Attorney-General Philip Ruddock dragged his office to a new low on ABC TV’s Lateline last night.

Australia’s first law officer essentially said that no person should get bail when charged with terrorism offences, no matter what the circumstances of their case. Why? Because it doesn’t suit the Howard government’s political purposes.

It is clear that the A-G is outraged by the decision of Queensland magistrate Jacqui Payne to grant Mohamed Haneef bail on Monday, even though Ms Payne was clearly in the right, given the paucity of evidence against Dr Haneef and the fact that there’s no suggestion he is linked to any terrorist organisation.

Mr Ruddock told Lateline:

The matter that I will be looking at very seriously is this question of the presumption against bail, there was an expectation as to how it would operate and if appeals suggest that we’ve got it wrong, well it’s a matter that the Parliament might well be asked to put right.

If we find in relation to these measures that the law that we passed that we expected would ensure that people charged with terrorism offences would have a presumption against bail is not being met we may have to look at that matter further.

In other words, “we will make it almost impossible for defendants to get bail, no matter what the circumstances of their particular case.”

What a nuisance the criminal law and the presumption of innocence are, Mr Ruddock. I mean why not go the whole hog and just abolish the concept of bail in terrorism cases altogether. You might get away with it because Australia, unfortunately, has no charter or bill of rights to protect individuals from merciless power hungry state officials like you.

Oh, and by the way, one assumes that Mr Ruddock’s protestation last night that his colleague Kevin Andrews didn’t discuss revoking Dr Haneef’s visa with him was a feeble attempt at ironic humor. Philip Ruddock is a control freak who is all over every little twist and turn in terrorism cases — to suggest that he and Mr Andrews didn’t talk before the decision was announced is to suggest that pigs do fly.

Peter Fray

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