Remember Mohammed Haneef – the Gold Coast doctor falsely accused of terrorism offences? His case, botched and politicised by a desperate Howard government earlier this year, is about to hit the news again. And this time it will be Kevin Rudd’s government in the spotlight.
Make no mistake, the way the ALP handles chapter 2 of the Haneef matter will be the first test of whether or not it is seriously committed to human rights and fairness. At the height of the Haneef furore in July, Mr Rudd and his opposition spokesman were shamefully cowardly and refused to support Dr Haneef’s rights, so now they have a chance to redeem themselves.
Before Christmas, the Full Court of the Federal Court is expected to hand down its decision in the case in which former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews appealed against a decision by Justice Jeffrey Spender, to overturn Mr Andrews’ cancellation of Dr Haneef’s visa. If the Full Court upholds Justice Spender then Dr Haneef will automatically get his visa back.
What will new Immigration Minister Chris Evans and Attorney-General Robert McClelland do? Will they seek to continue the fight on Mr Andrews’ behalf and head to the High Court? Or will they let Dr Haneef board a plane in Bangalore and come back to Queensland to continue his medical studies? To do the latter will mean the Rudd government acting fairly, and respecting Dr Haneef’s innocence. It will also mean resisting populist calls to find other means to ban Dr Haneef from entering Australia. In other words the question is, is the Rudd government any different to its predecessor on terrorism matters, or does it pander to fear as well?
One way in which the Rudd government’s decisions on Dr Haneef would be made easier is if the Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty issued a statement indicating that the Haneef matter was completed, and that Dr Haneef would not run the risk of being arrested the moment he sets foot in Australia again. It’s time for Keelty to put up or shut up. He cannot continue to simply tell the media that the Haneef investigation is still ongoing, even though charges against Dr Haneef were dropped and Mr Keelty went on record as saying that he thought the case against Dr Haneef was weak.
Then there is the matter of Keelty’s complaint against Dr Haneef’s lawyer Stephen Keim. Keim gave to the media a copy of his client’s record of interview, to counter the spin of the AFP and the Howard government. A wise and sensible move most of us thought at the time. And just a tad hypocritical of Keelty to complain about such an action, when the AFP are notorious for leaking material to colour an investigation in their favour.
Keelty made his complaint back in Australia and Keim replied on 8 October to the Queensland Bar Association. The matter is now in the hands of the Queensland Legal Services Commission which is yet to hand down a finding. Maybe it is waiting to see if Dr Haneef wins in the Federal Court which might help Mr Keelty to take the hint and withdraws his complaint?