With his characteristic meticulous attention to detail Tony Kevin examines what is on the public record about the four most recent tragedies at sea involving asylum seeker boats attempting to reach Australia, and official statements and testimony regarding those tragedies. His analysis raises some disturbing questions about our border protection culture – a secretive culture which takes a minimalist view of the responsibilities of the border protection service on the grounds that it ‘is not a search and rescue organisation’ and accordingly, while it acknowledges a responsibility to assist if called upon to do so, appears to deny any responsibility to anticipate problems with boats known or expected to be on the way but not yet registered as ‘Suspected Irregular Entry Vessels’. This book is required reading for anyone who is concerned not only with the humanity of our approach to asylum seekers and our conformity to international law regarding Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), but to the quality, integrity and accountability of our machinery of government.
- Paul Barratt AO, former Secretary, Department of Defence, 1998-99.
Reluctant Rescuers deserves to be widely read throughout the Australian community. It strongly supports the view that Australia's policies and actions in dealing with the problem of illegal boat arrivals have often failed to recognise the fundamental importance of the safety of life at sea. The story in this book should touch the conscience of all Australians.
- Commodore Sam Bateman RAN (Rtd), Professorial Research Fellow, University of Wollongong.
Ever since the 2002 Report of the Senate Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident, the title of which disguised the horror of lives lost at sea on Australia’s watch, Tony Kevin has been vigilant in asking how our border protection services might be more attentive to saving lives at sea – regardless of the motives of those at risk, and regardless of the ruthlessness of those who exploit them charging high prices for unseaworthy journeys. A self-confessed ‘former public servant with a general nose for public service national security practice’, Kevin whose 2004 book A Certain Maritime Incident—The sinking of SIEV X shocked many Australians, now applies his forensic method to the four tragic incidents in the last three years and makes practical suggestions as to how our ‘efficient and humane border protection system could quickly become a no-deaths system’ administered by honourable though reluctant rescuers. His pen once again pricks the nation’s conscience and applies scrutiny to those tempted to place border protection ahead of human life.
- Father Frank Brennan SJ AO
Tony Kevin has become a voice of conscience for fellow citizens He exposes the shameful loss of life on the boats bringing refugees to Australia. He appeals to our human duty to the vulnerable. But also to the mariners’ instinctive tradition to rescue ‘those in peril on the sea.’ It is astonishing, but reassuring, that one trained as a senior public official should have found this insistent voice.
- The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG.