Sunday, June 23, 2002

Margo Kingston must have been playing All The President’s Men backwards again, looking for the secret messages inserted by Woodward and Bernstein. How else to explain what has become an obsession with the Suspected Illegal Entry Vehicle – Unknown (SIEV-X), and their cargo of human misery?

I want to lay it out plainly, because Margo tends to stumble when stepping up to the mark of clear speech. She would like us to believe that our Prime Minister John Howard, his Defence Minister Peter Reith, several top members of navy brass, as well as an unspecified number of communications technicians, pilots, intelligence analysts, navigators, public servants and sailors, have all acted in concert to cover up their complicity in the death by drowning of 353 illegal immigrants on or around October 23 last year.

That’s right kiddies. Somehow, while leaving no trace of their conspiracy, our arch-evil PM overnight managed to suborn the perjury of Admiral after Admiral, the silence of hundreds of sailors, the whole symphony of action and co-ordination necessary to sustain the wheezing theories of a journalist so blinded by her hatred of her political enemies that she is no longer fit to report fairly on the results of Miss Wagga Wagga.

You can believe that professional sailors, in one of the finest navies in the world, would first accept orders not to patrol an area that a shipload of boat people was likely to enter, and possibly sink. Then, having accepted and acted on the order, keep it secret among themselves, and then LIE ON OATH about it.

Or you can believe that Indonesian police and local chieftains forced hundreds of Middle Eastern immigrants onto a leaky, overcrowded boat, at gunpoint. That the boat, designated SIEV-X moved out from Java, headed for Australia, and sunk at an unknown point with the loss of 353 lives, possibly in Indonesian waters, possibly not.

You can believe that local officials in one of the most corrupt countries in the world accepted money from people smugglers to move people through their area, and this shitty little boat was all they felt like providing to their customers. You can believe that bad things happen, and not everything bad is John Howard’s fault, or even Australia’s. You can believe that there’s a whole lotta empty in international waters, and there are not many Navy ships to cover it.

You can believe that writing articles that hint darkly about “what did the Navy know?” and “where was the Defence Minister while this was going on?” say more about blind hatred than journalistic ethics.

There are reports from a survivor that “three grey ships” were seen by people in the water, but they did nothing to assist. If those ships were Australian, which is the only reason Margo would put them into the article, then ask: how long would the sailors who listened to the screams of the drowning keep quiet once back in port?

If Margo doesn’t believe in the conspiracy as I have laid it out, she should say so. If she has a different theory, she should advance it. If she has evidence, she should produce it. But scratching around the Parliamentary record, seizing on every inconsistency as the smoking gun that will bring the whole cover up to light, is tedios at best, and sickening at worst.

Margo has lost it, possibly for good this time. She has never forgiven John Howard for being popular, and she has never forgiven the Australian electorate for electing him time after time after time. Her columns are starting to read like a Lenny Bruce routine when he would go on stage and read at length from his court transcripts. The editors at Fairfax should act to end this before it gets any more embarrassing

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