John Lilburne's journal about the correction of faults, particularly with regard to the allegations of children being thrown overboard on 7 October 2001 from a boat intercepted by HMAS ADELAIDE.



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1023 L Fri 15 Feb 2002

Today the first reading begins:

Thus says the Lord:

Shout for all you are worth,
raise your voice like a trumpet.
Proclaim their faults to my people,
their sins to the House of Jacob. (Isaiah 58:1)

Its not something many people are eager to do. Shouting for all you are worth happens at the football, but usually it is cheering rather than abusing people for their faults. In the army correcting faults with shouting in encouraged. But instructors need to be sure of their ground for this -- "The Drill Manual says do it this way, so don't do it that way". One can be confident about these sorts of faults, but there is less confidence in making judgments about sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects this:

2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. [St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 22.]

For this correction, different situations should be dealt with in different ways.

I am impressed by the coverage in The Australian today about what they call the "Children Overboard Scandal". To try and summarize what happen:

5 Oct 2001 Federal election called.

7 Oct 2001 HMAS ADELAIDE intercepted a Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel about 150 nautical miles from Christmas Island. Jane Halton (then deputy secretary of Prime Minister's Department) told a special people-smuggling task force meeting of the incident. I am unsure if she said that children were thrown overboard or that people threatened to thrown children overboard. She received information from Air Vice Marshall Alan Titheridge, who got it from Brigadier Michael Silverstone, who got it from Commander Normal Banks, the Commanding Officer of HMAS ADELAIDE. Commander Banks believes he said "threatening". Brigadier Silverstone wrote in his diary "child thrown over the side". Squadron Leader Steve Walker told the meeting that no evidence existed of children being thrown overboard. Jane Halton heard this warning but did not pass it on to ministers. The Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock announced "a number of children have been thrown overboard".

10 Oct 2001 The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was given a chronology of events at about noon with a footnote that said: "There is no indication that children were thrown overboard. It is possible that this did occur in conjunction with other SUNCs (suspected unlawful non-citizens) jumping overboard." Defence Minister Peter Reith talks to the ABC about a video:

"I have not seen it myself and apparently the quality of it is not very good, and its infra-red or something, but I am told that someone has looked at it and it is an absolute fact, the children were thrown into the water."

31 Oct 2001 Brigadier Silverstone tells Peter Reith in a "casual conversation" that the video does not show a child being thrown into the water. The Brigadier says Peter Reith then said words to the effect: "Well, we'd better not see the video then."

7 Nov 2001 The Australian reports that the story is not true, according to Christmas Island residents who spoke to people in the Royal Australian Navy.

8 Nov 2001 The video is released which does not show children being thrown in the water. Vice Admiral Shackleton says "Our advice was there were people being threatened to be thrown in the water, and I don't know what happened to the message after that."

10 Nov 2001 Coalition returned in federal election.

13 Nov 2001 Prime Minister John Howard directs that there be an investigation into the advice given to the Government over the incident.

It is not an encouraging story. Untrue things were being said publicly, but no one was in a hurry to raise their voice like a trumpet, proclaim the faults to the people. Corrections were slow. This seems to have been through a system of hierarchy, allegiance, and telling people what they wanted to hear.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne 15 February 2002. Last modified 21 March 2002.

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