|Just when you think the Howard government has hit the lowest depths, Johnnie resumes digging ...
||[21 July 2007|08:39 pm]
Well, the bandwagon of terrorism hysteria is certainly making great pace these days. I've maintained for a while that it is a complete over-reaction (not to mention a misdirected one) to a threat that borders on non-existent, at least in Australia and New Zealand. You're more likely to die from a goat kicking you in the head. But that doesn't seem to have stopped a huge furore from developing around Dr Mohamed Haneef, an Indian doctor arrested here in Australia due to allegations that he had links to the perpetrators of the attempted bombing of Glasgow airport earlier this month. He was arrested at Brisbane airport before he boarded a flight with a one-way ticket to India - where his wife and ill ten day old baby live. Hm, wonder why he was travelling!
What appals me the most is that the whole presumption of innocence seems to have been waived for Haneef. The media has gone into a frenzy about Australia's "terrorist doctor", and I've been shocked by some of the disturbing racist comments that have been made about Indian and Muslim doctors. However, I think the worst example of judging Haneef as guilty has come from the federal government, who revoked his visa on "character grounds" as soon as the courts granted him bail. Now, if we're following legal procedure and assuming that Haneef is innocent until proven guilty, what character grounds are there to revoke his visa now that existed prior to the Glasgow incident? Precisely none. The grounds for revoking his visa depend entirely on him being guilty of some form of terrorist activity. As this has not been established in a court of law, his visa cannot be revoked on such a basis. What's more, if the court handling the case believed that Haneef was not a threat and thus could be released on bail, the government's decision to revoke his visa strikes me as little more than a political stunt that undermines the court's authority.
The case against Haneef also seems to be rather flimsy. Now, of course, all the details aren't being made public, but this government's track record means that I don't especially trust them with the truth anyway. What I do know is that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) had to apply multiple times to extend Haneef's detention without charge and only managed to find any grounds at all to formally charge him with a crime after TWELVE DAYS. If this man were the terrorist threat he's being hyped up to be, then he would have been charged a hell of a lot faster - or the AFP are just incredibly incompetent. Though they seem to be bordering on incompetent anyway. The key evidence of Haneef's connection to terror was that his mobile phone SIM card was found at the scene of the attempted bombing in Glasgow - except it later emerged that it was found not in Glasgow, but at his cousin's house in Liverpool. Woops. Furthermore, even if his SIM card had been found at the scene, that makes little difference: when the man left the UK last year, it is only logical that he would give his SIM card to a friend or family member, so that the remaining credit did not go to waste. To claim a connection to terrorism or that he had any responsibility at all for what his cousin did with the SIM card months later strikes me as a flimsy charge at best.
But to be perfectly honest, I am hardly surprised. This is the Howard government we're talking about here. Every election, they need to manufacture some form of hysteria. I doubt a person in Australia has forgotten MV Tampa affair or the "children overboard" scandal. This is a party so desperate to cling to power that I would not at all be surprised if it has played a role in Haneef's continued detention. Problem is, it seems this affair is just blowing up in their face. Everyone up to a former Governor-General has a problem with this case, and it really is about time that Australia in general stood up and stopped taking shit from a thoroughly inept government. However, what is quite irritating is that federal Labour is failing to capitalise on this. State Labour, such as Queensland's Premier, are seizing the opportunity to slag off Howard & Co., but federal Labour are doing exactly what has destroyed their credibility in the past - becoming "Liberal lite". I suppose that even with Kevin Rudd in charge, old habits die hard. Come on, federal Labour, make it clear that you are a viable alternative. This country needs it.
As a postscript, I must say that I am thoroughly delighted with the shitstorm that is developing around the impending release of John Howard's biography and the statements contained within it. And after one government minister responded to the increasing problem with a simple statement that "shit happens", the headline on SBS's national news was a big "SHIT HAPPENS"! I love Australian television sometimes, I really do. Other times, I really fucking hate it, like tonight where the deciding match of the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations rugby between Australia and New Zealand was broadcast live in Sydney and Brisbane but isn't on for another 2.5 hours here in Melbourne. I'm having a very hard time resisting the urge to look up the score.