tip off

Guilt by association: Kevin Andrews has learnt nothing

He’s done it again. The hapless Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, fresh from a bollocking over his appalling mishandling of Gold Coast doctor Mohammed Haneef, is refusing to grant a visa to the respected UK-based writer and newspaper editor, Abdel Bari Atwan.

Abdel Bari Atwan is the editor-in-chief of the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, a moderate Arab publication in London. And he has met Osama Bin Laden. The BBC and CNN like his stuff – he is a regular commentator on those networks. In short, he is a consummate media professional and independent analyst of Arab politics. Oh, and he is certainly no sympathiser of Bin Laden.

On August 16, Abdel Bari Abwan applied for a visa so he could come to Australia for ten days and speak at the Brisbane Writers Festival, which opened last night. But he has been stalled and stalled by Australia House in London and by Minister Andrews’ office. This is despite lobbying efforts by Michael Campbell, the Festival chief. Even Mr Andrews’ Assistant Minister, Brisbane-based Theresa Gambaro, got in on the act, and tried to help.

So why can’t a visa be issued to Abdel Bari Atwan? Well no reason really, except to say that he apparently didn’t give the authorities enough time to issue a visa!

This is of course codswallop. The real reason appears to be guilt by association. The Howard government doesn’t want to let anyone into the country who has met Bin Laden, even though Abdel Bari Abwan did so in a purely professional capacity.

If I am wrong, and there are genuine grounds under the Migration Act for refusing this man a visa – ie. that ASIO knows something we don’t – then Mr Andrews should come clean and be honest about the matter.

One would have thought that Kevin Andrew might have learnt a thing or two from the Haneef case, like being more open and transparent, and being less of a McCarthyist. But sadly it appears he has learn’t zilch.

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