Bitter Harvest. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies
G’day. What a time to be moving to Canberra, becoming self-employed and being stuck on the road promoting a book! Webdiary will return on September 6, with an updated system which will make Webdiary easier for you and me to work with. I’m book promoting for the rest of this week and taking next week off.
I have one comment on the children overboard scandal. Howard has prejudged the new Senate inquiry on the basis that it is biased because he doesn’t have the numbers. What’s he really saying here? A leader, faced with such strong evidence that he lied to the Australian people as part of his campaign to win office in 2001, would, if innocent, call an independent inquiry. Or, if he needed protection, he would call a House of Representatives inquiry, in which his team had the numbers.
By not doing so, he is effectively admitting he lied to the Australian people. If there are no consequences, then he will succeeded in being unaccountable to the people house, and therefore to his employers, the Australian people. If his employer’s condone such behaviour by returning him to office, Australian politics will be transformed.
To relive the last few days of the 2001 election, read most of the transcripts now shown to be full of lies, and track the end of the last unthrown children inquiry, go to Webdiary’s children overboard archive.
But there are rumblings in the heartland, and not only from John Valder. In the blue ribbon Sydney seat Wentworth, the possibility is growing that Peter King will stand as a “Not Happy John” candidate agains Malcolm Turnbull, who defeated King in a controversial pre-selction battle.
King has made two significant moves towards offering the people of Wentworth the choice of an independent true Liberal opposed to Howard’s way. First he critiqued Howard’s abandonment of our citizens in Guantanamo Bay. And he recently wrote this letter of support for a Wentworth launch of Tony Kevin’s book on the SIEV-X scandal:
I am sorry that I can’t be with you tonight at the launch of Tony Kevin’s book: “A Certain Maritime Incident.” Tony’s book is extraordinarily well researched and well written. It provides a perceptive insight into one of the great maritime mysteries of modern times.
Sadly, the core of that mystery may never be fully known because the tragedy of the Siev X resulted in the deaths of 353 asylum seekers only three years ago and the events leading up to its sinking remain somewhat confused to many.
While on its voyage, and after it had left Indonesian waters, but not yet reached Australian waters the ship became progressively unseaworthy – a prelude to the disaster that saw its demise.
In recent years, the political controversy of asylum seekers entering Australia has been a definitive issue. It has been an issue that has divided many people.
Be that as it may, it needs to be recorded that in this debate there has been conflicting evidence about whether Australian or Indonesian officials knew of the Siev X voyage and how much did they know.
Using his high-level research skills, investigative abilities and access to an amazing number of official and unofficial sources, Tony has shed a searchlight on what he believes happened before and after the Siev X sank. His views are well-argued and the evidence he presents, well-selected and well-documented.
As a person who has specialised in maritime law, I must say that his book raises many interesting questions – especially questions about whether aid could have been rendered “for those in peril on the sea” – which is the undisputed first law of humanitarianism in relation to sea-going.
This book will be controversial. It deserves to be. This book will attract critics of its facts. That is part and parcel of recording and interpreting history. If you don’t believe me, ask Keith Windschuttle.
Writing a book is no easy task. Writing a book about a controversial episode involving many complex incidents is a lot harder. Even harder is writing a book about an episode and related events which has caused political division within Australia – its target audience. That Tony has done this daunting task is to his credit.
The book deserves reading, careful study and discussion. Its style meets all three needs. I wish Tony well with the book and I thank him for contributing to our historiography with this book.
For more on the unfolding of the SIEV-X story, see Webdiary’s SIEV-X archive.