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Monday, May 04, 2015


I suspect that Mick Keelty, John Howard and Philip Ruddock are pleased that the two Bali Nine boys were shot to death in the early hours of Wednesday morning of the 29 April 2015 as it finalises a plan first hatched back in April 2005.  
It was then that Lee Rush, the father of Scott Rush, one of the gang members of a drug smuggling operation, realising that his son was about to fly to Bali in order to bring drugs back to Australia, contacted the Australian Federal Police via a lawyer friend to inform them of what was about to happen with a view of getting the AFP to stop Scott Rush from boarding that aircraft to Bali. The AFP assured Robert Myers, the lawyer friend of Lee Rush, that Scott would be stopped before leaving the country. It didn’t happen. Scott Rush was allowed to leave Australia to fly to Bali.
Instead of warning Scott Rush off, who could then warn off the other members of the smuggling team, the AFP instead tipped off their Indonesian counterparts warning them that the smuggling team was about to arrive just before Scott Rush boarded the flight to Bali on 8 April 2005. Nine days later Rush and three others were arrested at Denpasar airport as they were about to leave for the return journey home. Chan and Sukumaran were also arrested at Denpasar airport. Three others were arrested at their hotel as they were preparing to leave.
So, what happened?
Clearly, instead of warning the gang that if they proceeded with their plan they would be arrested by the Indonesian police and charged with smuggling offences, the AFP decided to allow the gang to go ahead with their plan knowing that the consequences would likely end with at least one or two of the gang being sentenced to death by shooting.
So, why did Mick Keelty let them go ahead with their plan knowing that they would be caught and suffer the consequences?
In fact, it would not have been Keelty’s call to allow the gang to go ahead with their plan especially in light of the probability that at least one or two of them would likely receive the death penalty. Keelty would, at least, have consulted with the Attorney General of the day, Philip Ruddock who, in turn would have consulted the Prime Minister, John Howard.
It was at this point that I believe Howard and Ruddock, despite their declared stance against the death penalty, made the decision to allow the smuggling operation to go ahead knowing that it would be thwarted and that as a consequence of the trials that would follow one or more of the nine involved would receive the death penalty. Furthermore, as I stated at the time, regardless of the appeals against the sentences and the pleas for clemency as the time for execution approached, at least one or two of the gang would ultimately be executed. I further suggested that this would happen regardless of whatever else happened and that it would happen because of some kind of agreement between the Howard government and the Indonesian government in order to deter Australians from smuggling drugs from Indonesia to Australia. That plan has now been carried through to completion.
My evidence supporting this assertion is circumstantial though, once known, seems to be compelling especially in the light of what has happened.
Howard first spoke of the affair on 10 April 2005 at a doorstop interview at the Great Hall of the People whilst visiting China negotiating a Free Trade Agreement between Australia and China when a journalist asked Howard “…what’s the significance of the… operation that has led to eight men being charged with…”. “What is the significance of it?” Howard asked. “Yes”, said the journalist, to which Howard replied:
“Well the operational aspects of that should be commented upon by the Australian Federal Police. I didn't know anything about it and nor should I until the people were arrested. It is normal for the Australian Federal Police to cooperate with the Indonesian police if they have reason to believe that people have broken the law. I would always encourage the Australian Federal Police to cooperate with their counterparts in neighbouring countries in the apprehension of suspected drug offenders. But as to the details of this particular case I know nothing other than that nine people have been arrested, that they are entitled like anybody else to a presumption of innocence, I hope they will be dealt with fairly and justly by the process, the charges are very serious and there's quite a number of Australians involved, nine, it's a large number. This is a matter though for the courts, the Indonesian authorities, but I endorse very strongly, very strongly indeed, cooperation between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian authorities in trying to track down people who are trafficking in drugs.”
The journalist pushed Howard further: “Prime Minister, is it possible that as a consequence of this joint operation involving the AFP that Australians could face the death penalty...” but, before the journalist could finish, Howard interrupted saying, “Jim, I'm not going to start making comments that in any way bear upon this particular case, that would be inappropriate, I think you know that.”[1]
Clearly, Howard was already very familiar with the case and was aware of the significance of it, particularly with regard to the use of the death penalty but did not want to discuss it at that time.
According to Bob Myers, the barrister friend of Lee Rush, father of Scott Rush, “the AFP had all the evidence they needed to arrest the nine before they left Australia on a heroin smuggling mission. Instead it (the AFP) let them travel to Bali and then told Indonesian police about the crime they were about to commit”. [2] In a statement to the media on 4 May 2015, Commissioner of the AFP, Andrew Colvin, said:  “We can’t apologise for the role that we have to try to stop illicit drugs from coming into this community.”[3] But, if that is the case, why did the AFP not warn the Bali Nine that they knew of their plot to bring drugs into Australia. It’s not enough to simply state that the AFP didn’t have enough evidence to arrest them before leaving for Bali. They could just as easily have brought them in for questioning where they could have been warned of the consequences of going ahead with their plan and in particular the possibility that they may even face the death penalty if caught with drugs. To say there was not enough evidence to arrest them is a complete furphy. They needn’t have even been arrested; just simply brought in and told that the AFP knew what was going on and if they went ahead with their plan they would in all likelihood be arrested in Bali.
The next question is: Was it Mick Keelty’s decision alone to hand over the Bali Nine Australians on a plate to the Indonesian police knowing full well that they may well end up facing a firing squad? Would Keelty have had that kind of authority to make such a decision knowing how serious the political repercussions might be? Keelty would at least have had to consult the Attorney General, Philip Ruddock, about the case before contacting the Indonesian authorities about the plan - especially in cases where the death penalty is a possibility. Philip Ruddock in turn would have then needed to discuss the situation with John Howard who was in China at the time.
Judging by the response that Howard gave to questions about the affair at that doorstop interview in Beijing, Howard had certainly already been briefed on the matter and was clearly keen to pass the buck of responsibility back to the AFP accompanied by some carefully considered words about the ‘presumption of innocence’ and the hope ‘that they would be dealt with fairly and justly’ by the Indonesian legal system. In other words, as far as John Howard was concerned, the matter was fait accompli since the Bali Nine were now in the hands of the Indonesian authorities.
It seems now that a certain unnamed AFP officer who asked to be taken off the case because of his concerns about the possibility of the death sentence being involved will become the fall guy for this whole sorry affair in an attempt to absolve Ruddock and Howard of any responsibility. The reality however, is that it was Howard, Ruddock and Keelty who between them deliberately set up at least two of the Bali Nine for execution so as to deter other Australians from bringing drugs to Australia despite their claims of finding the death sentence abhorrent.

[1] John Howard, ‘Doorstop interview, Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China’, 19 April 2005.
[2] AAP, “AFP’s Bali Nine actions ‘imported death penalty into Australia’”. The Guardian, 4 May 2015.
[3] Bridie Jabour, “Bali Nine: AFP strenuously defends actions over 2005 drug-smuggling case”. The Guardian, 4 May 2015.