barrie.
6.5 While Admiral Barrie was informed on 11 October that there were doubts about whether children were ever thrown overboard, and informed by Air Marshal Houston on 12 November that he (Air Marshal Houston) believed that no children had been thrown overboard (CMI 743) , Admiral Barrie testified to the Select Committee it was not until 24 February 2002, when he spoke to the captain of the Adelaide, that he became convinced that no child had been thrown into the water (CMI 744-5). Until that time, his view had been that, without compelling evidence that no children had been thrown into the water, he would stand by the original advice given to the Government.
6.6 Some other members of the Defence Force, outside the chain of command, also may not have known for some time. Air Vice Marshal Titheridge, Head of Strategic Command, informed Ms Bryant on 21 December 2001 that he had not become aware of doubts about the incident until late November. He informed the Select Committee (CMI 700) that he had not been made aware by his staff of the 10 October chronology which ended with the words “[t]here is no indication that children were thrown overboard”. Rear Admiral Smith has testified that, in a conversation between him and Air Vice Marshal Titheridge on 17 October, Smith had told him that “none of it was true” (CMI 586). However, Air Vice Marshal Titheridge informed the Select Committee that he had no recollection of this conversation (CMI 717-8). Rear Admiral Ritchie told Ms Bryant on 20 December 2001 that he did not know if Air Vice Marshal Titheridge received the results of the initial inquiry revealing that there was no evidence to show that children had been thrown overboard.
7. CORRECTION OF THE 7TH OCTOBER INCIDENT REPORT OUTSIDE THE DEFENCE FORCE
7.1 Before summarising the available evidence regarding correction of the 7th October incident report outside the Defence Force, it should be noted that the Public Affairs Plan for Operation Relex contained a paragraph which stated that “[a]ll comment and media response/inquiries [in relation to Operation Relex] is to be referred to MINDEF [Minister of Defence] Media Advisor, Mr Ross Hampton”. This meant that Defence’s capacity to correct the public record was limited (see CMI 1122). The Director General of Communication Strategies within the Department of Defence, Mr Brian Humphreys, testified before the Select Committee that “the minister’s office was responsible for decisions as to information going out and the clarifying statements” and he agreed that corrections could not be made “unless the Minister agreed to those corrections or misrepresentations being corrected” (CMI 1156). He understood from discussions with staff in Mr Reith’s office that the guiding motivation of this plan “was to ensure that the minister’s office could see the information before it was released, was aware of information before it was released and had had an ability or opportunity to decide which information was released.”
7.2 In terms of correction of the 7th October incident report within the Government itself, it is clear that, to put it neutrally, there were problems with effective communication. To give one example, Ms Halton, Deputy Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Chair of the “People Smuggling Taskforce” Inter-Departmental Committee which met on 7 October, testified to the Select Committee that, between 7 October and the beginning of November, there was never a suggestion made to her that there was doubt about the incident having occurred (CMI 941). It is true that, on 9 October, she asked officers in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to obtain elaboration and confirmation of details of the incident from Defence. However, although the “update brief” of 8 October from Strategic Command was distributed throughout the Government, she was never made aware of it. In relation to the Strategic Command chronology (with footnote) of 10 October, it was emailed to the Social Policy area of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Ms Halton testified that she was not made aware of this document but one of her officers, Katrina Edwards, did receive a copy of the chronology and understood on 10 October that Strategic Command had no documentary evidence that children were thrown into the water. However, either just before, or immediately after, being informed that Strategic Command had no evidence that children were thrown into the water, Ms Halton, according to her testimony before the Select Committee (CMI 961), received a telephone call from Mr Reith who referred to the existence of a video. In addition, either Mr Reith or Air Vice Marshal Titheridge told her about the photographs and the existence of witness statements (CMI 953, 1015, 2073). As Ms Halton testified, “[t]he issue of the footnote was not taken further as it was overtaken by the information that there were photos of the event that had been released to the media, there was a grainy video and Defence was collecting witness statements” (CMI 902).
7.3 Ms Halton testified (CMI 902) that the next time an issue was raised about SIEV4 was in November, when she was informed of “tearoom gossip” from an officer in Defence that the photographs released on 10 October were in fact taken on the day of the sinking. The origin of this “gossip” was a conversation on 11 October between Commander Chatterton, Navy Director of Operations within the Defence Department, and Commander Steffan King, the Australian Defence Force Liaison Officer in the International Division of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Commander Chatterton informed Commander King that the photographs related to 8 October and not 7 October (CMI 1163, 1166, 1490). Commander King decided to “provide this advice to my two senior officers in International Division, such that they could advise their seniors as appropriate” (CMI 1491). He spoke to his supervisor within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ms Harinder Sidhu (Senior Adviser, Defence Branch) and her superior, Dr Hammer (Assistant Secretary, Defence Branch) on that day (CMI 1491). It is apparent that Commander King, Ms Sidhu and Dr Hammer have given somewhat different accounts of what was said on this occasion. For the purposes of this Report, it is not necessary to determine what exactly was said. What is clear is that neither Ms Sidhu nor Dr Hammer took any steps to pass on the information received from Commander King , although on 7 November Ms Halton was informed that “rumours” or “gossip” were “circulating in Defence that the photos have been wrongly attributed” (CMI 1289-1290).
7.4 There is no evidence that any officials within the Department of Immigration provided advice to the Minister that there was doubt about the veracity of the original claims (see CMI 1256). The Secretary of the Department, who had passed on the initial information to the Minister on 7 October, testified to the Estimates Committee that he was unaware of any doubts about the incident until 7 November. There is no evidence that any officials within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet provided advice to the Prime Minister that there was doubt about the veracity of the original claims (see CMI 1256).
7.5 On 7 November an article appeared in the Australian which reported that officers on the Adelaide had told Christmas Islanders that no children had been thrown into the water. On 8 November, Vice Admiral Shackleton was interviewed by the media and made a statement that included the words “Our advice was that there were people being threatened to be thrown in the water, and I don’t know what happened to the message after that.” The press report included the proposition that “the navy had never advised Defence Minister Reith that boat people threw children overboard from an Indonesian vessel”. Subsequently, Vice Admiral Shackleton issued a statement to the effect that Defence had initially advised Mr Reith that children had been thrown into the water.
8. EVIDENCE RELATING TO THE FIVE NAMED PERSONS
8.1 At this point, it is appropriate to summarise the evidence relating to the five named persons in my brief. A chronological approach will be adopted.
7-9 October 2001
8.2 There is evidence that Mr Reith, Mr Hendy, Mr Hampton and Mr Jordana are all (orally) informed on 7 October that children had been thrown into the water by other persons on SIEV4. The “People Smuggling Taskforce” Inter-Departmental Committee also prepared written advice which referred to “passengers throwing their children into the sea”.
8.3 Ms Edwards informed the Select Committee that she believed that “Mr Jordana rang either Ms Halton or myself or both on either October 8 or 9 seeking further details around the events of 7 October”.
8.4 About 12.30 on 9 October, Mr Bloomfield, Director of Media Liaison within the Defence Public Affairs and Corporate Communications Section, informed Mr Hampton of the existence of digital photographs taken by crew of the Adelaide (and referred to by the captain of the Adelaide in an interview with a Channel 10 reporter). Mr Bloomfield, in an interview with Ms Bryant in December 2001, stated that he described the photographs to Mr Hampton as “UBAs in the water”. He told Ms Bryant that he had been aware that the photographs related to the sinking but he had not stated this to Mr Hampton in this or subsequent conversations with him and he told Ms Bryant that he “could not be certain that Mr Hampton was similarly aware”. Mr Bloomfield assumed that Mr Hampton was aware and did not correct any misconception. He accepted that it may have been the case that Mr Hampton was not aware that the photographs related to the sinking on 8 October.
8.5 Mr Hampton stated in a letter he wrote to Mr Hendy on 12 November, which was provided to the Powell Inquiry, that, “On Tuesday 9 October, 2001 I spoke with someone from Defence Public Affairs to confirm that they had two still photos taken after the children were thrown into the water. Unfortunately I did not keep a record of that person’s name. I was sent the two still photos with no accompanying text by Mr Andrew Stackpool. I printed the photos for the Minister.”
8.6 An email from Mr Stackpool, Media Liaison Officer, sent to Mr Hampton at 15.26 on 9 October, contained the two digital photographs with titles (“laura the hero1.jpg” and “dogs and his family1.jpg”) but no other information about them. In particular, the email did not include the explanatory text noted at paragraph 5.1 above, which had been in the email sent from the Adelaide. In interviews with Ms Bryant in December 2001, Mr Bloomfield agreed that there had been “a breakdown in the system when the photographs were provided to the Minister’s office without ‘captions’ (explanatory text)”. Later in the afternoon, Mr Hampton was advised by an email from Mr Bloomfield that the media was seeking “copies of photographs” that were understood to have been “sent to Defence Canberra by HMAS Adelaide”.
10 October 2001
8.7 Rear Admiral Ritchie testified before the Select Committee that he had a telephone conversation with Mr Scrafton early (CMI 370) on 10 October in which Mr Scrafton asked for evidentiary support for the claim that children had been thrown overboard (CMI 368-9). Rear Admiral Ritchie testified that he was advised later on 10 October that the video “showed that there were no children thrown overboard. It showed that there was one child held over the side, that people were jumping over the side of their own volition and that one 13-year-old – and he has variously been described as 13 to 15, or 17 to 18 but at that time I recorded him as a 13-year old – was pushed over. I was also told that the CO Adelaide had thought that there might be reports able to be taken from sailors who were on the disengaged side – that is, the side that the camera could not see – that indicated that there might be children in the water. At 12.42, I passed that information back to Mr Scrafton.” (CMI 368-9; see also CMI 370)
It may be noted that there is a little ambiguity as to what information was communicated to Mr Scrafton, but Rear Admiral Ritchie clearly testified later that Mr Scrafton was informed that “the video” did not show that children had been thrown overboard (CMI 370-1).
8.8 A copy of a contemporaneous diary note made by Rear Admiral Ritchie was provided to the Powell Inquiry:
“Kids – was reported EOTS footage – people jumping, 1 13 yr old pushed over side, 1 man holding baby over the side – RHIB paused underneath and stopped it On disengaged reports from sailors picking up children from the water told M Scrafton”.
It should be noted that the words “13 yr old” are placed above a word “child” which has been crossed out. Rear Admiral Ritchie has never been asked when he made the change.
8.9 Mr Scrafton’s account, given on 14 December 2001 to Ms Bryant, is recorded as follows by Ms Bryant:
“Mr Scrafton stated that he (or the office more generally) had become aware fairly early that there was a tape ‘confirming that the incident had happened’, but that it was of poor quality. The office asked to see the tape initially, but this was then overtaken by other issues and not followed up.”
Ms Bryant also recorded the following: “Mr Scrafton said he did not recall being told clearly by Admiral Ritchie in their conversation on 10 October that children had not been thrown overboard. He did recall that statutory declarations were being collected from the sailors. Mr Scrafton said that his recollection was that Rear Admiral Ritchie stated that he had not seen the tape.”
8.10 Ms Halton, Chair of the “People Smuggling Taskforce” Inter-Departmental Committee, testified that on the afternoon of 10 October, after being told by Mr Reith “that there was a video”, she spoke to Mr Scrafton“who confirmed that that was accurate” (CMI 992).
8.11 In his statement to the Powell Inquiry of 20 November 2001, Mr Reith stated:
“Michael Scrafton, from my Canberra office, told me that we had a film of a child being pushed into the water and that children were in the water on their own, separated from any adults.”
8.12 As noted above, Mr Hampton was sent the two photographs showing children in the water on 9 October. Mr Hampton stated in a letter he wrote to Mr Hendy on 12 November, which was provided to the Powell Inquiry, that the following occurred on 10 October:
“Whilst I was in the Minister’s office prior to us departing for the ABC for a 3LO interview, Peter Reith called the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) Admiral Chris Barrie. He wanted to check that the two still photos of children in the water after being thrown overboard could be released to the media. ADM Barrie agreed to this as long as identities were obscured. He provided additional information to Peter Reith including the fact that a female sailor jumped 12 metres from the ship into the water to save people. Peter Reith used some of this information in his subsequent media interviews.”
8.13 In an interview with Ms Bryant conducted on 21 December 2001 (subsequently verified by Mr Hampton on 8 January 2002), Mr Hampton agreed that, in hindsight, “the extra information CDF had provided about the female sailor jumping overboard to rescue people indicated that he may have ‘mixed up’ information”. He stated that the CDF was not asked explicitly if the photographs related to the 7 October incident because this was assumed to be the case.
8.14 Mr Reith gave his version of events in his statement to the Powell Inquiry of 20 November 2001:
“On 10 October my office was besieged by media requests for photos in the possession of Defence which showed children in the water. Mr Ross Hampton, my Media Adviser, told me that he had received a phone call from the public affairs unit of Defence that they had the photos but that they were not available for the press. Mr Hampton received two photos from Defence which depicted people in the water being rescued by ADF personnel. Ross had these two colour photos printed on our black-and-white printer and he brought them into my office and put them on my desk. … I thought it prudent to ring the Chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Barrie, to discuss whether the photos should be released. He was aware that there were requests from the media for photos which supported the claim that children were thrown into the water. I asked him if there was any reason why the photos could not be distributed. He said there was no reason for them not to be distributed but he wanted to make sure that there was no particular problem with showing the identity of the ADF personnel and he said that he would have AVM Titheridge phone me back.”
8.15 Admiral Barrie testified before the Select Committee (CMI 742):
“On 10 October, in the afternoon, Minister Reith telephoned me about the release to the media that afternoon of certain photos that he had in his possession. I told him that I had not seen any photographs. But because the operation with SIEV4 had been successfully concluded, I could see no reason why photographs should not be released into the public domain, subject to a security check by the Head of Strategic Command Division that the identities of ADF personnel involved were not compromised. I then telephoned HSCD about the minister’s requirements and tasked him to vet the photographs and advise the minister appropriately.”
8.16 In an interview between Mr Reith and Ms Bryant on 17 January 2001, the following is recorded:
“Mr Reith commented that a suggestion that Admiral Barrie had not seen the photographs and had accepted Mr Reith’s description of them, was ‘the wrong way round’. He said that it had been Admiral Barrie who was describing the incident. He further stated that there was no confusion over what the subject matter was – no-one would have been in any doubt that they were discussing the overboard incident as the media were seeking proof of this incident. However, he agreed that in hindsight it was reasonable to conclude that it was possible that Admiral Barrie may have confused the details of the two incidents, given his comments about a sailor jumping off the Bridge, which Mr Reith went public with. Mr Reith stated that he had not asked Admiral Barrie whether he had seen the photographs. Mr Reith said that he had had two black and white photographs in front of him while he was speaking to Admiral Barrie.”
8.17 In his statement to the Powell Inquiry of 20 November 2001, Mr Reith stated that, after he had spoken to Admiral Barrie, “AVM Titheridge rang me back within about five minutes or so and said that from his point of view the photos could be released.”
8.18 Air Vice Marshal Titheridge gave his account to Ms Bryant on 18 January 2002:
“I recall there being two lots of photographs in existence – one lot on the sinking and another lot taken after the rescue. I also recall that the second lot had at least one photograph of UBAs on the deck of Adelaide and photos with naval personnel visible. Although I do not recall the telephone call, CDF would have, as he told the Minister he intended to do, rang me to see if there was an issue with releasing photographs of service personnel. I would have believed he was referring to the second lot of photos and rang the Minister to tell him there were no problems with photographs of service personnel in such a situation. I do not recall whether or not I actually checked the post rescue photos; it was the principle that I would have cleared and there was no need to check. To infer that I had cleared for release the photographs of the sinking is incorrect.”
He gave much the same account to the Select Committee (CMI 732-3). He emphasised in a written answer to a question on notice that he had “no recollection of the call although I do not dispute that it took place”.
8.19 In his letter of 12 November, Mr Hampton wrote that after Mr Reith had spoken to Admiral Barrie:
“I called Defence Public Affairs and advised Mr Tim Bloomfield that CDF and the Minister had approved release of the two still photos to the media. I had a discussion with Mr Tim Bloomfield of Defence Public Affairs about removing the captions from the two still photos which read ‘laura the hero’ and ‘dogs and his family’. It was mutually agreed with Mr Bloomfield that these captions should be removed as they could identify the two sailors.”
Mr Bloomfield does not dispute the substance of this account.
8.20 Brigadier Bornholt (Military Adviser, Defence Public Affairs and Corporate Communication) testified before the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Estimates Committee on 20 February 2002 that he became aware on 10 October that Mr Hampton wanted to release photographs of the incident on 7 October. In his testimony, he said that he telephoned him and said:
“My advice to you is that the photographs could not be of 7 October because Strategic Command have informed us that that, of the 14 people that they understood were in the water, there were no women or children.”
According to Brigadier Bornholt, Mr Hampton “expressed concern about my advice and told me that the CDF had confirmed with the minister that the photographs could be released and that there were women and children in the water.” Brigadier Bornholt testified that he said “I can’t believe that”. He further testified:
“[I]t became apparent to me that the minister’s media adviser and I were actually talking about two different sets of pictures. I did not have the two photographs during that telephone conversation that were subsequently released. The only photographs that I had on my system were the five photographs that had been sent from Strategic Command. They were the shots … that showed, at a distance, the SIEV sinking and, eventually, the people in the water.”
8.21 A contemporaneous note apparently made by Brigadier Bornholt appears to show that Mr Hampton was told that there were “no children in the water”. It records that Brigadier Bornholt “spk to RH + briefed him on this detail” (the detail including the proposition that no children were in the water”). It goes on to note:
“Hampton was concerned when I raised issue of photos + veracity. He said CDF had provided them to the Minister include cfm that they were of the 7 Oct overboard event”.
It is apparent that this note was not strictly contemporaneous in that it also refers to events which occurred later in the day. However, Brigadier Bornholt confirmed to Ms Bryant on 18 December 2001 that “he informed Mr Hampton in his first phone call that there were no children in the water”.
8.22 Mr Hampton gave an account of this telephone conversation in the letter he wrote to Mr Hendy on 12 November:
“[Brigadier Bornholt] said there may have been a mix up and the photos may be of the wrong event. He said he was looking at a set of four photos of people on a ship and as the people were not in the water they clearly were not of the throwing overboard event. When I said we had been sent from Defence Public Affairs a set of two photos not a set of four – and they showed people, including children, in the water Brigadier Bornholt concurred that he must be talking about something altogether different. He agreed he hadn’t seen these particular photos and he must be looking at another set of photos. I proceeded from the conversation confident that a mistake had not been made and that Brigadier Bornholt had additional photos showing the asylum seekers after their vessel sank”.
8.23 A contemporaneous note apparently made by Mr Hampton records:
“3.30 10/10 Gary B – Strategic don’t have breakdown of the nos of kids & adults who jumped/pushed – They do have 4 photos – Not the 2 photos we’ve referred to today – Different set of photos – OK. 13 people jumped or were thrown off – Doesn’t talk about other photos – some came by way of written brief/Navy”
8.24 Mr Reith’s interview was held at 16.10. He referred to the photographs. He also stated:
“The fact is that children were thrown into the water. … I have subsequently been told that they have also got a film. That film is apparently on HMAS Adelaide. I have not seen it myself and apparently the quality of it is not very good, and it’s infra-red or something but I am told that someone has looked at it and it is an absolute fact, children were thrown into the water.”
8.25 In the Estimates hearing, Brigadier Bornholt testified that, after the telephone call with Mr Hampton, he went to another Defence Department building and found the two photographs that were later released. It was clear from the accompanying text that they were taken on 8 October. He discussed the issue with Ms McKenry, Head of Defence Public Affairs and Corporate Communication, who advised him to inform Mr Hampton. Before 17.00 he telephoned Mr Hampton and “left a message on his mobile phone answering machine to say, essentially, ‘The advice I had given you earlier is correct. Those photographs do not represent the events of 7 … October’.”
8.26 In an interview with Ms Bryant on 21 December 2001, Mr Hampton is recorded as saying that “he had not received a message on his mobile phone from Brigadier Bornholt later that day. However, he noted that he received a large number of messages when an interview such as 10 October occurs, and that he may have therefore missed a message from Brigadier Bornholt due to a full mailbox.”
8.27 Ms Halton testified that, on the afternoon of 10 October, she received a telephone call from Mr Reith who referred to the existence of a video. “Based on that conversation” she then rang Air Vice Marshal Titheridge. Either Mr Reith or Air Vice Marshal Titheridge told her about the photographs and the existence of witness statements (CMI 953, 1015). Ms Halton testified that “[t]he issue of the footnote [in the Strategic Command chronology] was not taken further as it was overtaken by the information that there were photos of the event that had been released to the media, there was a grainy video and Defence was collecting witness statements” (CMI 902). This account was confirmed in general terms by Ms Edwards (CMI 1705). Ms Halton testified that she passed on this information to Mr Jordana and the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (CMI 990).
8.28 Ms Edwards informed the Select Committee that, pursuant to the request from Mr Jordana on either October 8 or 9 seeking further details around the events of 7 October, he was provided on 10 October with “talking points derived from the [Strategic Command] chronology” (the “talking points” did not mention children overboard). Ms Edwards did not suggest that he was given the chronology (with the footnote) although “I assumed at the time, however, that Ms Halton would also advise Mr Jordana of the difficulties around the chronology, as well as the ‘footnote’, as well as the subsequent advice from Mr Reith and his office of that afternoon”. However, as noted above, Ms Halton testified that she had no memory of the chronology or the footnote, although she did not dispute Ms Edwards’ account that she had been advised of the chronology (notwithstanding her lack of recollection). But, also as noted above, her account was that “[t]he issue of the footnote was not taken further as it was overtaken by the information” she received from Mr Reith and his office on the afternoon of 10 October, and which she passed on to Mr Jordana.
8.29 Admiral Barrie was informed on the evening of 10 October by both Rear Admiral Ritchie and Vice-Admiral Shackleton that the two photographs released by Mr Reith related to the sinking of SIEV4 on 8 October and not the incident of 7 October.
11 October 2001
8.30 On the morning of 11 October, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Dr Allan Hawke, was informed that the two photographs had been taken on 8 October and not 7 October (CMI 3) and he directed the Head of Defence Public Affairs and Corporate Communication, Ms Jenny McKenry, to contact Mr Scrafton “to inform him of the misrepresentation” (CMI 4). He testified that “I also asked that this advice be put in writing”, although Ms McKenry herself testified that she could not recall the words “in writing” used (CMI 1102). Dr Hawke did not give any direction in relation to Mr Reith nor did he advise Mr Reith himself, either in person or in writing.
8.31 Ms McKenry testified that she then spoke by telephone to Mr Scrafton. During this conversation Brigadier Bornholt was with her. Brigadier Bornholt confirmed this in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Estimates Committee hearings on 20 February 2002. Ms McKenry testified to the Select Committee regarding her conversation with Mr Scrafton:
“We discussed the photographs that had been released. We made it very clear that they did not represent what they were purported to represent. Brigadier Bornholt did explain the attempts to clarify that the previous day with Mr Hampton. We then talked about what our limited understanding at that time was of how the photographs had been released. He then phoned off to go and check the photographs, because I said to him, ‘There are captions which actually say that the photographs were taken on the 8th.’ He rang off, he went to check the photographs and at that stage he came back and said there were no captions to his knowledge in the minister’s office. … We then described the photos to make sure we were talking about the same photos. “ (CMI 1100-1101)
Ms McKenry then “told him that I had an email and that I would send him my email, which quite clearly had the date on it”. The substance of this account was corroborated by Brigadier Bornholt in the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Estimates Committee hearings.
8.32 Subsequently, according to Ms McKenry, she sent him a copy of the email with both the photographs and the explanatory text. She testified further:
“He did acknowledge receipt of that email in the sense that he phoned back because there was information on that email which we raised in conversation afterwards.” (CMI 1101)
Ms McKenry was “left in no doubt that Mr Scrafton understood what we were saying about the photographs” (CMI 1101), that there had been a “misrepresentation” (CMI 1102). However, Ms McKenry accepted that no advice was put in writing to the effect that there had been a misrepresentation in relation to the photographs. If Dr Hawke gave an instruction in that regard, it was not carried out (see CMI 38).
8.33 Mr Scrafton’s account, given on 14 December 2001 to Ms Bryant, is recorded as follows by Ms Bryant:
“Mr Scrafton said that he was later contacted by Ms McKenry (on 11 October), who advised him that the photographs were being misrepresented, and that they related to the sinking rather than the ‘children thrown overboard’ incident. Mr Scrafton stated that he discussed this advice with Mr Hampton, including the issue of whether Mr Hampton had directed that the ‘captions’ be removed. Mr Hampton said that he had asked for titles to be removed because they contained people’s names. Mr Scrafton stated that he then had another discussion with Ms McKenry, and was told that the photos were all over the Defence “Restricted” system and asked her to compile a record of events, including the advice received by Mr Bloomfield from Mr Hampton. Mr Scrafton said that he did not advise Mr Reith, as this would have been Mr Hampton’s role. He said that he does not know whether Mr Reith was informed about the true nature of the photographs.”
8.34 In the letter he wrote on 12 November, Mr Hampton gave an account of the information he received about the two photographs on 11 October:
“… someone from Defence – I do not recall who – informed our office that there may be new doubt about whether the two still photos supplied were taken after the children were thrown from SIEV 04 or after SIEV 04 sank. This doubt was based on the fact that the separately recorded video of the jumping overboard incident was reportedly ‘infra-red’ – suggesting it must have been dark when the jumping overboard incident occurred. There was also a suggestion that text accompanying the photos cast doubt about which event was depicted. The official Strategic Command Minute to the Minister and log describing the events were immediately checked and it showed that the time the children were thrown from SIEV 04 was about 6.00 am Christmas Island Time. Checking revealed this was half an hour after sunrise which therefore supported the initial advice that the photos were of the jumping overboard incident as the two still photos (taken in a non infra-red camera) were clearly taken in daylight hours. On Thursday October 11, I telephoned John Clarke, Media Adviser to Chief of Navy, to try to obtain a copy of the original email (with the 2 still photos attached) which had been sent to Defence Public Affairs from HMAS ADELAIDE to clarify the situation regarding supposed additional text which we had not seen. John Clarke sent me that email. This email had the text attached which suggested the two still photos were of the rescue after the sinking of SIEV 04. I also note that at this time Mr Mike Scrafton, Senior Adviser to the Minister, sought from Defence Public Affairs a copy of the email carrying the two still pictures that had been sent to me. What was initially sent to Mr Scrafton following this request was an email attaching the two still photos with extra text. It was immediately apparent that this was not the email that was originally sent, as this original email contained no explanatory text – just the two captioned still photos. Mr Scrafton then again sought, and received from the Department of Defence, a copy of the actual email sent to me – which contained just the two still photos. Given all this the Minister asked for a formal response from Defence as to the veracity of the still photos and definitive advice of the time they were taken. The Minister was aware of rumours that the photos may have depicted events after SIEV 04 had sunk, but the Minister decided not to respond to these rumours because the matter is not yet resolved. It should be emphasised that there have been two instances, noted above, of where Defence Public Affairs have provided obviously incorrect advice and the status of the photos is still uncertain. First Defence suggested the two still photos were taken when it was dark when the two still photos themselves were clearly taken in broad daylight, and secondly Defence sent on the wrong email when a copy was requested. At this time we have not yet received a conclusive reply to this matter from Defence.”
8.35 The email from John Clarke to Mr Hampton was sent at 11.00 on 11 October. In an email to Ms Bryant on 17 January 2002, Mr Hampton explained that the information about the 7 October incident occurring “during night hours” was “quickly proven incorrect and doubt was therefore cast on the email author as well – we had to ask ourselves whether perhaps” the explanatory text was the result of a mix-up. “The text of the email … was therefore not considered official advice from defence”. In the interview with Ms Bryant on 21 December 2001, Mr Hampton is recorded as saying that “he had not seen the email advice from jenny McKendry to Mike Scrafton of 11 October”.
8.36 Mr Hendy gave his account in a conversation on 8 January 2002 with Ms Bryant during her inquiry (subsequently verified by Mr Hendy on 16 January 2002). He is reported as saying that
“he recalled being told that the Department said the reason for their doubt was that the children overboard incident had occurred at night but that the photos were clearly taken in daylight. Mr Scrafton had found the ship’s log of the event and ascertained that the event had occurred after sunrise. The Department had been told they needed a better reason for doubt, and they were told to check and come back.”
8.37 At this point it may be noted that Mr Scrafton, in his interview with Ms Bryant on 14 December 2001, does not refer to this question of whether the incident occurred before sunrise. He does not say whether he examined the ship’s log. If he did, it would have been apparent that there was no written account in the log of children being thrown into the water.
8.38 Mr Hendy was reported as saying on 8 January 2002 that “they never got a clear answer on whether or not the photos were from the sinking”. He was asked about the email advice sent by Ms McKenry, which included the explanatory text, and he is reported as saying “people were not as clearcut in their oral advice”. Ms Bryant’s note of the conversation with Mr Hendy continues:
“Mr Hendy said that when the question of the accuracy of the attribution of the photos came up, the Minister made the decision within 24 hours that he would not change the public record until he had conclusive advice about what had actually happened with the original reports and the photos. The Minister had asked for an Inquiry, which was the Inquiry conducted by General Powell.”
He also said “that email advice from Jenny McKenry in relation to the photos did not provide conclusive advice because PACC were among the people under investigation”.
8.39 It may be noted at this point that the Powell Inquiry was commissioned by the Chief of the Defence Force on 20 November 2001. In an interview between Mr Reith and Ms Bryant on 17 January 2001, Mr Reith is recorded as saying that “he had not set General Powell’s inquiry in train – CDF had initiated it and informed Mr Reith”. No written request was ever made by Mr Reith to Defence to investigate the SIEV4 incident.
8.40 During a doorstop interview on 11 October, Mr Reith was reported as saying that the video might never be released to the public because it was unnecessary and there may be “operational security” problems.