I am currently watching the Minister for Immigration defending and/or explaining the decision to lock up Dr Haneef, the second cousin of one of the Glasgow terrorists to whom, it is said, Haneef had given a sim card, even though a court in Queensland had granted him bail. The Labor Party are keeping a very low profile, which may be good politics, or they may know something we don’t. Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett has been on the news expressing his strong reservations, which must occur to all of us. His blog hasn’t quite caught up yet, but see Haneef, which will take you to what he has said and may say. It will be worth it.
Many will jump to the obvious conclusions one way or the other, but I hold fire personally. It could prove to be that the doctor is guilty of having relatives, of being Indian, and of being a Muslim — or he may be a knowing supporter of extremists and terrorists. It is going to be tough in the event of future court proceedings though, and I don’t think that is all that healthy for the rest of us.
Marcel, a barrister, has two entries on this: 1. Trumped-up “terrorism” charge? and 2. Haneef: it’s not what he did, it’s who he knew. They are worth reading. See also Legal Eagle where there is much follow-up in the comments section.
So is Kevin Andrews Public Saviour or Witchfinder General? Maybe we will find out, but these days maybe we won’t… Sadly, I have always fancied Andrews as Reverend Hale in some hypothetical production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play about guilt by association in times of heightened fear.
Chapter 33 of Keith Suter’s Local Notebook (Sydney, Bantam 2007) is something I would really recommend to Joe and Josephine Public on some of the background issues here — it is called “Be alert, not alarmed — have we all fallen victim to moral panic?” See also Terrorism and international law by Keith Suter (Contemporary Review October 2005). Wesley Mission’s and 2GB’s Suter is hardly a radical firebrand either… Indeed he is more relaxed and comfortable with the Howard government than I am, but on this and a number of issues — the environment not least — he can be very good.
It is also still central to our whole way of life, to our Australian values if you like, that we remember in all circumstances that a suspect is a suspect — or a “person of interest” to use the current euphemism — until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that they have done whatever it is they may have been accused of. That is not to be “soft on terrorism” or an apologist for the more homicidal practitioners of any religion or political philosophy. It is to be uncompromising about what it is we claim to be defending.