As all the sophisticates who read Crikey know, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews is at the centre of a vast wedge campaign to blacken the name of Mohamed Haneef.

When they return to Planet Earth, they may like to revisit the old cock-up versus conspiracy theory of politics.

We already know that the case against Haneef foundered thanks to a prosecution stuff-up.

We know Immigration’s track record.

And Andrews himself has form – considerable form.

You might need to subject them to extraordinary rendition procedures to get them to confess it, but a sizeable number of government backbenchers were extremely unhappy with Andrews’ efforts over WorkChoices.

They felt he had been snowballed by the Department, that he and his staff produced an over-bureaucratic structure. Even opposition Julia Gillard has picked up on this critique.

Then there are all the issues over the selling of WorkChoices – and the fact that it’s needed a major remake.

The government could have avoided all this pain with a better minister with sharper political antennae.

Andrews looked like an incompetent again at his Haneef presser. He did everything he could to make the government seem shifty.

It was scheduled late, so the TVs had no time to do any analysis. It offered out of context extracts from private conversations that could mean anything. The question of what language these were held in remained unanswered. And to top it off, he appeared in front of not one, but three, Australian flags.

Sure, there’s a scandal here, but it’s a scandal involving a heavy-handed and incompetent bureaucracy – and ministerial masters who not only tolerate but have a similar approach.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey