Peter Reith is an absolute disgrace. Look at the way he hectored ABC Victoria’s Virginia Trioli when releasing the dodgy children in the water photos on October 10, photos we now know were heavily cropped and were used to peddle lies. And at the bottom we’ve reproduced a shocker of an Andrew Bolt column.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Now joining us in the studio is the Defence Minister, Peter Reith. Welcome back to the drive program.
REITH: Thank you.
TRIOLI: You’ve got some photos to show this have you?
REITH: Well, it did happen. The fact is the children were thrown into the water. We got that report within hours of that happening and I think some public comments were made to that effect. People questioned that. The reason that Philip Ruddock may not have been aware of photos is that the RAN does take photos of operations as a matter of normal course. We have not called for photos. I must say I did not question but I was told by the Navy that this had happened but given that there are people who weren’t there of course, you know, claiming all sorts of, making all sorts of exaggerated claims then we have produced the photos on the basis that the identities are not shown publicly as standard practice.
TRIOLI:: And that’s why you have handed me these two photos today and of course the images can’t be seen by you but I’ll describe them for you. It’s a reasonably tight shot, I’d have to say, of one of them, three people in the water, one woman who looks like she is over 40, maybe over 50, wearing a headdress, and a younger boy, perhaps her son and it looks like a Defence Force personnel as well. They are all wearing life suits. Mr Reith, there’s nothing in this photo that indicates these people either jumped or were thrown?
REITH:: No, well you are now questioning the veracity of what has been said. Those photos are produced as evidence of the fact that there were people in the water. You’re questioning whether it even happened, that’s the first point and I just want to answer that by saying these photos show absolutely without question whatsoever that there were children in the water, 05
TRIOLI:: Hang on a minute.
REITH:: Let me just answer one thing at a time because people are making exaggerated and very unfair claims.
TRIOLI:: But you are moving the question onto something else, 05
REITH:: No. I am just answering the question. And the best way I am answering is by saying here are photos, you say it’s a tight shot, they are clear as day. A mother and her presumably son, aged seven or eight clearly in the water and clearly being assisted by a female member of the Royal Australian Navy. The second photo shows a male member of the Royal Australian Navy with a child who I would say is female because I think she has got some headdress on or some sort who looks to me four or five, a very young child and behind her a mother, presumably a mother, and a male behind her, presumably her father. Now, the first thing to say is there were children in the water. Now, we have a number of people, obviously RAN people who were there who reported the children were thrown into the water. Now, you may want to question the veracity of reports of the Royal Australian Navy. I don’t and I didn’t either but I have subsequently been told that they have also got 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. So do you still question it?
TRIOLI:: I am a, 05I’ll question anything until I get the proof.
REITH:: Well, I have given you the evidence.
TRIOLI:: No, you have given me images.
REITH:: Well, quite frankly, if you don’t accept that, you don’t accept anything I say. I mean, the fact is I have had reports from the Royal Australian Navy as to what has happened and I have advised people of that and when questioned, we have produced not only stills but I am advised, as I have just told you, that we have film on HMAS ADELAIDE. The fact of the matter is, this did happen and it was part of a clear intended response by those on the boat. These people damaged the steering of the boat so that the boat was disabled. They disabled the pumps on the boat so that the boat was unable to pump out water that invariably comes into these sort of boats. Our people saw them going overboard. They threw over the side the compass and navigation equipment. They did everything possible to make life as difficult as possible for the Royal Australian Navy and I am told when our people were on board they were extremely aggressive to boot.
TRIOLI:: The questioning of this issue and I guess it must be why you produced the photographs because it is an unusual thing for you to do, has been intent, it’s been from various quarters, 05
REITH:: A whole lot of people who work there and who, 05
TRIOLI:: [Inaudible], 05want to know the truth.
REITH:: Yeah, well that’s fair enough but if you want to make allegations and then continue to make allegations when evidence has been produced, 05
REITH:: Well, allegations have been made. Look, I didn’t come in the last shower, I mean, I produced photos to you and you are still saying oh I’m just asking questions. The fact is this did happen and it is a very difficult situation and I commend the RAN people who were fantastic in dealing with these people who were clearly intent in putting themselves in harms way. I mean, the next day when the ship was submerged and sunk I am told, 05I can’t give you proof that they sunk it. But the advice that I have is that the boat was okay, it was doing three knots , it was all okay and the next thing the boat suddenly took on a whole lot of water and these people, all of them were in the water and so, for example, a female member of the RAN well she was on watch duty 12 metres up from the water surface, she literally leapt into the water to start to save people there and then. Now, we have acted very reasonably and given that we have the evidence that I have produced to you as well as the word of members of the RAN I don’t think it’s fair for you to question the veracity of that. The fact is that it did happen.
TRIOLI:: Will you produce the film if the questions continue?
REITH:: Well, I have not personally seen the film but I don’t expect the questions to continue because the fact is this is what happened, these are the circumstances. It was part of a graduated response which is the usual response in this situation. There was an earlier contact with the boat. At 4:57 Australian eastern standard time we were alongside that boat in a small vessel off HMAS ADELAIDE. They threw written warnings onto that boat and as soon as they were thrown on they were picked up and thrown back overboard by those responsible on the boat. At 7:00am four warning shots were fired well in advance of the boat.
TRIOLI:: How close to the boat?
REITH:: Well, well in advance, well clear of the boat in accordance with standard procedure which I presume to mean hundreds of metres if not further. Well clear of the boat.
TRIOLI:: You have not been told exactly, 05
REITH:: Well, I asked that question and I was told that it was well, well in advance of the boat. So I believe that, this is standard procedure and that’s what they do. It’s a warning shot with some rapid automatic fire as well. At 8:00am we had a person on board, or a number of RAN people on board. One person then jumped off, that was about 8:00 o’clock. At 9:00 o’clock or 9:10 or thereabouts, in other words, some hours after the event, and I should say after the warning shots this boat continued to head south and continued at the seven knots which it was estimated to be travelling. So you had the warning shots, they took no notice of the warning shots, there was no reaction on that boat at all, it just steamed on as if there were no warning shots. And the incident that we are referring to happened just about 9:00 o’clock or thereabouts. We had RAN people on board at the time trying to persuade the helmsman of the boat that he was acting illegally and should turn around and go back.
TRIOLI:: The actions of those who jumped or leapt or threw others as suggested this afternoon and as maintained by the Government and the RAN. Does that not describe to you people who feel absolutely desperate and would do anything to not be sent back to where they came from?
REITH:: Well, what sort of desperation is it that you disable your own ship, your own boat? I mean, what sort of desperation is it that you disable the steering? What sort of desperation is it that you throw away your navigation equipment?
REITH:: Well, that is desperation with an intent in mind, namely to pressure the Australian Government to let them in under their terms not ours. And this country has an excellent humanitarian record in terms of refugee resettlement. We do more than virtually any other country in the world, I think, except Canada but we do not accept the proposition that people should just be able to get on a boat and go to Australia after having paid thousands of dollars, in some cases $5,000 US dollars or more to a people smuggler to break Australian law.
TRIOLI:: Mr Reith, one thing that has interested me on this issue over the last few weeks is why the Government is so obsessed about not letting asylum seekers touch foot on Australian soil. They may in the end legitimately end up here, [inaudible], 05we oversee the whole thing. What’s the obsession with them not setting foot here?
REITH:: It’s quite wrong to say that the Government is obsessed about this. I must say that portrays your own view of the Government’s actions. The fact is we don’t think there should be a willy nilly open door policy into Australia. We have an immigration policy, we have a humanitarian aspect to that policy and as I say we have an excellent record by any form of comparison internationally but what we are not prepared to do is just to say, you know, Australia is open for business and anybody who can get here by paying a people smuggler is entitled to come in. And we have certainly been unhappy with the arrangements for dealing with people when they get here and that is why we have had a, 05
TRIOLI:: The detention centres?
REITH:: No, the judicial system and the process of assessment because if you take as a benchmark the processing system in Indonesia by the UNHCR these same sorts of people in terms of their percentage as being assessed as refugees is about 14 per cent. But you come to Australia and the system is considerably more lax or it has been at about 85 per cent. And I certainly blame the Labor Party, for years they have been blocking us in trying to improve and fix up this system. We have finally now got our legislation through although from comments of members of the Labor Party in the Senate, if the Labor Party were elected then it seems very obvious to me that many of them are planning to overturn the laws that we finally just got through.
TRIOLI:: But they have just signed on [inaudible], 05
REITH:: They signed on for the border protection legislation but there are five or six other bills to deal with processes and judicial arrangements. And the fact is that there are lot of people in the Labor Party who would very much like to overturn some of those laws. And when Kim Beazley was asked for a guarantee that he wouldn’t change these laws if Labor was elected he very consciously gave a guarantee in respect of the Border Protection Bill which had had all the publicity but he gave no guarantee about the other six measures. And so I think that is a genuine issue for people to focus on because, as I say, this Government has had to deal with this problem with one hand tied behind its back because of the Labor Party’s failure to allow us legislation in the Senate for the last two or three years.
TRIOLI:: All right. Well, we should probably speak to the Labor Party.
REITH:: Well, you won’t get a straight answer because they couldn’t tell you what they stand for.
REITH:: Well, you see I think this is just disingenuous. This is the Labor Party’s line.
TRIOLI:: Well, we’ll let the Labor Party [inaudible], 05
REITH:: You ought to get them in here and you ought to have a pile of the seven acts and ask them which one he’s going to change because Kim Beazley will not stand up to his own backbench on this issue and I think it’s a fair comment to make.
TRIOLI:: Twenty-five minutes past four on the drive program, 774 ABC Melbourne. Peter Reith with us the Minister for Defence. Just quickly one last point on that topic, Minister, where are those asylum seekers going now?
REITH:: Well, they are on board HMAS ADELAIDE but there will be a statement about that later on today but obviously we have given very high priority in managing that and we have got a plan worked out.
TRIOLI:: So you have got somewhere for them to go?
REITH:: And there will be a statement made in due course.
TRIOLI:: Can you make your statement now?
REITH:: No. But there will be a statement available if [inaudible] sensible way of managing the situation.
TRIOLI:: [Inaudible], 05in agreement with perhaps another country where they might be processed?
REITH:: Well, when there’s a statement to be made you’ll be one of the first to hear Virginia.
TRIOLI:: On another matter, have we been asked yet by the US to deploy our armed forces?
REITH:: No. But we have made available up to 1,000 ADF personnel. 150 in the SAS, some air-to-air refuellers which would mean a complement of about 100 RAAF people. In addition to that, some surveillance aircraft and similarly about 100 all up by the time you take in the maintenance crews and flight crews etc. On top of that, we are looking at an amphibious command ship which would have a crew of about 200 and if that were to go then another 200 in an escort frigate. So pretty close to the 1,000. We have also got, and they don’t get much mention, but we have already authorised the deployment of Australian personnel who are on exchange in US and UK units. The deal basically is if they are on exchange and their unit goes somewhere then they just stay in that unit as part and parcel of that command arrangement within the US or the UK. So there’s a few in that. And then lastly we have extended the deployment of HMAS ANZAC in the Gulf on sanctions duties and HMAS SYDNEY will replace that ship in due course. SYDNEY’S actually leaving Sydney today not for the deployment but she’s on work up in the next week or so.
TRIOLI:: We heard the first whisper, if you like, from the US Defence ground forces or some sort of ground attack, 05it hasn’t been completely ruled out yet. Are you concerned that Australian forces might be asked to be part of that?
REITH:: Well, obviously as Defence Minister but just as an ordinary Australian I think any person would be concerned for the well-being and safety of any Australians whether they are on a ship or on the ground.
REITH:: Well obviously, if it is true, obviously any work on the ground in Afghanistan would be a dangerous situation but I think you have to balance against the dangers of action, the real dangers of inaction and Australia is rightly very much apart of the Coalition. We have invoked the ANZUS treaty and I think for civilised countries not to take up the call of the coalition to combat terrorism would be a dreadful thing. So we’re in there. There is a sense of trepidation about the safety of our personnel and unquestionably if the action goes ahead then they well maybe in harms way.
TRIOLI:: And if they are needed to do they may go there?
REITH:: Well, it’s always the way. I mean, when you have got a situation you have got to confront and you are using your military forces then that’s what they are trained for and that’s what they expect. The reassurance is that our SAS, to take one of these groups has an internationally excellent record as I should say other members of the ADF. But just talking about the SAS, they are well acknowledged internationally. I saw an expert on the TV from the UK saying Australia’s, you know, we are amongst the best in the world and that is some reassurance but obviously it is a worry for the families and for the community as a whole.
TRIOLI:: Do you understand the bombing range in Afghanistan has been as successful as the US is claiming?
REITH:: I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, about the veracity of that claim. I dare say you’d like photos, Virginia, but, 05
REITH:: No, I don’t have any doubt that when they say the plan has been executed as intended that’s absolutely right and they have incredible military power and sophistication.
TRIOLI:: And turning to you Mr Reith, this is the last hurrah when it comes to a federal election?
REITH:: This is not my last show with you Virginia.
TRIOLI:: Others may have different views on that Mr Reith. What are you going to do?
REITH::Honestly I am just not thinking about it, I just really have too much on my plate.
TRIOLI:: Well, you don’t have to go and campaign down at Flinders, that’s someone else’s job though.
REITH:: Greg Hunt is the candidate for Flinders and anybody in Flinders I can tell you he is a fantastic candidate, he’s a young bloke, he’s 35 he’s got a lot going for him, he’s very smart, he’s a local boy as well.
TRIOLI:: And you, what does your life hold?
REITH:: Well, once I’m out of politics I’m out. As my predecessor, Phil Lynch once said to me there’s nothing more ex than an ex. But in the meantime I have got a job to do and I am not really focussing on me personally.
TRIOLI:: I have heard strong suggestions that you may be interested in getting into politics at a State level in Victoria.
REITH:: I read that in the Herald Sun but as good a paper as it is I don’t believe everything I read in the Herald Sun and you shouldn’t either.
TRIOLI:: Except when it comes to photographs. Mr Reith, thank you for stopping by.
REITH:: Thank you.
Trioli has come out of this exercise smelling of roses and the contrast could not be more stark with Andrew Bolt. Check out this October 11 column in the Herald Sun for gullibility:
SO KEEN TO FIND EVIL-DOERS
By Andrew Bolt
THE strange thing about the “debate” over our treatment of asylum seekers is that so many “good” people are so keen to think we’re monsters.
Earlier this week, Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said Iraqi boatpeople had thrown their children overboard when HMAS Adelaide tried to turn their boat back to Indonesia.
He said our sailors had to jump into the sea to rescue some 14 children and adults. Only a fool could think Ruddock would make this up, given the incident was witnessed by dozens of sailors and officers.
Yet by this morning the Greens and the Australian Democrats were muttering doubts about the truth of story. Refugee advocate Marion Le told Jon Faine on ABC radio 774 she’d had “doubts from the beginning” and called for a “full inquiry into what exactly did go on and whether or not these claims were true”.
Then Faine demanded Ruddock provide “independent corroboration” for his claim, stating: “We can’t any longer simply say, well, someone told me that might be what happened.”
Elsewhere in this paper you can see the photographs of the incident which I got from the Defence Department simply by asking for them. Proof positive.
Add this scare campaign to those about our “concentration camps”, our racism and so on.