John Clarke’s Inquiry into the Haneef affair gets underway today and already two of the key players in the sorry saga, AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty and former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, have been using the media to spin their arguments.

On Monday Keelty and his supporters used The Age to run the line that “senior public servants in a number of agencies in Canberra, including the police, were caught unawares when Mr Andrews suddenly announced that he was cancelling Dr Haneef’s visa on Monday 16 July last year.”

A source told The Age that Andrews’ decision “spoiled it for the police,” and that it was done “without any warning. The police knew that was an option but not that it was to be used so quickly or in such a cavalier fashion.”

The problem with this argument is that the facts just don’t support it as Haneef’s lawyers discovered last year when they FOI’ed an email exchange between the AFP and the Department of Immigration.

It is clear from those emails — published by Hedley Thomas in The Australian on November 2 last year — that The Age’s source’s recollection of events is seriously flawed. David Craig of the AFP’s Brisbane office sent an email on Saturday July 14 to various parties in which he outlined the possibility that Brisbane magistrate Jacqui Payne might grant Dr Haneef bail. Craig then noted, “Contingencies for containing Mr HANEEF and detaining him under the Migration Act, if it is the case he is granted bail on Monday, are in place as per arrangements today.” And another email from Peter White of the Immigration Department sent to Luke Morrish of the AFP at 6.10am on the day Andrews made his decision is further evidence that there was no element of surprise here at all.

In short, it looks like The Age was used on Monday by the AFP and other security agencies to skewer Andrews, despite the clear evidence to the contrary.

Andrews though is not averse to using the media to bolster his own credibility before the Clarke Inquiry. This morning’s Australian reports that Andrews will tell the Inquiry “that Australian Federal Police did not inform him of evidence debunking allegations against Dr Haneef’s second-cousin Sabeel Ahmed,” despite the fact that this evidence was available to investigators shortly after Haneef was arrested.

Given that the key players are happy to use the media to argue their versions of the ‘truth’ why shouldn’t their appearances before the Inquiry be held in public?

If Keelty and Andrews want to use the media to argue their case, then surely it is only fair that the media should also report on each man’s witness box performance.

Peter Fray

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