Monday, July 30, 2007

Spite and malice for Dr. Haneef

I have to talk about Australia again.

Of the many unpleasant features of John Howard's governments, two are in the news again over the Dr Haneef saga.

One is spite & malice, especially from the Immigration Department. That's been a feature of the department under successive ministers.

The second is childish stubbornness, particularly on the part of the Prime Minister himself.

I've posted two pieces on the saga over the last few days so I won't repeat myself with the details of the misuse, the abuse, of the terrorism laws by the government and its agencies. That of course is my point and my concern about the laws. That they would be misused, they would be abused by government. To believe otherwise is naive in the extreme.

In the first spiteful move Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews cancelled the doctor's visa immediately after a magistrate had released him on bail, so that he could be kept in detention.

Having eventually been exonerated, released without charge, we have a whole catalogue of spite and malice from the government.

Firstly, Dr Haneef will not have his Australian visa restored.

Then Kevin Andrews is continuing with the slurs, saying that Dr Haneef is "highly suspicious", that he, Andrews, has "secret information" and of Dr Haneef's perfectly understandable desire to leave Australia immediately he was released: "If anything that rather heightens, rather than lessens, my suspicions."

The 'secret information' can't be revealed says the minister. As William Maley points out in The Australian today: " seemed he still could find a lot to say: his press conference was simply the starting point in a frenzy of media activity, with Andrews doing separate television and radio interviews with Sky News, Seven News, Sunrise, 2GB, ABC 774, 3AW, ABC News Radio, ABC Radio National, 4BC, 2UE, 6PR and 2SM.

Virtually all these interviews were replete with insinuations against Haneef, augmented by the minister's claim that he would have "failed the Australian people" if he had not acted.

Only months out from an election, it is little wonder some observers smelled a rat."

It's no surprise to learn that Howard and the dreadful Phillip Ruddock, Attorney General, were part of national security committee reviewing the case before the visa was cancelled. They obviously gave the go-ahead for the visa to be cancelled, in what is blatant political interference in a legal matter.

True to form, John Howard is refusing to apologise for the treatment of Dr Haneef. There will be no apology.

He also insists there will be no official enquiry into the whole shameful episode.

And of course, he plays the terrorism card: ""When you're dealing with terrorism, it's better to be safe than to be sorry."

But we're not dealing with terrorism are we. We're dealing with a monumental cock-up, we're dealing with false evidence being presented to a court, we're dealing with a man who has in effect been deported after being exonerated of any crime, we're dealing with the cancellation of a perfectly legitimate visa, we're dealing with political interference in the legal process.

It won't be long before he's telling us 'the Australian people have moved on' so that the whole thing can be shelved. He's done it so many times in the past.

There's a third feature of Howard's modus operandi that's reappeared with the Haneef situation; win the election at any cost regardless of any standards or propriety. He's done it prior to previous elections, pushing the the fear factor with lies about asylum seekers, about terrorist attacks, about interest rates...this is transparently another of his pre-election tough guy acts, but this time it went pear-shaped.

Oh, and in a final example of the style and charm of our government ministers here's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer when asked about a government apology:

"What do you expect them to do - fall on the ground and grovel, eat dirt? I mean, get real," he told reporters at Sydney airport.

They're all class.

If you're interested in the details, the story is covered in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, the BBC,

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