Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Andrews’

What’s the story now?

Not that I like suggesting that discussion of petrol prices should not be our major concern, but perhaps this little revelation could be the subject of sustained investigation by some self-respecting journalists:

DOCUMENTS have revealed the department of former prime minister John Howard became involved in the Mohamed Haneef affair less than 48 hours after the Indian doctor was arrested in connection with a British terrorist attack last July.

Documents obtained under freedom of information by Dr Haneef’s legal team indicate officers from the Prime Minister Department met to discuss options for handling the matter with counterparts from the Immigration and Foreign Affairs Departments on July 4. Dr Haneef was arrested on the evening of July 2.

But Dr Haneef’s team says it has still been denied access to documents revealing who was at the meeting, and to an options paper drawn up the next day, July 5.

Mr Howard has denied any involvement in the handling of the Haneef investigation.

While his electorate might already have taken care of the job, the notion of responsible government needs to be reinstated in this country – and a thorough investigation of whether the Prime Minister’s Department considered it appropriate to politicise a terrorism allegation would be a good start.

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Snap, indeed

Cross-posted from Public Polity:

This seems quite a strange thing to happen one week before election day:

IMMIGRATION Minister Kevin Andrews has ordered a snap review of all 450 people held in immigration detention in Australia to establish whether an administrative error means their incarceration is technically unlawful.

Department officers are being forced to go back and check the form of words used in the address and salutations on official letters notifying people they were in breach of their visa conditions and were no longer in Australia lawfully.

The review — which has already prompted the release of 13 immigration detainees in the past three weeks — centres on whether notification letters were addressed to the visa applicant or their “authorised recipient”, usually a migration agent.

If the notification is addressed to the applicant care of their authorised recipient, then their detention is potentially unlawful following a 2003 Federal Court decision.

This follows Tony Burke’s claims earlier in the week that the caretaker conventions were not being followed and that Labor was being denied information related to immigration cases.

It seems unlikely that Andrews would be rushing around cleaning up potentially unlawful immigration decisions (and blocking information access to his opposition) unless (i) there was serious incompetence or misconduct, or (ii) the potential risk to election prospects was deemed secondary to the benefits of cleaning it up urgently. I suspect that both conditions may exist.

As to the first, the Lateline story on Tony Tran highlighted a newly uncovered bungle, and Lateline also reported that the Commonwealth Ombudsman was aware of other cases that have not been made public. Obviously, there have been some serious failures beyond the ones that were known before the election campaign began.

However, I also think that Andrews’ actions highlight that Team Howard has given up hope of being returned to government and is preparing for its time in opposition. Labor must investigate and clean up the corruption and malfeasance that has contaminated the executive departments under John Howard. If Andrews had tried to keep things quiet until the election, these problems would simply have been uncovered in the subsequent inquiry. The little sneak can point to his requests for review and claim that he was trying to clean things up, and that if the Government had been returned then he would have finished the job.

This is a government that started out by claiming the moral high ground on ministerial conduct, but it has never lived up to these ideals. Over the past decade, we have learned about the depths they have sunk to in corrupting and undermining the integrity of governance in this country. Many of us have been cynical about their claims to responsibility and professionalism for their entire time in office. Others have slowly come around, until we have finally reached the tipping point at this election. But their character has remained unchanged. From their leader downward, as Ministers have come and gone, as scandals have been uncovered and weathered, the Howard government has held to the philosophy that remaining in power is the end they seek, and they would use any means necessary to attain it. In one week’s time, it will all be over.

Possum Comitatus has written about the danger facing the Liberal Party this week. It has taken some time, but almost every commentator now agrees that they are destined to lose. The question is whether they will actually face the annihilation their Captain warned about some months back. The discussion in Possum’s thread has questioned whether the disintegration of one of the two major parties would be a good thing – the argument is that, even though they might be repugnant in many ways, a severe defeat would hand unfettered power to the Labor Party, which would almost inevitably corrupt their own actions in government.

I disagree with that argument. The Liberal Party is not aligned with my own political attitudes and will never have my support, but their faults under John Howard’s leadership extend beyond political ideology. The party needs to be reformed from the ground up, removing the current culture of corruption, incompetence and political opportunism to re-establish its core principles. If it cannot do so, it should not hold power again in Australian politics. Another conservative party can take its place. And a dominant party in Government will not have unfettered power so long as an appropriate balance of power is maintained in the Senate – if nothing else, I hope the electorate will have learned that lesson from the past three years.

Kevin Andrews’ current actions again demonstrate that Team Howard will not act to ensure the integrity of government until their feet are held to the fire. It is too little, and it is far too late.

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An e-mail obtained under Freedom of Information has confirmed that the AFP had communicated with the Department of Immigration about a contingency plan to detain Mohamed Haneef after he was granted bail [PDF of e-mail]. Kevin Andrews’ office denies that the Minister was aware of such communication, or of any contingency plan.

While Kevin Andrews’ knowledge, and the actions of his department, deserve the most thorough scrutiny in this matter, there is another fundamental concern that we should not lose sight of. A spokesperson for the AFP has stated that this plan to detain Haneef under migration laws once he was granted bail on the criminal charges was part of ‘normal operational contingency planning’. In other words, the AFP regards using migration laws to circumvent the outcomes of criminal proceedings as a form of standard operating procedure. And remember also that Mick Keelty asserts that he did not believe there was a strong enough case to proceed with charges. So, Keelty’s agency colluded with the politically-motivated Immigration Department to detain an individual who had been granted bail by the courts, despite the fact that Keelty himself says he did not think Haneef should have been charged in the first place.

Mick Keelty needs to tell the Australian people everything that he and his subordinates did and said in relation to the criminal charges against Haneef and the plan to extend his detention if bail was granted. It is bad enough that a law enforcement agency has had any involvement in planning to circumvent a decision of the judiciary by going beyond the criminal law. It is even worse if they are happy to do that, even when they are of the opinion that the individual should not have been charged in the first place.

ELSEWHERE: More on this at Howard Out and Blogocracy.

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Obviously, these 165 academics have been contaminated by the unions:

“Many of us work directly with humanitarian refugees and other
immigrants,” the letter says. “We take exception to the statement by
… Kevin Andrews that links the reduction of Australia’s African
humanitarian intake to assumed integration difficulties.

“We know of no empirical evidence that refugees from particular
countries find it more difficult to integrate into Australian society
compared to others.” The letter says this country – as a wealthy nation
faced with only a small number of asylum-seekers – has a duty to
maintain a substantial humanitarian resettlement program.

“Australia has a responsibility to ensure the trauma of the refugee
experience is not further exacerbated by racism and discrimination in
the resettlement context,” the experts say. “There is no place in
Australia today for racism and intolerance.”

There is a place for racism and intolerance – the Liberal Party (and any Liberal Party member who disputes that can feel free to openly challenge their Captain and his Immigration Minister’s policies). Let’s remove that place from Government.

UPDATE: Of all places, the GG has deigned to publish a critique of Andrews written by an academic, Klaus Neumann. The comparative analysis of the current situation with the blocking of Ugandan refugees during the McMahon era is worth reading, but the final paragraphs capture what is so wrong about the views our politicians are espousing and endorsing:

“The Government has been aware that many refugees from parts of Africa have had difficulties settling in Australia,” Andrews said. “Most have come from war and conflict including torture. Many have lived in refugee camps for up to and over a decade.”

Australia had accepted to resettle these people precisely because of their horrific experiences and because many had been stuck in refugee camps for 10 years or more.

Australia’s capacity to resettle refugees is far greater now than it was 35 years ago. And if the accommodation of people “from a vastly different culture”, to again use Andrews’s words, who went through hell on earth before being accepted for resettlement, is particularly complex and costly and challenging?

Then Australia, more so than most other countries, has the resources to meet the challenge.

UPDATE #2: The GG’s web site also has the open letter available now.

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Nice to know that Kevin Andrews has a loyal friend. And someone needs to explain to Pauline what the word “refugee” means:

Ms Hanson, who has formed a new political party, Pauline’s United Australia Party, for this year’s election, said Australia should send aid to Sudan instead of accepting refugees.

“If we want to do things for the Sudanese people, then let us send medical supplies, food, whatever they need over there – but let them stay in their own country,” she said

She’s up there with this genius:

The president of the Caxton Street Association Sarosh Mehta says young Sudanese men cause problems in the precinct every weekend and it is a serious problem.

He says the answer is simple – deport the troublemakers.

“I would like to publicly call on Kevin Andrews the Minister for Immigration to simply send them back to where they came from,” he said.

Yes, because they have apparently failed to seamlessly merge into our society, we should send them back to the country where they faced (and would likely continue to face) death. That ought to show them.

UPDATE: Michelle Grattan discusses both Andrews’ decision on the African refugee intake as well as his handling and defence of it. Her argument appears to be that he is not strategically invoking race for the election – instead, he’s just acting on flimsy evidence and putting himself into a position that he can’t defend. Again.

UPDATE #2: Senator Bartlett captures the argument against Team Howard (not to mention Pauline Hanson’s Manchester United Party):

When a party stoops so low as to willingly harm our social fabric and cause individual hurt to people who have already suffered enormously, and to publicly validate and encourage expressions of racially motivated prejudice, they are not fit to be in government.

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It’s unsettling when I find logical reasoning in Andrew Bolt’s column:

This latest fuss started with Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews saying we’ve filled our quota of African refugees for this financial year and no more will be allowed until the next.

From the screaming since, you’d think three things are sickeningly true, which in fact are reassuringly false.

Third: you might also think that the Sudanese are incredibly violent.

False again. Yes, there is a particular problem with young Sudanese men. But do the maths. Victoria has some 18,000 Sudanese in a population of five million and 327 of them were arrested last year by police, who picked up 155,439 other Victorians as well.

That means more than 3 per cent of Victorians were arrested last year (assuming no one was arrested twice), but only 1.8 per cent of Sudanese. That doesn’t spell crime chaos to me, or give me reason to cross the street when I see a black man coming. I’d be far more wary of a West Coast footballer.

However, he manages to surround that bit of rationality with straw man arguments (I can’t say I know of anybody who would actually think his first two things are true) that reassure me that he’s still Andrew. And then he draws this conclusion:

But if you still feel you need to whack someone in this latest race riot, have a (mild) crack at Kevin Andrews for making the Sudanese seem worse than the crime figures suggest, by saying he cut the proportion of Africans in refugee intake from 70 per cent last year to 30 now because they’d had trouble settling in.

Thank you, Andrew, but I’ll choose to take much more than a mild crack at Kevin Andrews for this one. By using this argument to justify cutting the African refugee intake by more than half, he has used his Ministerial authority to potentially taint perceptions of an entire cultural group – despite the fact that, as you yourself have uncovered, the objective evidence does not support his claims. And yet you still think he “may well be right”? On what basis?

It’s bad enough when Andrews does this to one person’s reputation at a time. What’s more, even if there are issues with a group of refugees adjusting to Australian society and culture, does that mean the solution should be to exclude them from coming here? Shouldn’t the role of the Government in such a generous and tolerant society as our own be to develop plans to ease the process of acculturation?

I’ll agree with you that most Australians have good hearts and racism is not everywhere (although I would also point out that racism should not be thought of as dichotomous – there is a continuum of degrees of racism). But when our Government attempts to leverage the racism that does exist, to sow the seeds of cultural divisiveness to suit their political ends, then it is not a mild problem – it is irresponsible governance.

UPDATE: It seems Anna Bligh is going to continue Peter Beattie’s efforts to act as an alternative federal opposition. Bravo.

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I don’t need to say much here because several learned bloggers have done the job for me, but I want to give voice to my disgust at Joe Hockey and Peter Costello for their appalling attempt to defame academics who have done research that points out some inconvenient truths about AWAs.

On 7.5 the other night, Joe Hockey danced around and managed to back himself into a corner. He made it clear that his intention was to impugn the credibility of the researchers by linking them to union bias. He could not articulate a substantive criticism of the methodology, and he couldn’t counter Red Kerry’s evidence about other reports and about the rigorous assessment procedure Australian Research Council grant applications go through. Earlier in the day, however, Costello was even more blunt in his defamation of the researchers:

Once you see Unions New South Wales putting up money for a report, you know it is contaminated.

The academics involved have taken the attack on the integrity of their work seriously, and rightly so. The principles of free and objective inquiry are central to their work, and two Government Ministers have publicly stated that they have not performed their job competently or ethically. Others have captured the abhorrent nature of Hockey and Costello’s behaviour, including Ken Lovell at Road to Surfdom, as well as Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy, who highlights the flaws in the Government’s counter-argument (e.g., pointing to ABS data that shows wages are up across the entire population, which says nothing about the impact of AWAs). The NTEU has publicly criticised the Government for attempting to interfere with the integrity of academic inquiry, but of course, as Hockey might tell us, you’d expect that – after all, they’re run by “union bosses”.

Naturally, the Government’s reaction has been entirely predictable – they couldn’t give a toss. They will continue to step in front of cameras and microphones and attack anyone they can, blame anyone they can, and undermine anyone they can, if it gives them a way to shift the focus from their failings. Whatever the situation, they are happy to denigrate an appropriate target, whether it is union-affiliated academics as in this case, or people with dark skin, or state governments, or people with dark skin, or union-affiliated academics, etc. It’s sleazy, it causes unjustified damage to the reputations of real people, and it’s playing on the small segment of Australia that is narrow-minded enough to buy into the Government’s caricatures of these groups.

Apart from the sheer wrongness of the Government’s strategy, am I wrong in thinking that it simply cannot work? They are attempting to make “union bosses” carry the same negative value as “communist” might have had in earlier decades. Even if union membership is in decline, does that indicate that people actually view unions negatively and fear their influence? Is there some widespread undercurrent of union hatred that I am not aware of, or is this an attempt to reach a more narrow segment of the population, such as small business owners and operators?

Apparently the researchers have been advised that they do have a defamation case against Tip and Shrek. We’ll see whether they follow through with action – I would hope that the University of Sydney would be willing to devote legal and financial resources to defending the academic reputation of its staff. If they don’t, then I suspect this story will fade quickly and the Government will move on to slandering its next target.

Wait a minute – they already have.

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John Howard is going to decide whether gay couples get equal rights, because Cabinet put it in the too-hard basket. Still, at least they had a vigorous debate that got to the important equity issues relating to same-sex couples. Why, look at how tuned into the issues these people are:

Ministers were also concerned at the expense of reforms, which would cost taxpayers millions of dollars in extra social security payments.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Hockey are understood to have argued that with high numbers of gay voters in their electorates, reform could not be put off.

Health Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews both argued against the reforms, saying they were not a political priority for the Government ahead of the election.

Discrimination is wrong and needs to be abolished. That should not be a politically debatable point. But in a government that has just suspended anti-discrimination laws for Aboriginal communities and has discovered an extra $3.7 billion to add to its budgeted $13.6 billion budget surplus, I suppose the critical issues are how many million dollars it will cost and how it will play in the marginal seats.

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Trust me, I judge people’s character for a living

Kevin Andrews says to trust the PM’s judgment on the Exclusive Brethren:

“I’ve known the Prime Minister for a long time.

“I find him a very serious man, one whose got the national interest at heart, and I’m sure if there was anything untoward the Prime Minister would know about it.”

Two things:

  1. Somehow, this doesn’t seem the right time for Andrews to put himself forward as a good judge of character.
  2. Given the number of things the Prime Minister hasn’t known about during his tenure (e.g., AWB kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, that maybe asylum-seekers had not thrown their children overboard, etc.), I wouldn’t count on him knowing anything about untoward electoral dealings by the Exclusive Brethren, even if he sat in a room with them while they planned it.

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The "secret" chat-room conversation

So, Kevin Andrews has made a highly selective disclosure of some of the previously unreleased information that shaped his decision about Haneef’s visa. Haneef’s lawyer claims that the chat-room conversation is not news to him or Haneef, as Haneef was questioned about it (any chance of a leak of that transcript?). Several initial observations and questions based on the reporting so far:

  • What language was the chat-room conversation in? i.e., is Andrews relying on a translation (in which case there could be issues with its accuracy) or was the conversation in English (in which case the question of language fluency and the potential misuse of words may be relevant).
  • Based on the information Andrews has provided, it seems that Haneef and his relatives in India became aware of the investigation of his cousins and the focus on Haneef’s SIM card before the police picked Haneef up (and while, if not before, he was arranging to leave Australia).
  • Does this establish that he was involved in the bomb plot? Not even close.
  • Does it establish that he was aware that his cousins might have been capable of planning and carrying out bombings when he gave away his SIM card? Not at all.
  • Are there explanations for the statements from the conversation other than that Haneef had been involved in the plot with his cousins? Quite possibly.

It is entirely possible that Haneef had prior knowledge or even involvement in the events that happened in the UK, but Andrews’ new information is hardly conclusive. There is discussion of the evidence going on at Larvatus Prodeo. Apart from the ongoing concerns about whether the evidence justifies canceling Haneef’s visa, I am left wondering about these issues:

  • It seems obvious that this information would never have been presented in a criminal prosecution, which is presumably why it was okay to be released. Andrews and Howard have indicated that other information cannot be disclosed because it could harm the ongoing investigation. To what extent has the disclosure of this kind of potentially prejudicial information, which would never have ben admitted as evidence in court, contaminated the prospects of a fair trial if the AFP’s “ongoing investigation” brings Haneef back to stand trial?
  • If nothing else, this whole affair demonstrates the breadth of discretionary power Kevin Andrews possesses under the Migration Act. The Solicitor-General’s support, which Andrews has been trumpeting, indicates that what he did could be considered appropriate under the law, but does that mean the law itself is appropriate?
  • None of the current discussion establishes why the decision to cancel the visa was made at the time it was made, i.e., as soon as bail had been granted. The question of the extent to which the executive decision intentionally or recklessly interfered with the criminal process is one that deserves to be addressed, but it’s going to be buried in the debate over the evidence itself.

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