Amateur video shot by a Christmas Island resident shows the wild weather pummeling the coastline, with remains of the asylum boat wreck still visible.
The multi-party climate change committee is meeting again next week to continue its work on the future of a pricing mechanism on carbon. I am comfortable being involved in this complex policy discussion and appreciate the opportunity to value add.
But a multi-party "Christmas Island incident" committee, which the Prime Minister has proposed, is different. I don't see a way I, nor anyone outside Julia Gillard or key ministers, can value add. The truth of what happened is known or it is not. These details are for the agencies of government to provide to the Prime Minister as quickly as possible, and for her to then provide to the Australian people as quickly as possible, and as often as needed if updates occur.
This is a moment for the Prime Minister to lead, not a moment for a committee. She must lead us through the consequences of this tragedy. And the point for her to start is the truth. The Australian people need a comprehensive statement of everything she knows about exactly what happened that led to the death of at least 28 people. In particular, she needs to be very clear and detailed about allegations that have already been made that the Australian government was somehow directly complicit in this tragedy.
This is a rumour, already widespread, that cannot be allowed to go unanswered for too long. It is being fanned by refugee advocates, white extremists, and ''stop the boats'' advocates. It is exactly the sort of rumour, if unfounded, that leads to hysteria, xenophobia and conspiracy. It must be tackled head-on as quickly and as comprehensively as possible so that facts dominate, rather than emotion or fear.
And it must be tackled by the Prime Minister herself. In my view, she missed the opportunity to make such a statement in her first address to the media on the tragedy yesterday.
Her offer to establish a working party denies the wildfire rumour mill that the past 48 hours has seen explode across Australia. People are desperate for information on the exact details and where there is a void it is being quickly filled by misinformation or second-hand whispers.
We have the established facts that a boat crashed, at least 28 people died and islanders watched hopelessly and helplessly. Counselling for the islanders is imperative and obvious.
But there are some key questions that must be answered now. How did a boat get so close to the island without being identified? Was it tracked at all by the Australian intelligence services, either on its departure from Indonesia or closer to Christmas Island? Is the allegation the navy was around the other side of Christmas Island doing "something else" true? And if so, what are the details? And if sea support was too difficult due to the conditions, what about air support or even a better-resourced land support? Are reports true that it was left to locals to valiantly make human chains to throw out flotation devices? Where were the various arms of government in all of this?
There is an information void Australian leadership must fill as quickly and as comprehensively as possible. Rumours are running riot throughout my electorate and throughout the country. On the back of Siev X and Tampa, on the back of a "stop the boats" political wedge campaign, people are suspicious. The truth, and the detail, are the only way forward.
I have a personal view that our international education market, our third-largest export market, has been severely damaged by the behaviour of Australia on this one issue over the past two years. We have willingly damaged our economy as we've got stuck in the bog of an adversarial policy debate between John Howard and Kevin Rudd, and who is, or was, tougher on border protection. It lingers now with Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard.
Only yesterday I opened a Vietnamese art exhibition in Port Macquarie and the main topic of conversation at this event was concern within the Vietnamese Australian community about how much xenophobic fear and hysteria will be stirred up again by this tragedy, and the implications for business links. Our nearest neighbours are watching us closely. For economic as much as moral reasons, the Prime Minister must therefore lead and should start with a comprehensive statement of everything she knows about what exactly happened.
Rob Oakeshott is the independent federal MP for Lyne.