Not surprisingly, Gold Coast doctor Mohammed Haneef was today successful in beating off a challenge by former immigration minister Kevin Andrews to cancel Dr Haneef’s visa. The full court of the federal court in Brisbane this morning has upheld the decision handed down by Justice Spender to revoke Kevin Andrews actions against Dr Haneef in July of this year.

Just to recap, Mohammed Haneef was charged with terrorism offences and within hours of him being granted bail by a Brisbane magistrate in July, Mr Andrews moved to cancel his visa and have Dr Haneef immediately detained. Mr Andrew’s action was certainly one of the worst examples of the Howard government’s notorious penchant for acts of political bastardry.

The effect of today’s decision is that Dr Haneef can jump on a plane from his home in India and head back to Australia to resume his medical career – well at least that’s the theory – but the newly elected Rudd government just can’t bring itself to accord justice to Dr Haneef. 

Crikey has learned that late last night, Immigration Minister Chris Evans’ lawyers sent a letter to Peter Russo, Dr Haneef’s lawyer, indicating that if Dr Haneef was successful today Mr Evans would seek a stay of proceedings to work out whether or not he wanted to challenge Dr Haneef’s victory in the High Court (at the time of writing, this matter was being argued in the Federal Court in Brisbane).

The approach taken by Chris Evans is indicative of the Labor party’s attitude to the Haneef matter right through. At the height of the investigation and charging of Dr Haneef, and even after the charges against Dr Haneef were dropped by the Australian Federal Police and the DPP, Labor has sat on its hands and provided no support to Dr Haneef. No doubt Chris Evans is trying to buy time today so he can canvas the politics of the situation with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his key advisors.

Of course Chris Evans could stand up for justice and fairness today and bring this tawdry affair to a close by allowing the innocent Dr Haneef to return to Australia immediately. Dr Haneef has suffered enough at the hands of Australian immigration ministers.

Today’s decision by the Federal Court is also a salutary reminder of why it is fundamentally important that ministers in governments tread very carefully when they are thinking about impinging on the rights of individuals.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey