Thursday, August 02, 2007

Haneef, Andrews, and Howard

The news keeps flying in thick and fast.

Haneef Update

I don't want to sound like a Haneef apologist. He may well be guilty, but I have no way of knowing. Neither does the Australian Court system. But Kevin Andrews thinks that he does.

Here is the advice from the Solicitor-General released by Kevin Andrews.

Notice the questions he was asked to answer?
I am asked to advise:

(1) whether there was material before the Minister on which he could validly make the decision to cancel the visa; and

(2) whether, on the material now known to the Minister, he could have made the same decision had the visa remained in force.

This legal advice is really a foregone conclusion. The test, as Mr Andrews eloquently points out, is whether he is reasonably satisfied that:
(b) the person has had an association with someone else, or with a group or organisation, whom the Minister reasonably suspects has been or is involved in criminal conduct
It matters little in a legal sense what the secret information consisted of. It does not matter whether he is a terrorist or not. There is enough publicly available information to draw the flimsiest of associations between him and an alleged terrorist - after all, if a lawyer who has represented a criminal in the past, irrespective of the fact that he is now a well-respected Federal Court Judge, would fail the character test, what hope does Dr Haneef has in distancing himself from his relatives?

Releasing a snippet of an online chat out of context, when this material has been translated from another language in the first place, hardly supports Kevin Andrews actions. Anybody who has been in an online chat knows full well that jokes, satire, cynicism, and innuendo are poorly depicted in transcripts - even with the smiley faces intact ;-P. Then try passing that through a translator! This information is not in a position to prove anything.

The only way for Kevin Andrews to justify his position is to show that there is an absence of material to dispel any direct or indirect criminality by Dr Haneef. This is a hard ask - how do you prove that something is not there without revealing everything? This is why Kevin Andrews has dug himself into a hole. He could have avoided all this by not cancelling Dr Haneef's visa in the first place and let the AFP and DPP do their job.

There was no reason to cancel the visa at that time. Dr Haneef could have been kept under surveillance or his activities curtailed while on bail. The AFP and DPP did not ask for his visa to be cancelled. They also did not ask for him to be deported. Indeed, if they really intended on placing any further charges, they would not want him to go to a country with no extradition arrangements.

The only reason to cancel the visa was to make the Government look decisive, pro-active, and create photo opportunities of an alleged terrorist in handcuffs wearing prison overalls in the back of a secure van caught by vigilant Australian authorities working under effective laws drafted by this Federal Government. Like photos of children overboard.

Coverage from The Australian, 1-2 August 2007:

Federalised Hospitals

John Howard and Tony Abbott have come up with a cunning plan to win votes and make friends. It involves lots of money. About $45 million worth. They have teamed up to directly fund the Mersey Hospital in Devonport, Tasmania with Federal money, to be run by a community trust.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about the nuts and bolts of this. Will the community trust operate under guidance from or in co-operation with the Tasmanian Department of Health? Will they do what they like? Will doctors and nurses be employed under Tasmanian agreements or Federal Workplace Relations laws? Will the Federal Government ask for DRG coding for case-mix funding? Or will this be an annual lump sum that the Hospital gets irrespective of activity? Is this $45 million dollars extra into the Tasmanian health system, or will the Federal Government deduct $45 million from the Tasmanian health care agreement?

Besides throwing money at a marginal electorate, does the Federal Government really know what it is doing? The last time they funded a hospital was before they got out of the Repatriation Hospital system.

John Howard says this is a trial. I think it is a doomed experiment to see how many votes they can buy. The money is certainly welcome - don't get me wrong! But if the Federal Government wants to take over isolated regional hospitals, I suspect that all the State Governments will be more than happy to hand them over. They are always the hardest to run, and hardest to staff. Despite the fact that they generally supply excellent, world-class services on a shoe-string, they are also never able to satisfy the local population.

It is only a matter of time before the locals realise that the Federal Government will be no better than the State Government at handing out money - and that Canberra is much further away than Hobart. But enjoy it while it lasts, guys. Get every cent of your promised $45 million before they have a chance to take it back.

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