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Last word on Haneef?

By Harry Clarke - posted Thursday, 24 January 2008

Mohamed Haneef has now left Australia. He has been cleared of the charges levelled against him. This does not mean that the charges against him and his possible terrorist links should not have been investigated. On the basis of information available at the time (and in the absence of the ex post wisdom so beloved of the dishonest, ratbag left) he needed to be investigated.

As The Australian remarked yesterday (July 28, 2007):

There is absolutely no doubt that Dr Haneef's connections with alleged terror suspects in Britain had to be investigated. The scale of the task the AFP faced was daunting, sifting through the equivalent of more than 30,000 pages contained in Dr Haneef's laptop, most of it not in English. There is also no doubt that the AFP required the time made available to it under terror legislation to investigate Dr Haneef before laying charges. The AFP also has an important task to fulfill in continuing to investigate Dr Haneef's connections with alleged terrorists in Britain and other people of interest in Australia.


That Dr Haneef was arrested at Brisbane Airport trying to board a flight on a one-way-ticket to India was also suspicious given its proximity to the attempted bomb attacks. The reports from an Indian newspaper that Haneef was associated with a terrorist training cell also needed study.

Given the evidence available at the time a plausible counterfactual - had he not been arrested - could have been that a suspect, who was suspected of being involved in terrorism, was allowed to flee Australia because suspicions, not backed up by very definite evidence, were not investigated. This would have been unacceptible.

As it turned out two pieces of information given to the AFP and Minister Andrews were false - that the SIM card Haneef had given one of the British terrorists was not in the Scottish bomb attack vehicle and Haneef had not recently lived with the terrorists. An investigation should occur to determine how these errors of information occurred - the source of one error seems to be that the AFP gave the DPP the wrong address for Haneef in Britain. The claim that AFP officers wrote addresses in Haneef’s diary are now revealed to be a lie. Even people who should know better are getting caught up in the frenzy of criticism.

Now charges against Haneef have been dropped although he is still being investigated. The whole process from his arrest to the charges being dropped took only a few weeks and he has even been offered his former job back. He was not been tortured, sent to a Gulag or jailed indefinitely. As Peter Beattie said yesterday - "the system works". Haneef himself left Australia with a smile on his face and the stated intention of seeking a new visa and returning to work here. A bitter man whose life has been destroyed as the gutter press claims?

The hysterical response of the left and sections of the Australian media - not the regrettable initial mistakes themselves - damage Australia’s security and its ability to investigate and prosecute terrorism. The main complaint seems to be that:

  1. the charges have now been dropped; and
  2. that an innocent person could have faced charges in a court.

These are totally ridiculous claims since these events are part of the normal processes of law. The Age’s headline (July 29, 2007)  “Farewell from the land of the ‘fair go’” hits a new low for what is rapidly becoming the most dishonest and biased newspaper in this country. The accompanying page 2 article by Jason Koutsoukis is just propagandist, anti-Howard politics. It is as disreputable as anything I have seen in this rag. Moreover, it is written up as a straight news story - not described as commentary:

The disgraceful treatment of Mohamed Haneef has all the hallmarks of a typical Howard Government political play. (“Typical”?)

Nasty, divisive, cynical and, of course, no involvement of the Prime Minister himself. (Good to see a journo who can leave aside his personal moral judgments to give us the facts!)

Remember children overboard? The whole Commonwealth bureaucracy knew this was nonsense, yet somehow Howard's office did not get the message that no children were ever thrown overboard. (Judge Jason made this judgment?)

The $300 million in bribes paid by AWB to Saddam Hussein? Everyone in Canberra seemed to know AWB was up to no good - except Howard. (Judge Jason again - not the Inquiry which exonerated the Government.)

That his workplace relations laws would make some people worse off? The newly published biography of Howard reveals that this was actually explained to Howard in cabinet - but the Prime Minister cannot remember that. (He was told something therefore Howard should believe that? Note the sneaky use of the word “some” - there is 4.5 per cent unemployment and growing real wages.)

Then there was the terrible mess Howard got himself into in May by trying to deny the existence of a planned climate-change advertising campaign, on the grounds that the ads did not exist until they had got the ministerial tick. (Judge Jason again.)

With Mohamed Haneef now out of Australia, guilty of nothing more than having a relative who is a suspect in a terrorist case in another country, we have the Prime Minister again saying he knows nothing. (Judge Jason ignores all early claims believed to be true and acts on the basis of his ex post wisdom.)

When will Howard take responsibility? This time the fall guy is Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews.

The very idea that Andrews would cancel Haneef's visa without deep and protracted consultations with the Prime Minister's office is preposterous. Yet, according to Howard, none of the key decisions were made by him. (A series of conjectures - no evidence. Not preposterous to me. Andrews is the Minister.)

Mohamed Haneef's character has been trashed by a Government prepared to do anything to cling onto power. (Not trashed by the Government but the press did its bit. The press also trashed Australia's reputation and damaged Australia's ability to fight terrorism.)

Yet despite the collapse of the case, no one in the Government has the decency to apologise or even admit that Haneef has been treated unfairly. (He has not been treated unfairly. Actions were taken given information available. Not the apology nonsense again!)

The Howard Government is beginning to take on all the characteristics of a Government that has lost control. (No Jason you have lost control on this occasion - whatever happened to responsible journalism?)

If John Howard is going to pull off another federal election victory, he must find the discipline that has been the hallmark of his political successes. (I think Judge Jason should find a new discipline! Writing fiction or being a left-wing shock jock!).

This is an unsubstantiated stream of allegations that pursues The Age’s ongoing campaign to attack John Howard. It is all about Howard. Almost worse still, Seamus Bradley, in another piece titled “Deemed an issue of race and politics” provides evidence citing exactly the opposite to his title. None of the Indian media make the claims Jason alleges. Never let the facts get in the way of a good headline!

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First published in Harry Clarke's blog on July 29, 2007.

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About the Author

Harry Clarke is an economist currently working on environmental problems and the economics of addictions including substance abuse. He lives in Melbourne with his wife, three children, a yabbie and numerous native trees including a Wollemi pine. He blogs at Harry Clarke.

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