While ministers of the Howard government are rightly in the frame over the disgraceful treatment of former Gold Coast doctor Mohammed Haneef last year, the conduct of the Rudd government in this affair also demands some answers.
ASIO’s public submission to the Clarke Inquiry, released yesterday, notes that in December last year the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), the organisation that oversees ASIO, wrote to Rudd government Attorney-General Robert McClelland. The IGIS, according to the ASIO submission advised Mr McClelland:
… that ASIO appeared to have approached its investigation of Dr Haneef with an open mind, and that following its initial investigations it had reached a preliminary assessment that Dr Haneef was unlikely to have engaged in activities prejudicial to security. Those views strengthened over time and its assessments were regularly provided to relevant agencies within government.
So there you have it — by December last year the Rudd government had no reason to allow the Haneef investigation to continue.
Why then, did Justice Minister Bob Debus, who is responsible for the Australian Federal Police, allow AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty to tell a Senate Estimates Committee on February 18 this year that the Haneef matter “is an ongoing investigation,” and that there “are outstanding inquiries beyond the control of the AFP yet to be completed.”?
And what about as recently as May 21 this year, at a media conference held to announce the opening of the new AFP headquarters in Canberra, Keelty, with Debus standing right next to him, had this exchange with the media:
QUESTION: And can I just check the Haneef inquiry is ongoing, is that correct at this stage?
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MICK KEELTY: The investigation is, yes. It hasn’t been completed yet.
Given that it is over six months now since they were officially told by ASIO that Dr Haneef has never presented a threat to national security – which is code for he did not commit terrorist offences — it is disturbing that Mr McClelland and Mr Debus continue to sit on their hands and allow Mr Keelty to spend taxpayers dollars on the AFP Haneef investigation.
It is right that politicians do not interfere with police investigations but when ministers like Robert McClelland and Bob Debus have been briefed by official sources on a matter they have a responsibility to ensure that limited resources are utilised in the most efficient manner. Allowing Mick Keelty to continue to pursue Haneef, after being told in December last year that Dr Haneef was not a threat to Australia, would not seem to be consistent with that responsibility.