ACT Book of the Year




Tony Kevin
A Certain Maritime Incident : the sinking of SIEV X 
Scribe Publications

Cover certain maritime incident


In October 2001, over 400 asylum-seekers departed from Indonesia in a grossly overcrowded, unseaworthy boat bound for Australia. Somewhere between the two countries the boat sank, with a terrible loss of life 353 of the asylum-seekers drowned.

The Australian government claimed it had no prior knowledge of the unfolding tragedy. Yet ministers and senior officials from the beginning tried to mislead the Australian Senate and the community over important questions. What did the government and its agencies know about the boat and its fate, and when? Did we have any responsibility for the tragedy? Did we have a duty of care to save the survivors that we shirked?

A Certain Maritime Incident joins the dots for the first time to reveal a disquieting record of government misconduct, including Australian Federal Police involvement in a people-smuggling ‘disruption program’, and an extraordinary combination of stonewalling and professed ignorance by a government dedicated to micromanaging the deterrence of asylum-seeker voyages.

The victims of this maritime disaster were mostly women and children, and many of their male family members are living in the Australian community on temporary protection visas. This book is dedicated to the grieving kin. It is also for the rest of us because, Tony Kevin argues, nothing less than a comprehensive judicial inquiry into the sinking of SIEV X will suffice if Australia is to regain its national honour.


Tony Kevin holds degrees in civil engineering, and in economics and political science. He retired from the Australian foreign service in 1998, after a 30-year career during which he served in the Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister’s departments, and was Australia’s ambassador to Poland and Cambodia. He is currently an honorary visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies in Canberra.

He has written extensively on Australian foreign, national security, and refugee policies in Australia’s national print media.

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