Jul 302007

I’m perhaps taking a simplistic view of some of the Op-Ed pieces in todays media over the Haneef Affair’s ultimate outcomes. As one would expect, there are two sharply defined perspectives, from the so-called ‘right’, and the so-called ‘left’.

And those samples only from the Fairfax stable. The Murdoch stable has only the increasingly rabid Albrechtsen to offer, which is hardly surprising.

Our anti-terrorism laws are essential and they are working. The detention of the Indian doctor was right. His links with alleged terror suspects in Britain needed to be thoroughly investigated. That involved a serious, but necessary, incursion on Mr Haneef’s civil liberties as the Australian Federal Police undertook the difficult task of checking the equivalent of 30,000 pages of material on his laptop.

Janet clearly was resident on some other planet over the past 27 days. At least. The rest of her piece branches off into the irrelevant or excusatory. As I say, hardly surprising. I must say I’m both bemused and confused by Ken Phillip’s column which attempts to draw a line between the Haneef saga and New South Wales occupational health and safety legislation, but I’m afraid I don’t see the link. One involves an issue of abused civil liberties at a Federal level in concert with pathetic judicial and police investigations into a serious terrorism related matter, while the other deals with somewhat draconian (supposedly) treatment of employers who apparently don’t take their responsibilities in regard to OH & S seriously enough. Perhaps it’s one of those ‘you-had-to-be-there’ things.
Of the three pieces, it’s only Michelle Grattan who makes the attempt to address the issue of Haneef’s 27 days of limbo in anything approaching a logical manner. Yes, she’s on the ‘left’ and I have a soft spot for her rationalism, but on a serious note, why aren’t the ‘right’ or otherwise known as ‘MSM’ analysing this issue with any great vigour? Because it paints their ideological favourites poorly? You decide, dear reader. I’m tired of this ‘left -v- right’ crap. I’m only interested in the issues, not the excuses.
For mine, the issues are plain.

  1. The Howardian anti-terrorism laws – as odious as they are – work;
  2. The Australian Federal Police ability to operate with, and within those laws, is sadly lacking;
  3. 2007 is an election year, which heavily taints the government’s seeingly un-necessary involvement with cynical whiffs of politicisation;
  4. said government is completely unable or unwilling – most likely both – to accept that its functionaries’ handling of the entire business from ‘he’s-leaving-on-a-jet-plane’ to ‘don’t-know-if-he’ll-be-back-again’ was something the Marx Brothers would have been proud of; and
  5. Under all the darkly comedic buffoonery lies a serious shortcoming of the protection mechanisms we, the people, ought to be demanding this government fix up now, rather than play pass-the-parcel with fault at varying levels.

Should heads roll over the monumental cock-ups which have enlightened our last month’s media presentations? I’m actually torn between saying ‘No, let’s take the lessons and learn from them’ and ‘Yes, this issue was a sound test of a set of processes which have failed badly and someone has to pay’. As I alluded in an earlier post, I’m not at all enamoured with the AFP Commissioner’s performance and wouldn’t shed any tears were he to be prodded out onto that plank over unemployment-infested waters. Neither would I be in the least distressed if that pious excuse for a Minister of the Crown, Andrews, followed closely behind. However, as Michelle Grattan so accurately points out…..

“But let’s not kid ourselves: Prime Minister John Howard, as Andrews’s boss and a leader who keeps the tightest grip on everything his Government does, especially on national security, is the one calling the shots.”

Do we shoot the messenger, or the message writer? Politics had absolutely no part to play in the Haneef Affair, yet it figured very large. Who’s to blame for that? Do we need some fresh blood at the head of the AFP? Someone who hasn’t been slapped down publically and muzzled by the government of the day? I’m much more inclined to pay heed to the latter and ignore the implications of the former. Chances are, the former considerations will become a non-issue within a few months time anyway. The AFP and its function goes on, and as the premier law enforcement body in this country, we need it to be strong, properly educated and trained in all aspects of it’s job. We also require that it be led by a competent, resourceful and independent individual and I for one don’t believe Keelty to be competent, resourceful or independent.
Time to stop the blame shifting and finger pointing. Time to ignore the fact that we troop to the local high-school assembly hall later this year. Time to focus on the issues. The real issues. Not those which suit political agendas.

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