Labor premiers do the differentiation? And other reflections on Mohamed Haneef

There were some suggestions on the thread about Mohamed Haneef that the Labor response to wedges is for Rudd or a shadow minister to agree with the government, only to have Premiers and other state Labor figures cast doubts as the issue untangles itself. Perhaps this is smart politics when the government consistently raises issues and makes headlines without justifying properly or thinking through the consequences of policy and administrative moves? I don’t know. I’m just speculating. It is a pattern that we saw with the Indigenous Emergency and subsequent comments from WA Premier Alan Carpenter, NSW Minister Linda Burney, and a number of NT MPs. Similarly, perhaps, we can see this pattern emerging with Peter Beattie’s comments on the revocation of Haneef’s visa. This strategy might make some political sense, and it does sound like the sort of play Rudd would orchestrate, though I’d be interested in opinions as to how it does work politically, and personally, I’m very persuaded by the view also put on the other thread that there is an obligation on the opposition to stand up for the rule of law and due process if it’s being trashed by the government. As a number of commenters also remarked, it doesn’t bode terribly well for Rudd prioritising principle over opportunism if he gains office.

There is of course, another reason why Beattie might be concerned about the message that Haneef’s treatment sends, as he continually has to seek trained medical staff overseas, and often from countries such as India, where, quite rightly, no one can understand what the Australian government is up to by depriving Haneef of his liberty without benefit of judicial process.

Thanks to tigtog for this link via her post on Feministe:

An organisation representing doctors trained overseas says it will be harder to attract doctors to Australia because of Haneef’s case.

Four doctors in Perth also had their home searched twice by Australian Federal Police, but were yesterday cleared of any association with illegal activity.

President of the Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association, Andrew Schwartz, says the public nature of the investigations could now make it harder for Australia to recruit overseas doctors.

“Like it or not, for at least the next 15 years Australia will be heavily dependent upon overseas trained doctors to prevent the collapse of health services,” he said.

“I really believe it will make the possibility of recruiting to people here just that much harder.

“I’d like to understand why all the publicity and why every doctor, every overseas trained doctor – whoever happened to have spoken to somebody – is now interviewed and everything is leaked to the media by the Federal Police.

“Is this a public relations exercise?”

There are a couple of other elements to this saga worthy of comment aside from the issues of terror and liberties. The first is the almost instantaneous nature of the international news cycle, where actions designed to play to a domestic political audience instantly get seen in a different frame overseas. Howard’s Obama moment earlier this year was a good illustration of how this works. The Indian government has taken an interest in the visa revocation, and the Indian press has covered the issue widely.

The second aspect is that we live in a globalised world and it’s not just our own failure to plan adequately and to educate skilled professionals that means that our needs for labour have to be increasingly supplemented from other countries. Labour markets for skilled workers and professionals are increasingly globally porous, and the effect of tried and true dog whistling tactics from the Howard government might actually impact negatively on key areas of interest to us domestically – not least our economy and the sustainability of our health sector. It’s an entirely different game from the one that Howard played by trying to deter desparately poor people or people fleeing persecution from setting out here on leaky boats in 2001. It could be argued that our long term national security is actually being put at greater risk by our own government’s contempt for the values enshrined in a liberal legal system.

Elsewhere: More from David Tiley.

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Posted in Authoritarianism, Crime, Developing world, elections, Howardia, immigration, Law, politics, Terrorism
18 comments on “Labor premiers do the differentiation? And other reflections on Mohamed Haneef
  1. That strategy certainly bounced rather badly in WA. Alan Carpenter didn’t walk into it, he slammed face first into it!

  2. Graham Bell says:


    It could be argued that our long term national security is actually being put at greater risk by our own government’s contempt for the values enshrined in a liberal legal system.

    That is one of the many reasons I opposed the hare-brained, impractical, counter-productive “anti-terrorism laws” when they first came in. These stupid, savage and impractical excuses for laws actually AID the terrorists’ cause.

    Time for an urgent recall of Parliament, a couple of long-overdue resignations by incompetent bullies and blusterers, the repeal of the current savage but ineffective laws and their replacement by tough practical laws that do not abolish our rights, duties and protections but instead cause much grief and anguish to all terrorists.

    Back to the drawing board!

  3. paul walter says:

    Concur with Graham Bell. If the opposition groups have become coy about orthodox methods of debate, little wonder!
    The business with Dr. Haneef is a classic example.
    A little while ago, it was suggested that the government would not invoke the immigration powers to circumvent the judiciary. Lo and behold, the moment the legal system makes a determination concerning Dr.Haneef embarrassing to the governemt, their lackey Andrews drops his ‘clanger’ and what’s worse cites ‘hidden’ information for his decision.
    Hidden from the public, the opposition and even the court itself. The opposition parties, like the rest of us, have to consider whether another lie of Kids O/board, AWB, Iraq, W……..s or Hicks level is in play. No one can know the right response to take as to an incarcerated man denied the presumption of innocent to guilt since alleged information on which the we could make a rational asssessment is deliberately withheld with no better than a cursory, “trust me”. Scuse me!
    The issue remains not as an issue resolved by the hirthoe respected means and methods of an open democracy, but in a “ministry of fear” society where principals and safeguards have been up-ended, likely not least to produce a sort of edgy, strained atmosphere of perpetual “becoming” in place of the resolution offered by the appropriate officer. The magistrate’s learned judgement is denied in favour of the arbitrary decree of basically, incredibly arrrogant self-appointed fiat.
    If there was further information not already tendered to the court then the government had no choice but to present this alleged “information” to the court. Its bona fides are in absolute tatters now, not only for moral reasons, but for no other reason than it has witheld information from the defence and the court that ought rightly have been presented.
    The whle thing stinks, a la Gitmo and Hicks!
    Having constructed suspicion, the government employs the atmosphere deliberately created by the perverslyunresolved case, to keep focus on it- on their own terms- and attention away from real election issues or its own accountability and slyness. Meanwhile a fellow rots indefinitely in a virtual prison, his and his wife’s lives in pieces!
    How are political parties left out of the loop supposed to cope when the normal mechanisms of parliament and separation of powers; the primacy of natural justice, accountability and the open society have been affectively abolished?

  4. The GG has an interesting leak – the full transcript of an AFP interview with Haneef.

  5. Razor says:

    I am waiting for his Lawyer to come up with the “it’s the Vibe of the thing” defence.

  6. charles says:

    To put a stop to this Rudd has to win office (talk has little value). To win office Rudd has to harvest as many votes as possible. People offended by Howards wedges will not be voting for Howard. Labor has worked out a strategy to deal with the wedges ( judging from the response it looks as if the latest wedge has sealed the liberal parties fate), the cost; we have to guess at what Rudd’s views are and what his policies will be.

  7. GregM says:

    Time for an urgent recall of Parliament, a couple of long-overdue resignations by incompetent bullies and blusterers, the repeal of the current savage but ineffective laws and their replacement by tough practical laws that do not abolish our rights, duties and protections but instead cause much grief and anguish to all terrorists.

    What, precisely, would these tough practical laws say and do, Graham, and how would they cause grief and anguish to terrorists?

  8. Guido says:

    I agree with Charles on this one.

    The fact is that it seems that both on this issue and the Aboriginal intervention, contradiction tend to surface in any case, thus making it not a ‘clear cut case’.

    I Labor went gangbusters against these wedges, the story in the media would be about the contrast between the twom parties and the Government would have all their commentators shouting that Labor is ‘against protecting children’ or ‘soft on terrorism’. The commentariat, because it’s basically lazy would write stories about how clever Howard has been in wedging Labor and that would all what it would be talked about.

    The contradictions inherent in these actions would be forgotten and Labor would have to spend time to fend off these questions instead of moving on and get the attention to areas where it want it to be, ie house affordiblity, supermarket prices etc.

    I am sure that somewhere in the Liberal Headquarters there is a ‘Wedge Office’ where issues which can create problems for Labor are being thought about at this very moment. Expect more. Especially during the campaign itself.

  9. Paul Norton says:

    This saga may not play out politically very well at all for the Howard government. On the one hand nothing that has emerged or been said about Haneef to date suggests that he is a big enough security risk for the government’s actions (or those of the AFP under the “anti-terror” laws) to galvanise erstwhile Howard battlers who have been disabused by WorkChoices and rising living costs. On the other hand the doctors’ wives (and the doctors’ wives’ husbands) would be seriously disturbed by the implications of the matter for liberal democracy in Australia, and for the ease with which someone’s life can be thrown into turmoil and their reputation trashed with little effective avenue for redress.

  10. amused says:

    The latest gambit popularly described by our outstanding attack dogs, the local press as the ‘Doctor’s Plot’ (now where have I heard that term before?)is falling right into the ‘children overboard’ credibility gap, constructed as the gambit du jour in 2001. What went nicely round that time is coming around this time.
    The more the punters see Andrews and his ilk talking up ‘preventive detention’ the more the punters are reminded of the previous gambit, irrespective of the actual case against the hapless Dr Haneef.

    This is the problem for the government this time, and it is a problem the ALP should do absolutely nothing about, because there is nothing that can be done for the moment. Dr Haneef has been dragged into the maw of Australia’s immigration laws, and until there is a government with the capacity to amend/abolish the cruel and authoritarian mess that the war on ‘terror’ linked to the domestic cultural wars has created, nothing except a change of governemnt can save him. Let’s hope it is soon.

  11. blogreader says:

    Why did the crown bother to bring Dr Haneef to the court and charge him.
    It seems they only intended to accept the court’s decision if it disallowed bail.
    They appear to have reduced the court to a convenience of the crown.
    Revoking the visa before going to court would have been a much better idea.
    But then they probably would have been obliged to deport him.
    Detaining him seems to have been the main priority, much more important that protecting the reputation of the court.
    The attorney general should get the sack for this.
    His excuse last night on lateline was that the legislation under which the defendant was charged was not supposed to have the presumption for bail.
    Leaving aside that this implies a presumption of guilt, if the legislation was botched it is just another reflection on the attorney general.
    How ironic that tonight the prime minister condemns those who frustrate justice.

  12. Link says:

    I think its drawing a long bow to say that Rudd is orchestrating the State’s responses. I was surprised to hear Beattie speaking up against Haneef being imprisoned in the Brisbane watch-house for too long a period. Beattie has perhaps a little more chutpah than Rudd and has never been backward about coming forward. The same cannot be said of Mr Rudd who has a great deal more to lose, as do we all, if he takes the wrong path. My guess would be that Rudd is playing safe, (ie basically gutless) and waiting until a public consensus has been more strongly formed–which seems to happening fairly quickly, egged along by the fact that Howard is largely and generally on the nose and everything he or his minsters touch of late is turning to, well . . .poo.

  13. Kim says:

    I think its drawing a long bow to say that Rudd is orchestrating the State’s responses.

    I’m not convinced myself, Link (as I think I said). Just throwing it out there for discussion.

  14. Graham Bell says:

    GregM, you asked

    “What, precisely, would these tough practical laws say and do, Graham, and how would they cause grief and anguish to terrorists?”

    Without going into all the minutae and fine detail here on a very, very public blog ….. they would be based on the extensive practical experience of police and counter-intelligence specialists from many countries, not just two, and if multiculturalism means anything at all it means that we do have the necessary talent for this sitting right here in Australia …. ignored – but that’s par for the course.

    The thing is, we cannot allow security cases – like those of Habib, Hicks and now Haneef – to used merely to satisfy the vanity and the whims of politicians, lawyers and shock-jocks ….. there are too many innocent lives at stake.

  15. GregM says:

    But Graham if there are going to be tough practical laws they will have to be gazetted in order to come into force and will therefore become public. There’s no need to be coy on this forum.

    Mind you, if what you contemplate is anything like your solution to child mutilation then they would cause much grief and anguish to terrorists.

  16. Michael D says:

    While I accept that in past election years a Latham or Beazley couldn’t have provided strong opposition to this case and opted for the ‘small target’ approach.

    Given Rudd’s polling numbers and the numerous other bungles of late. Not to mention the Hicks case of unfair treatment hanging in people’s mind. Do you think the general public would really think Rudd is soft on terrorism for standing up to blatant abuse of executive power?

    Or we do think this would be the perfect opportunity for Howard to point out Rudd’s lack of ‘security’ credentials.

    Furthermore, how likely do we think a change in laws would happen if Rudd won (and does the margin of win make a difference?)…


  17. amphibious says:

    GrahamB These stupid, savage and impractical excuses for laws actually AID the terrorists’ cause.
    I had to respond to you before even reading anyone else (there are so many).
    We’ve seen with the airport bloke, with everyone who’ve ever dared to stick their head above the parapet, even dubious pollies like Georgiou, Brandis, Baird, et al. People of principle cannot bear to be associated with this regime but, because of the ignorance of the voters who don’t realise what a powerful tool they have in PR and (most vitally important) TRANSFERABLE PREFERENCE, are going to go down with this ship of fools – unless they’ve already jumped into gold travel passes and lavish super.

  18. Graham Bell says:

    [response delayed by computer crash]

    No coyness …. but plenty of deliberate vagueness …. which vanishes as soon as the consultancy fee lands in my bank account! Ungenerous? Unpatriotic? Selfish? You bet! Just fed up with having my ideas lifted without any benefit or acknowledgement for me, that’s all.

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