Mick Keelty’s Whitrod Oration is further evidence of just how clueless our top copper is. Admittedly, it does show that he would make a good industry lobbyist. Like any spruiker for a sector looking for a handout, he reckons counter-terrorism is of critical importance to the country, that it needs more money, and that the regulator should give it a break.

“Health, education and the economy remain important issues”, Keelty graciously allows, “But domestic security has been elevated to a level of importance we’ve never experienced before.”

So there you have it – no point messing about with that touchy-feely stuff like health or education, or making sure people have jobs, while there are terrorists on the loose. But the Haneef affair obviously still rankles with Keelty.

“We are neither out of our depth nor taking a ‘Keystone Cops’ approach,” he declares.

And indeed the comparison with the Keystone Cops is utterly inapt. At least the latter were entertaining. No one was laughing at the AFP’s antics earlier this year, least of all the victim of their vindictive bungling. Keelty’s reaction to that appalling series of blunders was to blame everyone but the AFP – the DPP, the Poms, Haneef’s lawyers, even Haneef himself. This speech continues that shotgun-like distribution of responsibility. In particular, Keelty thinks the courts, which outrageously gave Haneef bail, have to lift their game.

“The courts… are going to need to change the way they view evidence, witnesses and forensics,” he thinks.

The “change” Keelty presumably has in mind is a further reweighting in favour of the Crown beyond that already put in place by the Government’s draconian anti-terrorism laws. The sort of change that would have kept Mohammed Haneef in gaol, and the absurd charges against him alive, despite the utter ineptitude of the AFP investigators.

“On the domestic front, it is important that community trust be maintained,” says Keelty.

His perverse idea of “community trust” is the anti-terrorism hotline, which he reckons is a huge success – maybe he reckons the fridge magnets are brilliant as well. Perhaps Mick should give some thought to what would really help the community trust the AFP: a commitment to ensuring that the outrageous powers gifted on them by a Government eager to extend its control and exploit fear aren’t used, either through incompetence or malice, to harm the innocent.

Accepting responsibility when you’ve stuffed up wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey